Should I buy a Chromebook or a Windows laptop? It’s a common question: Both devices can surf the web, access apps, and so on, at home, work, or school. But there are clear differences between their respective platforms, with advantages to each.
We’ve addressed the question from several perspectives, beginning with the basics and then diving deeper. In some ways, the two categories have grown closer together over time: With much of our life spent on the web, a web-based device (a Chromebook) has become increasingly similar in purpose to a laptop. We’ll define the differences and then advise you on which device to purchase.
We’ve reworked this article as a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) guide. You’ll find links to our respective laptop and Chromebook recommendations embedded in the answers, as well as links to recent developments that impact both platforms. Here’s what you need to know when buying a laptop or Chromebook.
Who should buy a Windows laptop?
If you want the most power and flexibility available, buy a modern Windows laptop. See our roundup of the best laptops for a wide range of buying recommendations, and our daily laptop deals (updated almost every day) for the latest sales on top laptops.
A laptop PC powered by Microsoft Windows offers several advantages. Windows laptops can run just about any app, your choice of any browser, and options that include native games, utilities, apps, and antivirus programs. You can tweak and configure your PC as you choose.
The convenience of Windows demands more computing horsepower and often a higher price compared to most Chromebooks. On the other hand, if you need a powerful PC for gaming or video editing, Chromebooks can’t compete—though, granted, they don’t try to.
Who should buy a Chromebook?
If you want to save money, and you work (and play) frequently on the web, buy a Chromebook. See our roundup of the best Chromebooks for buying recommendations, and our best Chromebook deals for the best Chromebooks sales of the day.
A Chromebook powered by Google’s ChromeOS is a simpler, cheaper, more optimized device. Essentially, it’s useful to think of a Chromebook as a dedicated Chrome browser running on top of secure hardware. It can also be hundreds of dollars cheaper than a comparable Windows PC, even with the same processor inside! Numerous American classrooms have settled on Chromebooks for in-person and distance learning, and often make them available for loaning to students.
Essentially, Chromebooks are best for web work: browsing the web, working online on documents, and using web streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime inside a web browser. You can also download and use Android apps for gaming and entertainment, though they may not run entirely like on your phone.
You’ll still see quite inexpensive ($100 to $300) Chromebooks dominate Amazon’s list of “best-selling laptops,” but there’s even a specialized class of “gaming Chromebooks” now, too. (Those are quite new, and it’s not clear whether they’re worth buying.) Pay attention during the holidays or peak sales periods like Prime Day, when prices can drop really low—down by around $100 or more. Just make sure you’re not buying a Chromebook that’s fallen out of the support window. (We’ll talk more about that, below.)
The efficiency of Chromebooks can work against them in certain situations, though. Does your printer use a specialized app? Chances are that your Chromebook will print to your printer, but an older printer might not work all that well with a Chromebook. Ditto for a specialized mouse app. It’s sometimes hard to know what will work, and what won’t.
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What’s it like using a Chromebook compared to a laptop?
While it’s easy to focus on what you’re going to do with either a Chromebook or a Windows PC—web browsing! games!—it’s easy to lose sight of the little things.
One of the best features of a Chromebook that’s easily overlooked is Google’s approach to updates and security. Everything takes place behind the scenes. Windows downloads updates for antivirus and other programs in the background, but others require a reboot. If you don’t have Windows properly configured, those reboots can even occur while you’re using the PC, which can be hugely annoying. While Chromebooks occasionally need to be rebooted to apply updates, the process is quicker and less intrusive, as Google reloads the pages you were on quite quickly.
In fact, “quick” is one of the best features of a Chromebook. While they’re less full-featured than a Windows PC, booting and resuming them just generally feels more efficient than it does on Windows. Part of that is the simplicity: Google takes care of most of the mundane tasks of powering a PC, like security and driver updates. “Blue screens of death” occur on Windows; Chromebooks rarely crash—a fact Google emphasizes in commercials.
Still, some of those more mundane tasks can be irritating to Chromebook users, too: such as printing, file management, and utilities: This is where the differences between the two platforms can become abrasive, especially if you’re used to doing things in a certain way. For example, Google is trying to add diagnostics to the ChromeOS platform, but it’s still doing it its own way.
