Is a Chromebook Worse than a Laptop? [2023 Update]

CG Director Author Petar Vukobratby Petar Vukobrat   /  Published 

Chromebooks are often frowned upon. They’re deemed as second-class “citizens” when compared to other (windows-based) laptops, all of which come imbued with more feature-rich operating systems and incredible amounts of power.

They’re thought of as subpar, entry-level products geared toward kids, students, the elderly, and those who spend the vast majority of their working hours inside a browser.

Chrome OS Features

Source: Chromebook

There’s no shortage of disdain towards these Chrome OS-based devices and, frankly, a good chunk of it is pretty unwarranted.

A Chromebook is not worse than a Windows- or macOS-based laptop by default.

A good Chromebook is, depending on the user and use case, perhaps an even better choice, thanks to its simple and streamlined operating system, user-friendly nature, and low barrier to entry.

A bad Chromebook, however, is what nightmares are made of.

It’s a tricky thing to cover due to the sheer number of Chromebooks out there, all of which differ in quality.

The same goes for Windows laptops, too, but there are slight (and yet vital) differences. A Chromebook, for instance, is underpowered almost by default.

The operating system is frugal and undemanding. The things one can do on a Chromebook are also limited. They’re not designed to tackle overly demanding workloads or, say, function as full-fledged desktop replacements. They’re small, light, and, for most people, totally sufficient.

Chrome OS is by no means as bare-bones as was the case a few years ago, but it’s still not as feature-rich as Windows or macOS — nor will it ever be. As such, it occupies a very specific niche and targets a very specific user group.

So what can you do on a Chromebook? Who are they for, if not for kids and students? Are they even worthwhile investments? Let’s take a closer look.

Chromebooks — Better Than You Think

Chromebooks have a pretty dismal reputation for a number of different reasons.

First of all, they were never designed or built to satisfy the most demanding users out there. Their operating system is light, fast, and cloud-centric.

They’re not as versatile but that’s by design; they’re simpler to use and much more secure than Windows-based alternatives — hence their popularity with certain target groups and demographics.

They’re not for the seasoned video editor, 3D modeler, gamer, or creative professional (Most Applications that you’ll need for such workloads won’t run on ChromeOS anyways, even if the hardware were fast enough for them).

They are, however, for those whose work can be done through a web browser and a plethora of different cloud-based services.

You can also leverage the existence of many stellar Android and Linux apps to fill in a few holes and gaps, but Chromebooks will never be able to match Windows or macOS laptops when it comes to versatility and sheer horsepower.

For around $500, though, a Chromebook is probably going to be a better option than a similarly priced Windows laptop.

It’ll be better built, it’ll have a better keyboard, a brighter screen (which may even have touch support), and it’ll also run faster, be more secure, and will not come with many of the hurdles and peculiarities we’ve all come to expect from Windows laptops — the never-ending system updates, the dreadful standby time, horrendous battery life, awful fan noise, and so on and so forth.

If you’re looking for a portable computing device and can only spend a modest sum of money, a Chromebook may well be your best option — assuming you’re okay with its inherent limitations and drawbacks.

And, as already mentioned, they’re all software-related, as most mid-tier Chromebooks tend to have the exact same components as equivalent Windows laptops.

There’s a plethora of Chromebooks out there that also come with much more frugal and energy-efficient ARM-based chipsets, and they, for the most part, are also a good choice — assuming they’re powerful enough for their needs, that is.

Chromebooks also come in many distinct form factors; traditional clamshell designs, tablets, convertibles, you name it. Heck, there’s even a slick-looking All-In-One option from HP.

Chromebook Form factors

Source: Chromebook

This, when combined with the fact that most mid-tier ones offer both touch and stylus support, means that a mid-tier Chromebook is actually a lot more versatile than a regular Windows laptop — at least when it comes to the ways in which one can use it on a daily basis.

For one such standout model, make sure to watch the following video:

Moreover, most modern Chromebooks (running Chrome OS 69 or newer) can also run Linux applications.

It’s not a perfect setup (as evidenced in the video down below), but it could come in clutch if you need a very specific piece of software. As always, your mileage will vary.

You also need a bit of tech-savviness to set it all up, so it’s not for those who are easily frightened by terminals and command lines.

Last but certainly not least, you can also install a full-fledged Linux distro over Chrome OS, although it might not be as simple a process as one would expect. And, well, if that’s your primary goal, you might as well go with a different laptop.

Chromebooks vs. Windows Laptops — Which Is Better?

That’s unfortunately a nigh impossible question to answer as these devices cater to entirely different users and use cases. Windows laptops are a lot more versatile and capable, in no small part because of their full-fledged, feature-rich operating system.

Then again, the vast majority of users — those who just browse the web, type out documents, and consume some form of content — don’t really need all that Windows has to offer (by which we mean both the good and the bad).

If you’re interested in learning more about their differences, make sure to watch the following video:

Who Are Chromebooks For?

That’s a tough question to answer.

In a nutshell: for either undemanding users or, alternatively, those who spend the vast majority of their working hours within a browser.

Those who are fully submerged in the Google ecosystem will also feel right at home.

