HP TECH TAKES
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Busting the Myth: Chromebook vs Laptop
October 17, 2018
Smartphones are ideal for many online activities: scrolling through social media, browsing the web, checking your email, and even watching your favorite TV shows. But sometimes a phone just doesn’t quite cut it and you need a bigger screen to accommodate all your daily activities.
The laptop market has plenty of options when you need a screen upgrade, but how do you narrow down the search from all of those choices? From tablets to convertible laptops, gaming notebooks to HP Chromebooks, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of personal computers.
One factor you might consider while shopping for laptops is the operating system that it uses. While you’re probably already familiar with computers that run on Windows 10 or macOS, there’s a third type of operating system that’s changing the landscape of personal computing.
Chromebooks run on Google’s Chrome OS. These sleek laptops are offered through different Google-partnered PC retailers, and there’s intense online debate surrounding the usefulness and functionality of Chromebooks.
In terms of basic computing, Chromebooks are built to be a powerhouse that can quickly access applications with minimal startup time. However, they lack robust internal storage and processing power which can be a drawback in certain contexts.
With that being said, let’s delve deeper into the strengths and shortcomings of the Chromebook to determine whether this laptop makes sense for you.
What is a Chromebook?
In 2011, Google interrupted the PC market with the brand new Chromebook. Essentially, these laptops are an enhanced Chrome browser that’s been molded into computer form. These machines are great for lightweight computing because they don’t include bulky hardware like many other popular notebooks. Some versions even offer touch screen capabilities that allow you to write notes by hand with your finger or a stylus.
In terms of storage, Chromebooks have access to Google Drive and utilize a very small amount of internal storage. Surprisingly, you don’t actually need a Gmail account to use Chromebook applications. By creating a Google account with a non-Gmail email address, you still have access to the full suite of Google services at your fingertips.
The speed that comes with the cloud-based storage system makes the Chromebook an ideal choice for educational environments where students and teachers need a tool for online research, note-taking, and document sharing.
Google assumes that most users with a Chromebook will be working on this laptop while connected to the internet. So, what happens when you’re stuck on a plane without WiFi or in a concrete jungle where service is spotty?
Fortunately, when the WiFi signal is weak or nonexistent, there are still plenty of apps on a Chromebook that feature an offline mode. Gmail Offline, Google Drawings, and Android Apps from Google Play are among the myriad of apps that can be accessed without a network connection.
Every file you create is stored and kept in the cloud. Because of this system, the Chromebook itself has very little internal storage. When all your important documents are saved in a cloud network instead of on a hard drive, it’s unlikely you would have issues with lost or corrupted files.
From a visual standpoint, the home screen of a standard laptop might be littered with files you’ve saved to your desktop. With a Chromebook, you can’t place files there - the home screen is just a platform with which you can arrange and open different windows.
Chromebooks look very similar to traditional Windows-powered notebooks. They’re typically set up with a keyboard, display, and a camera, but Chromebooks have a dedicated search keyboard button where the caps-lock button is typically located.
Chromebooks are generally available in a conventional clamshell configuration, although there are some newer models that are beginning to offer convertible setups.
HP® offers four screen sizes for the HP Chromebook: 11-inch, 12-inch, 13-inch, and 14-inch.
For easy writing and note-taking, the portable 11-inch HP Chromebook notebook is a budget-friendly model that’s great for the professional writer or student. For instance, the HP Chromebook G6 11-inch laptop slips right into a backpack, purse, or briefcase and doesn’t take up much real estate on a small desk.
On the other end of the spectrum, the HP Chromebook G5 14-inch laptop allows you to work on multiple projects at once and boasts a larger viewing display for media streaming or online collaboration.
Whichever size you decide on, you will still have full access to Google Chrome OS apps without any impact on your PC’s overall performance.
Battery and storage
Chromebooks are known for their lightning-fast performance and long battery life. On average, these laptops can provide up to 8 hours of unplugged regular computing, but can go even longer if you dim the brightness and keep open tabs to a minimum.
Tired of dealing with slow start-up times and constant crashes from your once-dependable laptop? Many HP Chromebook reviews note it keeps a “like-new” performance for an impressively long time.
Along with its reliable performance, this Google operating system has a speedy startup because there aren’t any tray icons or other extraneous items to load. That means mere seconds of buffering time when you start a new session - a major benefit of the Chrome laptop. While you generally can’t upgrade the storage in a traditional sense, you can extend your capabilities with apps. For many users, this is all the functionality you really need.
Windows vs Chrome Operating System (OS)
When you’re talking about the difference between a Chromebook and a standard laptop, you’re really talking about the difference between their operating systems: Windows versus Chrome OS.
Anything you can do in a Chrome internet browser with Windows, you can do on Chrome OS. Programs you rely on outside of your browser on a PC don’t usually work with Chrome OS unless there’s an app that’s compatible.
For example, there are no true replacements for Photoshop, but apps like Pixlr are very similar. For non-professional designers who need basic photo-editing software, these apps can serve as adequate substitutes.
While Chrome OS is essentially a glorified internet browser, it features some extra capabilities to elevate it beyond a simple way to surf the web. For a feel that’s similar to a Windows desktop, you can use Chromebook offline which has more than 200 web apps that work on the Chrome OS.
You’re probably familiar with the main screen of a Windows operating system. A taskbar and desktop help you find all the files, folders, and shortcuts for the apps and programs you’ve loaded onto your laptop.
In terms of software - especially compared to Chromebook’s offerings - Windows delivers a wider range of apps. These apps are, as a whole, significantly more powerful than Chrome apps. For example, video editing programs such as Adobe Premiere and Avid include software that can only be run on Windows. This makes sense in light of the fact that Windows is a more complete operating system capable of heavy-duty computing.