Take printing, for example. The world’s printers were designed from the ground up for Windows and Macs, and can print either over a wireless network or from a USB cable. Chromebooks, on the other hand, have struggled with direct printing or using the more advanced features of certain printers. Google Cloud Print was the company’s workaround, requiring a Wi-Fi enabled printer; however, this feature was phased out by the end of 2020.
Certain tasks also require a different way of doing things on a Chromebook versus a Windows PC. Sure, there are the ChromeOS keyboard shortcuts, where taking a screenshot or a portion of one requires knowing to press the Ctrl + “switcher” key. When you take that screenshot, you’ll see it saved inside a folder—but you won’t be able to rename that file without opening it. Windows allows you to right-click a file and perform any number of operations on it; ChromeOS does not.
Even accessing those files on ChromeOS requires clicking the “home” circle in the lower-left corner, then either swiping or clicking the exposed up arrow to access the ChromeOS apps, some of which can be stored in the taskbar dock for easy access.
The same goes for alternative input modalities. While Chromebooks allow for inking—you’ll generally need to supply your own stylus or use your finger—and can record audio, don’t expect a Chromebook to include pen input that’s translatable into text. Windows exclusively provides this. However, Chromebook pens will soon support NFC wireless charging, rather than forcing you to search out a AAAA battery or charge them with a cable.
To be fair, Windows 11 looks a lot more like a Chromebook than it did before. The Windows 11 Taskbar (for now) can only be oriented at the bottom of the screen, where apps pop up from a Start menu that looks somewhat like the ChromeOS launcher.
Our colleagues over at Computerworld include a Chromebook cheat sheet that you may find useful with more details on the ins and outs of Chromebooks.
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What’s the difference between a Windows laptop and a Chromebook, in terms of operating system and software?
Windows PCs run Microsoft Windows 10 (and now Windows 11), the dominant operating system for traditional PCs for more than 25 years. Google Chromebooks run ChromeOS, optimized for both Google Chrome and Android apps. ChromeOS can’t run Windows or Mac apps, natively.
Windows laptops can run Windows apps, naturally, as well as web apps (web pages) stored to the PC. Windows 11 PCs can now run a limited subset of Android apps, provided by Amazon. ChromeOS can run web apps and browse web pages. It can also run Google’s much more comprehensive library of Android apps, found on the Google Play Store.
Microsoft seems to be phasing out efforts to compete directly with Chromebooks through specialized versions of the Windows OS. For the last few years, Microsoft has marketed Windows 10 S and Windows 11 S (or Windows 10/11 Home in S Mode) as its operating system for schools and a direct competitor to Chromebooks. As our linked review shows, it was essentially a locked-down version of Windows 10, preventing the ability to run third-party apps. You’ll find it on less-expensive PCs like the Surface Laptop Go, as well as some third-party laptops. Windows 11 SE, which we’ll discuss further a few sections below, is the sequel to Microsoft’s ChromeOS killer. Windows 11 SE will only be available to PCs designed for education, which is the target market for Chromebooks.
Much of this is moot to most shoppers. All new Windows laptops are currently sold with Windows 11, of which the Windows 11 2022 Update is the latest version. It provides a visual refresh of Windows…that looks rather like a Chromebook, actually. You can read our Windows 11 superguide for more. Microsoft has dropped its historical timetable for new feature updates; its latest October update added new features like a tabbed version of File Explorer.
At press time, Google’s ChromeOS is at version 108. Recent tweaks to the OS bring Chromebooks closer to Windows PCs: Photos taken by an Android phone show up in a ChromeOS Phone Hub; there are proper dark themes, improved Notifications, and a more compact Launcher. The latest version ChromeOS 108 adds a recycle bin/trash can, just like Windows. Google updates ChromeOS about every four weeks.
In one of the weirder twists, Google has announced ChromeOS Flex, which can essentially turn an old PC laptop into a Chromebook.
Microsoft won’t support Windows PCs forever, but the company has typically provided free upgrades from one OS to the next. (Windows 11 broke that cycle, by enforcing certain hardware requirements.) ChromeOS, for its part, has a support lifecycle of about eight years on new Chromebooks. Once that support window expires, that’s it: Google will not provide new features or offer security patches. You’ll need to read reviews or consult your Chromebook documentation to find out when support expires, though Google’s trying to make that easier.
Which can be personalized more, a Chromebook or a PC?
