Updated: May 17
Chromebooks have grown from a curiosity to a force to be reckoned with. Offering a simple and stripped-down experience, Google’s Chrome OS is extremely easy to use (if you can use a browser, you’re good), and it comes inside several affordable laptops that cost as little as $159.
However, Microsoft isn’t taking this threat lightly. With the launch of Windows 10, users can take advantage of a much-improved Start menu, along with the helpful Cortana assistant. Existing Windows-machine owners can upgrade to Windows 10 for free until July 29, 2016. Despite the new OS, Windows-device prices remain the same — you’ll find a number of Windows-powered laptops that cost less than $200 each, and many under $400 offer touch displays.
So, which computing platform is truly the best? To answer that question, we put both Windows and Chrome OS to the test and compared them in 12 rounds of head-to-head competition.
Compared to the two distinct environments of Windows 8.1, Windows 10 feels more integrated and seamless. Pressing the Start button reveals the new Start menu, filled with your most used programs and recently installed apps on the left (similar to on Windows 8). To the right is a wider panel, where you can pin tiles that are animated with updates. The taskbar has been updated to include a Cortana search bar next to the Start button and small icons that show which programs are open.
On the bottom right of the desktop, Windows 10 adds a notification icon that, when clicked, brings you to the new Action Center, where you can see alerts from apps that are both active and dormant. There are also quick settings in this notifications menu in the form of tiles.
In the newest version of Chrome OS, the Start-like button sits in the bottom-left corner. When pressed, the launcher pop-up features a Google search bar (and the most recent Google Doodle), with a list of your most recently opened apps. Scrolling down reveals Google Now info cards, which give you information like local weather, suggested articles based on your search activity, and calendar updates.
The taskbar in Chrome OS shows icons for currently active apps, as well as shortcuts to essential Google apps, such as Docs, Drive and YouTube. Basic settings, such as Wi-Fi and Time, are accessed on the bottom right. Chrome OS was built as a Web-first operating system, so apps usually run in a Chrome browser window. The same is true for apps that can run offline.
Both Windows 10 and Chrome are great for working in side-by-side windows. For each OS, all you need to do is drag a window to one side, where it snaps to half-screen mode. However, Windows lets you snap up to four windows, compared to two for Chrome OS.
Another thing to consider is touch-friendly devices.
There are Windows 10 and Chrome OS laptops with touch screens, but Windows 10 makes the most out of those displays. The operating system has tablet mode, which removes your taskbar icons and puts all apps in full-screen mode, leaving you with a minimalist workspace that removes a lot of desktop distractions.
And with the new universal apps in the Windows app store, you’ll be able to run most of your favorite programs in both desktop and tablet modes.
Bottom-line: Chrome OS. Though it’s less versatile, Chrome OS offers a simpler and more straight forward interface than Windows 10.
Windows has long been a known target for hackers looking to infect PCs with viruses, malware, botnets and keyloggers. In fact, the very first thing anyone should do with a new Windows laptop is install an antivirus suite. However, Microsoft’s Windows Defender does come built in, and that’s better than nothing.
Windows Defender runs in the background and notifies you if you need to take an action, such as removing a virus. The SmartScreen feature also warns you when it doesn’t recognize an app, to help prevent phishing attacks. Plus, the secure-boot feature means that every time you turn on your laptop, it will check itself for digital certificates of authenticity before it boots. That means it will not load infected software.
Cloud customers have access to a few extra security features. Device Guard protects Windows 10 machines from any unknown software that hasn’t been approved by an official vendor or Microsoft itself.
In an effort to expand on its Biometric systems, Microsoft is enabling Windows Hello to unlock devices just by using fingerprint scanners. Also, if you have an Intel RealSense camera, you can use your face to access your device or Microsoft Passport without a PIN.
Chromebooks have not yet caught the eye of many hackers. But more than that, Google promotes the security of its operating system as a key selling point. A Chromebook automatically checks for and applies security updates, while including Web filters and sandboxing media. Also, Chrome OS doesn’t support Flash, so any security issues surrounding it won’t affect the system.