Chromebooks, on the other hand, generally don’t have enough power for 3D editing and other data-intensive tasks. So if you’re a designer looking to increase your productivity at work, you’re better off with a computer more tailored to that industry.
In addition to the larger range of programs it supports, Windows also offers the voice-activated assistant Cortana to help you speed through different tasks.
How much is a new HP Chromebook vs a Windows laptop?
Chromebooks are an economical choice if you’re looking for a laptop with speedy computing capabilities and you’re not interested in graphics-heavy games or editing software. HP Chromebooks start at under $200 with the HP Chromebook 11-inch laptop. This basic but efficient laptop has an Intel® Celeron® processor, Intel HD Graphics 400, 4GB of memory, and 16GB of eMMC storage with an 11.6-inch HD display.
At the other end of the spectrum, the HP Chromebook 13-inch laptop is changing the tech community’s perception of what this Google laptop can offer. Featuring a powerful 6th Generation Intel Core™ processor with Intel High Definition Graphics, up to 16GB of memory, and up to 64GB eMMC storage this notebook gives Windows a run for its money in terms of power, speed, and efficiency.
Also worth a mention; you can use the HP Chromebook x360 14-inch laptop in four different configurations. Draw and play games in tablet mode, present important reports in tent mode, stream your favorite film in movie mode, or pound out an essay in the traditional laptop mode.
Chromebooks replacing netbooks and tablets
So, with all of this information in mind, how do you know if a Chromebook is right for you? If your main activities online include social media, YouTube, and Netflix, then an HP Chromebook is a great option. All HP Chromebook models are under $1,000 and many are under $500, making it far more economical than a Windows laptops which can sometimes run into the thousands.
HP Chromebooks are ideal tools for users looking for a laptop to complement their home office or scholastic pursuits. In most cases, they’re a smart choice for academic environments unless you’re a programming student who requires complicated software.
Updates and security options
The security software on the HP Chromebook updates automatically in the background while you work and you rarely have to restart your computer in order to install new programs.
Windows PCs, on the other hand, are notorious for restarting right when you’re in the middle of writing an important paper or other mission-critical tasks. Generally, you’ll have to completely restart the computer and wait for it to reboot, which can interrupt your workflow when you have deadlines to meet.
Speed and performance
Thanks to the cloud, an HP Chromebook delivers a startup experience that’s incredibly quick and picks up right where you left off. They rarely crash, but the processing power does sometimes get slowed down if you’re guilty of opening 50 tabs at once.
Browsing the web on an HP Chromebook versus a Windows PC is virtually the same with a few slight differences. On a Chromebook, of course, you’ll be browsing using Chrome. The straightforward interface features intuitive shortcuts and provides easier navigation of complicated sites.
Windows laptops have multiple internet browsers to choose from, but their complicated design can mean serious lag on ad-heavy sites.
Chromebooks aren’t the best choice for gaming, especially with graphics-intensive games. Why? Their lack of local memory means a typical Chromebook’s ability to run these types of games is extremely limited. Through the app store, however, Chromebooks offer a fun variety of games, many of which can be played in offline mode.
If you want to play the latest triple-A (AAA) game, your best bet is a Windows laptop which can handle much more gaming data and deliver high-quality visuals with limited screen tearing. There are cloud-based ways to get around the lack of gaming power on a Chromebook, but you’ll never get quite get to that PC level of play.
Best HP Chromebook deals
If you’re looking for a laptop with great functionality at a price that won’t break the bank, you’re in luck. HP® offers a fleet of Chromebooks that are versatile enough to handle your daily tasks with gusto.
The HP Chromebook 14 laptop, for example, features an Intel Celeron processor for zipping through applications, Intel HD Graphics 500 for sharp, defined images, and 4GB of memory with 16GB of eMMC storage. It can handle almost everything you want to accomplish online.
Compared to a Windows 10-powered laptop like the HP Pavilion 15t laptop, priced at more than twice as much, the HP Chromebook 14 is a steal. Side-by-side, these two devices are similar in spec offerings even though HP Pavilion boasts a slightly higher graphics capability. It has the same amount of memory, 4GB. But with 16GB of Intel Optane™ memory and a 1TB hard drive, you have the ability to store more files on this traditional laptop.
If you need a more robust Chromebook, the HP Chromebook x360 convertible laptop has an 8th Generation Intel Core i3 processor, Intel Ultra High Definition (UHD) Graphics 620, and 8GB of memory with 64GB of eMMC storage. The 14-inch diagonal Full High Definition touch display can be oriented into different configurations depending on your needs whether that’s streaming, working, or note-taking.
Priced at about the same as the HP Pavilion mentioned above, this heartier model has more local memory and storage than other HP Chromebooks. In addition, it has a more powerful processor for faster computing and crystal-clear images.
The HP Pavilion x360 14-inch laptop is a comparable convertible laptop that offers the same amount of local memory and processor as the HP Chromebook x360 for about $100 more. The biggest difference is the HP Pavilion has 1TB of HDD storage so you can save more files directly to your computer instead of relying on cloud-based services.
HP Chromebooks are the future
While HP Chromebooks are a great choice for the majority of people because of their user-friendly interface, quick load times, and unobtrusive updates, their lack of memory and storage can be seen as a major drawback.
However, it’s likely that these notebooks will only improve over time. Their capabilities will expand, their memory increase, and their prevalence in sectors outside of academia will skyrocket. As you await the bright future of the HP Chromebook, investing in a current model is a sure-fire way to increase your day-to-day productivity.
Related article: HP Chromebook Family Review
About the Author: Michelle Wilson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Michelle is a content creation specialist writing for a variety of industries, including tech trends and media news.