Typically, Windows PCs have offered an enormous variety of options to allow you to tweak things as you like, which we’ve covered in our feature on how to personalize your PC. Most of this is already built into Windows, though there are wallpaper theme packs and even a Bing Wallpaper app to allow further customization.
Chromebooks have generally not offered these capabilities, though there’s now an option to personalize your lock screen with either one of your own photos or an image preselected by Google. Music controls are available, too.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Can I run Windows apps on Chromebooks?
Yes and no. Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise is a new feature that Google just introduced on Chromebooks, but not all of them. Parallels provides quick access to legacy and full-featured applications, like Microsoft Office, locally on ChromeOS—which means that they’ll even work offline. However, Parallels is a managed solution for enterprises with IT managers, meaning you won’t be able to take advantage of this with a cheap Chromebook that you’ll buy from Amazon.
Instead, only very specific enterprise Chromebooks will be able to access Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise: the HP Pro c640 Chromebook Enterprise, the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise and the upcoming HP Chromebox Enterprise G3, all powered by Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. (It’s probable that these enterprise Chromebooks need the virtualization capabilities available in the Core i5 and Core i7 processors.)
Could this ability to run Windows apps be extended to consumer Chromebooks in the future? Possibly. But right now it’s out of reach for most users.
A better solution may be Windows 365, Microsoft’s program for running Windows via the cloud. Windows 365 is essentially the Windows equivalent of cloud gaming—Windows lives in the cloud, and is “streamed” down to the local PC. However, Microsoft designed Windows 365 for business users, so consumers won’t have access to this for now.
Do laptops and Chromebooks look different?
Physically, a Chromebook looks much like a Windows-powered notebook, with a keyboard, a display, a front-facing camera for videoconferencing, and so on. But there are a few key differences: Chromebooks typically include a dedicated search keyboard key, while Windows emphasizes the Windows key. With Windows, you’ll have many hardware choices, including a typical clamshell notebook, convertibles with 360-degree hinges, 2-in-1 Windows tablets with detachable keyboards, or pure Windows tablets.
Most Chromebooks are clamshells, but we’re seeing a lot more convertibles now that Android apps are supported. Because ChromeOS and Android are now conjoined, a key reason to choose a ChromeOS tablet instead of a clamshell hinges on how often you’ll use Android apps. Android apps run acceptably in a laptop form factor, but they’re arguably more convenient when used on a tablet, and held in your hand. Remember, most 360-degree convertibles/2-in-1s flip the keyboard out of the way, essentially transforming the Chromebook into a big, bulky tablet. We prefer this approach.
How are the specifications of a laptop and Chromebook different?
Inside, the only real differences are the processor. Windows PCs have a wide range of microprocessors powering them, usually chips from AMD and Intel, or more recently, a Qualcomm Snapdragon.
Chromebooks generally favor lower-performance Intel Atom chips (branded as Pentium or Celeron), Snapdragons, or lesser-known processors from the likes of Mediatek or Rockchip, that are suited to the lighter demands of ChromeOS. But AMD has made aggressive, recent moves to bring its powerful Ryzen chips into Chromebooks, and Intel’s Core chips (typically a Core i3) can appear in Chromebooks, too.
More recently we’ve seen pricier corporate and luxury Chromebooks include Intel Core CPUs, including the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook—but the jury’s still out on who will pay upwards of $1,000 for a Chromebook. In October 2022, Google unveiled a line of gaming Chromebooks with high-end displays and processors designed for cloud gaming. We haven’t tested these yet, however, and they’re significantly more expensive.
Though you’ll find that many Chromebooks and inexpensive laptops feature a similar HD (1366×768) or Full HD (1920×1080) display, Windows usually requires more robust memory and storage. Both a Chromebook and a laptop can run acceptably on 4GB of memory, but 8GB is preferred where Windows notebooks are concerned.
Windows notebooks, too, typically include more local storage for the Windows OS and associated apps: 128GB or 256GB is acceptable, though there’s really no upper limit. Chromebooks, meanwhile, don’t need much more than 32GB or so, assuming Google-oriented users are taking advantage of the Google Drive online storage, or stashing Android apps on an SD card. Less storage means less cost; many Chromebooks also use inexpensive eMMC flash storage to save even further. Both Chromebooks and Windows tablets allow external storage.