If something does get into your Chrome OS system, restoring it to its factory settings requires only a couple of clicks on the mouse pad. The only security problem Chromebook owners really face is thieves looking to hack the sites you use, where a lot of personal data is stored.
Also, You Guys Can Make Use Of Google’s Two Step Verification Process To Make Your Google Account More Secure! 🙂
BottomLine: Chrome OS. Assuming you can keep your Google password to yourself, you’re safer in Chrome.
3) Hardware/Upgradable Options:
Variety is the spice of life, and fewer types of technology offer as much variety as Windows PCs. The screens alone can range in size from 11 to 18 inches, both with and without touch capability. Eight major manufacturers create Windows laptops, offering Intel and AMD chips, onboard memory that varies wildly from 2GB to 16GB, and storage sizes that go up to the terabyte level.
Some Windows machines are plastic, and some are metal. Some come in nonstandard colors. Some are meant to be portable, while others are more deskbound. You’ll also find Windows machines dedicated to business and gamers, and 2-in-1 machines that double as notebooks and tablets. There truly is an option for everyone when it comes to Windows.
The Chromebook market is smaller but growing steadily. We’ve reviewed over 20 Chromebooks from companies including Acer, Dell, Asus, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba, among others. The display size ranges from 11 to 15 inches, but most are smaller than 15 inches. Only a couple of models offer a touch screen. Chromebooks are incredibly portable, though, usually weighing between 2 and 4 pounds.
You’ll find some niche Chromebooks popping up for business customers. These machines, such as the Gorilla Glass-enforced Acer Chromebook 14 and HP Chromebook 13, place an emphasis on security and durability.
Bottom-line: Windows 10. Microsoft’s ecosystem gives you more options, which means you’re more likely to find something you really like.
4) Bang For The Buck: #Value!:
There was a time when the only laptops priced under $200 were Chromebooks. But with Microsoft’s initiative to make Windows 10 machines more affordable, the gap in price between Windows 10 and Chrome OS devices has been completely eliminated.
Take the 14-inch Acer Aspire One Cloud book. Starting at $199, this machine is a well-built 14-inch system with an astounding 14-plus hours of battery life. Then, there’s the Lenovo Idea pad 100S, which features an attractive 2.2-pound design, a comfy keyboard and more than 9 hours of endurance.
In Chrome OS world, you can get a laptop like the Asus Chromebook C201 for as little as $168 if you opt for 2GB of RAM or $189 with 4GB of RAM (we recommend the latter). If you’re willing to spend more, consider the Toshiba Chromebook 2, which gives you a lot of laptop for your money, with a 13.3-inch full-HD display (a rarity on PCs in this price range), 4GB of RAM and 13 hours of battery life, all for just $299. Dell’s Chromebook 13 costs $100 more for pretty much the same specs, but it has a more durable design and is targeted more toward businesses.
If you can be swayed by the addition of promotional goodies, both Google and Microsoft have some attractive incentives that may help sweeten the deal. Currently, Google is offering several hundred dollars’ worth of free stuff to customers purchasing a new Chromebook, including 100GB of storage on Google Drive, 12 free gogo in-air internet passes, 90 days of Google Play Music and three free movies from Google Play.
Deals from Microsoft vary from vendor to vendor, but budget machines often include a free one-year subscription to Office 365 (which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint), and 500GB of storage on OneDrive, a $70 value. If you want the best productivity suite, this subscription is more desirable than Google’s collection of freebies.
Bottom-line: Tie. Prices are about the same for each OS. Windows 10 machines offer a wider range of configurations, but Google’s free add-ons are hard to ignore.
5) Some Misconceptions and Updates:
Microsoft conveniently left out arguably one of the most important aspects of any piece of hardware: the cost of the operating system. While it’s true that the initial purchase of a Windows laptop includes the Windows OS, all consequent versions of Windows are going to cost you significant money, not to mention the time and effort involved in upgrading.