In other words:

Buy a Chromebook If:

  • The vast majority of your work can be done within a web browser
  • You’re not a particularly demanding user
  • You don’t plan on gaming
  • You don’t have a highly specific workload like video editing, 3D modeling, and such like
  • You want an operating system that’s light, fast, streamlined, and secure
  • You want a secondary (or tertiary) portable device for your travels
  • You want a more robust laptop/convertible/tablet with touch and pen/stylus support
  • You want stellar battery life

Don’t Buy a Chromebook if:

  • You want to run demanding, “desktop-class” applications that may not run on ChromeOS anyway
  • You want ample versatility
  • You want peak performance in every possible scenario
  • You want a full-fledged, feature-rich operating system that will suffice for any kind of workload
  • You don’t “live” inside a web browser
  • You don’t want to share your data with Google


Chromebooks are not worse than a regular laptop running Windows or macOS — at least not by default.

They, too, have their own unique strengths and benefits and are actually a much better option for the average user than equivalent Windows-based offerings.

Well, at least for, say, $400-500. Once you go up in price the allure of a Chromebook tends to diminish rather quickly — and, needless to say, there are some mighty expensive Chromebooks out there, none of which really justify the asking price.

Chromebooks, as opposed to Windows- and macOS-based laptops, are not as versatile or capable, but that does very little, if anything, to diminish their overall value.

One doesn’t buy a Toyota Prius and then complain that it can’t reach the same speed as a Bugatti Veyron.

There are many different levels of performance and Chromebooks, while by no means speed demons, are still sufficiently capable for the vast majority of users — assuming one ends up buying a beefier, spec’d-out model, that is.

Underpowered Chromebooks should be avoided as if they were the plague. And, sadly, those are in the majority.

They have dreadful, washed-out displays, horrible viewing angles, subpar keyboards, diminutive speakers, and, perhaps worst of all, horrific build quality. They’re built like toys and are generally not expected to last long — hence the bad rap.

The good ones, however, really are a stellar (if pricey) option. If Chrome OS has everything you need (and will need in the future), then there’s really no need to fret.


Let’s go over a few potential questions you might have regarding Chromebooks and all that they entail:

What Is the Difference Between a Laptop and a Chromebook?

It all boils down to their components/internals and, most importantly, their operating system. That’s essentially it.

And even that first difference can often be disregarded as top-of-the-line Chromebooks come with the exact same internals as equivalent Windows-based laptops.

Chromebooks are never going to blow you away with their performance, but they’re not going to accumulate different forms of malware or break down for no discernible reason because of a botched driver update, software compatibility issues, or whatever else.

It’s a closed-off ecosystem and, as such, is much more secure and streamlined. For some, that’s a boon of immeasurable worth. For others, it is a negligible benefit given the limited amount of things and workloads one can use a Chromebook for.

Are Chromebooks Any Good?

Some of them are good, others amazing, and others still cataclysmically awful. It’s a wide range, in other words, and that, in part, is why they have such a bad rap amongst the enthusiast crowd.

The thing is, Chromebooks were never designed with hardcore users in mind, so it’s frankly impossible to fault them for not being able to deliver in a myriad of different professional workloads.

For regular people and general productivity work, however, they’re more than sufficient. The better, mid-tier ones offer a truly acceptable level of performance and, by proxy, user experience — they’re fast, easy to use, and work as advertised.

Can a Chromebook Replace My Desktop?

Most definitely! You do need to be aware of its limitations, though, and that’s true in regards to both hardware and software.

Chrome OS is much more capable and feature-rich than it was in the past, but it’s still not as versatile as any other mainstream operating system — and it’s not even close.

Still, for regular computing tasks like browsing the web, typing out documents and emails, watching videos, YouTube, Netflix, and such like, a Chromebook is a stellar option, especially if it’s appropriately specced.

Can You Use a Chromebook as Your Only Computer?

Only if the entirety of your work can be done within a browser or, say, through various different Android apps (note: you might encounter severe scaling issues depending on the application).

You’ll also have to make due with a fairly rudimentary file explorer, so just keep that in mind as well.

A Chromebook is not a good option for those with overly specific needs and requirements.

Chrome OS is a lot more capable than most folks realize, but it simply cannot hold a candle to Windows, macOS, and Linux when it comes to versatility and sheer power.

How Long Do Chromebooks Last?

Chromebooks, unlike traditional laptops, actually have an official “expiration date.”

Once that date is reached, your Chromebook will no longer be eligible for any kind of update which, in turn, will make it less secure.

You’ll still be able to use it but the whole experience might be severely hindered as some applications might stop working. Your mileage will vary depending on the model and your use-case.

To check the Auto Update Expiration date (or AUE, for short) of your Chromebook, do the following:

Chromebook Auto Update Expiration date

Source: Google

Alternatively, if you’re interested in buying a Chromebook but are unsure of its AUE date, make sure to visit the following page and do a bit of digging.

Are Gaming Chromebooks Worth It?

Absolutely not. They are essentially gimmicks as they rely solely on game streaming.

They’re also horrendously overpriced for what they offer and, needless to say if streaming your favorite titles is your main concern, you might as well go with a Windows-based laptop.

Do not fall for the marketing.

Over to You

Have you ever used a Chromebook and, if so, what was that experience like? Let us know in the comment section down below and, in case you need any help, head over to our forum and ask away!

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Petar Vukobrat

I first sat down in front of a Pentium II in 1999 and it feels like I’ve been sitting in front of a computer ever since.

And, well, until mankind comes up with something better and more entertaining, that’ll keep being the case.

If you have any questions — or just want to talk about all things PC and Apple — leave a comment down below!


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