How are the digital assistants in Chromebooks and laptops different?
One of the few Chromebooks with Google Assistant support so far is the Google Pixelbook. Instead, Google’s built-in intelligence is primarily put to use in the ChromeOS “Launcher.” Like the Chrome browser, you type a search question into the Launcher and Google will return answers. The feature was originally rolled out on ChromeOS 90.
Microsoft’s own digital assistant, Cortana, is supported on all Windows PCs that include a mic—which is virtually all of them. But while Cortana was deeply integrated into Windows 10 when it launched, it’s now an app on Windows PCs and doesn’t play as much of a role as it used to. In fact, on Windows 11 you’ll need to add the Cortana app manually.
Is a Chromebook or laptop better for office work?
Productivity apps—word processing, spreadsheets, and the like—represent the majority of the working day. Here, both Windows and Chromebook users have several choices, and both are honestly about equal. Chromebooks can run Microsoft’s Office apps as web apps or Android applications, while Windows PCs can run Google Workspace apps on the web. (Google Workspace was formerly named G Suite, and before that Google Apps.)
You might think that Office would be restricted to Windows, but that’s not true either: Office.com, also known as Office Online, runs in a web browser, and—assuming you have a subscription to Office 365 (now called Microsoft 365)—offers nearly all the functionality that the Office 365 suite does. (Microsoft Office apps are also available as Android apps, but it’s sometimes simpler to run them within the browser.) In fact, given that it’s powered by the cloud, you’ll find that Office Online sometimes gets updated with new features before they arrive on Microsoft 365. Office is typically used by most enterprises, and if your company administrator allows it, even shared corporate resources may be accessible via a Chromebook.
There’s one tweak: As of August 2021, Microsoft won’t support the Android version of Office apps on a Chromebook. That doesn’t mean you can’t run Office on a Chromebook; you’ll just need to use Office.com (aka Office Online) instead.
The Google Workspace suite also runs online, though it’s focused on the essentials, with fewer features than Office but a renewed focus on collaboration. I spent over a year exclusively working on a Chromebox (the nearly defunct desktop version of a Chromebook) and found Google’s simple interface and instantaneous autosaves superior to the Windows version of Office at the time. (Office apps like Word now autosave, too.) For our purposes, both Google Workspace and Office Online will run on either a plain Chromebook or Windows PC; however, if you need access to a local copy of Office, only a PC will suffice.
As of September 2021, Google has begun rolling out Cursive, a Progressive Web App (though they’re powered by the web, PWAs can be saved locally as apps) that is designed for detachable Chromebooks like the HP Chromebook X2 11. As the name suggests, Cursive allows you to jot notes in cursive, a bit like Microsoft OneNote. While it’s technically downloadable for the Chrome browser, many features reportedly won’t work on anything but a Chromebook. Other Chromebooks will receive the Cursive app a bit later on.
The gist is that productivity is possible on either a Chromebook or Windows PC with a minimal amount of effort, though you may want to pay for a subscription for either Office or Google’s suite of apps to get maximum benefit and storage space. You may also find Windows PCs a bit more easy to configure for printing.
From a hardware perspective, a traditional laptop form factor is more convenient than a detachable keyboard such as on the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, for example. While tablets make Android apps more convenient, the tradeoff is less productivity when in laptop mode.
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Can a Chromebook play games as well as a Windows PC?
With the vast history of classic PC games available to Windows machines, the PC is clearly dominant where gaming is concerned. However, there are also games that are “exclusive” to Chromebooks, thanks to 2016’s ChromeOS 53, and its ability to run Android apps and games. All Chromebooks made since 2019 (and some earlier models) have this capability. But the distinction is not quite as profound as it once was.
While you won’t be playing the latest Battlefield game on a Chromebook as a native app, Google has ported Steam over to certain Chromebooks as of March 2022, allowing you to play dozens of Steam games on a supported Chromebook, in an alpha state. This is an extremely early implementation, with just a few supported Chromebooks and the very real possibility of significant bugs. Our tutorial on how to play Steam games on a Chromebook has more.
We’re also seeing support for RGB keyboards in ChromeOS, implying that gaming Chromebooks could arrive sometime soon. Google also said in September 2022 that it’s rolling out keyboard support for touchscreen games, allowing you to play “touch” games on a Chromebook that lacks a touchscreen. This feature will debut in an alpha state in ChromeOS 105.