Chromebooks update automatically at no cost. When an update is available for a Chromebook, the entire process takes a few seconds (you probably won’t even notice) and then you continue as if nothing happened. No need to think about backing up files, upgrading hardware and software, or worry about software compatibility or driver issues.
1) SDD vs HDD.
Chromebooks come with a SSD by default, which translates into ridiculously fast boot times (usually a second or two from a cold start) and speedy file management. A cheap Windows laptop is almost guaranteed to have an old style 5400RPM HDD (all of the three laptops Microsoft recommends do), which means slow boot times and barely passable performance.
The slowest Chromebook SSDs (200MB/s) are quicker than the fastest Windows laptop HDDs (up to 120MB/s). Today, nothing beats the speed of a SSD.
The performance of your cheap Windows laptop will degrade over time. The operating system has massive overhead, combine that with the slow spinning HDD, bloat-ware that typically ships with Windows laptops and all the additional ‘essential’ software, it’s basically a forgone conclusion this is going to happen. In two, or even just one year your cheap Windows laptop is going to be even more annoyingly slow, while the Chromebook will keep performing as it did on day one.
Chromebooks, even though they have specs the same or sometimes lower than a cheap Windows laptop, always perform much faster than you expect. This is mostly due to the light-weight operating system overhead and SSD performance.
2) Battery Life.
So you think getting 3 hours from your cheap Windows laptop is pretty good? What if you could go for more than an entire business day?
Chromebooks have significantly longer battery life. Take the Toshiba Chromebook 2 as an example, which will give you 10.5hrs of real world use (and charges like it’s been struck by a bolt of lightning) before having to find a power outlet.
Another thing Microsoft conveniently left out of the comparison table is anti-virus software. If you’re on Windows you’re going to need it, so add that to the total cost (unless you’re comfortable risking a free solution).
This is not the case for Chromebooks, which are practically immune to malware or virus infections.
3) Seamless integration with Google Apps.
If you’re already in the Google ecosystem (if you have a Gmail account then you’re all set), Chromebooks are a perfect fit. For business owners who have switched to Google Apps the transition will be unnoticeable. Just sign in, start working.
Chromebooks are fast becoming the popular choice in the education sector, due in part to their low entry price point, practicality and zero cost software upgrades. Google are taking it seriously, offering eligible education institutions unlimited Drive storage and a web based management console that allows education administrators to manage up to 10,000 student Chromebooks remotely.
Many school districts are also now selling their iPads to make way for Chromebooks. Not that there’s anything wrong with iPads, but studies have shown that students see them as a fun platform for games, while Chromebooks are seen as a way to accomplish actual work.
6) Common Misconceptions:
Chromebooks are unusable when offline.
With so much focus and marketing given towards Chromebooks cloud integration, it’s easy to think they can only be used while online. This isn’t the case however. Chromebooks can work offline, so you can watch videos, listen to music, access files etc., and thousands of apps including essentials like Docs, Gmail and others work perfectly fine when not connected to the internet.
It’s just Chrome.
While ‘just Chrome’ isn’t actually a bad thing, what Google are able to get Chrome to do is nothing short of amazing. That aside, with just one small tweak you can make ChromeOS feel and look more like any other operating system, making it easy to forget you are working within the ChromeOS engine.
You can’t expand the storage.
Chromebooks typically have small capacity SSDs, mainly because the focus is on cloud storage. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have other options.
You can plug in an external drive, slip in a MicroSD card, or if you’re really adventurous you could swap out the existing SSD for a larger capacity one (assuming there are no physical limitations) just like you can on a Windows laptop.
You can’t do any serious work on a Chromebook People can do serious work on a Chromebook and are very productive.
Bottom-Line: Each One’s has Their Own Pros and Cons, If you’re comfortable living in the cloud and you want to get stuff done in a secure yet simple environment, a Chromebook will suit you nicely. However, if you need power and versatility, Windows 10 reigns supreme.