If your Chromebook is one of the cheaper, less powerful variety, don’t despair. Cloud gaming services can come to your rescue—and running them is the next best thing to loading and playing them on the Chromebook itself. In addition to the older Parsec cloud gaming service, you now have Nvidia GeForce Now, the Blade Shadow service (hailing from Europe), and even Xbox games. We explain how Xbox cloud gaming runs on a Chromebook. Just make sure that you either have an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription in place, or own an Xbox outright.
Google believes strongly in cloud gaming, and launched a wave of cloud gaming Chromebooks to take advantage of the trend. We’re a little skeptical of whether these devices will be worth the extra money until we’ve tested them ourselves.
Windows PCs can now run Android games, too, believe it or not. As part of the “spring 2022 update” for Windows 11, Microsoft added support for a limited number of Android apps. They’re not downloadable via the Google Play Store, however. You’ll need to download them from Amazon instead. (Here’s how to install Android apps on your PC.) It’s possible you will be able to download Android apps from Google in the future, though. Google has also begun trialing Google Play games on Windows 11 PCs in Asia.
Which offers more apps, Chromebooks or Windows PCs?
Games certainly fall into the category of local apps, but so do the numerous apps and utilities that can make everyday tasks a little easier. Here, it’s also a mixed bag.
This is sort of a lopsided comparison, since Microsoft doesn’t reveal the number of apps inside the Microsoft Store. Even if it did, that number wouldn’t reveal anything about the quality of apps found within it. App stores are notorious for including “knockoff” apps or crapware, and Microsoft has been particularly vulnerable. ChromeOS doesn’t include the type of crapware Windows PCs also sometimes ship with, requiring apps like CCleaner to tidy up.
One of the strengths of Windows, though, is its historical archive of bits of code, utilities, and other apps that have collected in dusty old hard-drive folders, FTP sites, and elsewhere. Batch resizing apps for images, custom calendar apps, macro managers—everyone has their favorites, and ChromeOS simply can’t compete. Windows PCs are the platform to run virtually everything: traditional Win32 apps, web apps, Linux apps, and Android apps via Windows 11 as well. The only exception are PCs running Windows 10 S or Windows 11 S, which won’t run anything but apps found in the Microsoft Store.
Chromebooks can run native “apps” for Chrome, including plugins. Plus, there are the additional Android apps that can run under ChromeOS: There were almost 3 million total in the Google Play app store as of June 2020. Not every Android app will run on a Chromebook. Chromebooks don’t include GPS chips, so location-specific apps won’t work. Ditto for those who rely on rear cameras that the Chromebook may or may not have—Pokemon Go, for instance.
Although we certainly don’t think this is for everyone, some Chromebooks can run Linux, but it will take some fiddling. Our friends over at Computerworld have an up-to-date guide on how to run Linux on a Chromebook.
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Which lasts longer, a Chromebook or a PC?
The longevity of a PC is basically determined by how demanding Windows is, compared to the hardware powering it. The willingness of the PC maker and component makers to provide drivers also plays a role. Hardware failures will eventually occur. Every processor that Intel launches is accompanied by statements comparing the new chip to a 5-year-old PC, with performance improvements in the 30 to 40 percent range. Otherwise, a PC’s lifespan could go on for years, even decades, as long as the operating system is kept up to date.
Or we thought so, anyway. As the previous section noted, Windows 11 suddenly cut off millions of PCs from an upgrade to Windows 11, because of new hardware restrictions. Older PCs, even Surface devices made by Microsoft, are being cut off. Could Microsoft do this again in the future? We don’t know.
A Chromebook lasts as long as Google is willing to support it, and that’s much easier to determine: Google tells you. In the beginning, it was just five years after the original production date for any Chromebook (keep this in mind if you’re buying an older Chromebook, or a used one). More recently, Google’s begun extending the time it supports Chromebooks by about six months to a year, and even up to a total of eight years in some cases. Beginning with ChromeOS 80, in February 2020, it appears you can dive into the Settings menu and discover exactly when your device will lose support.
Just to be clear: A Windows PC or Chromebook that has exited its support window means that it won’t receive feature and security patches. That can leave either platform vulnerable to previously undiscovered malware or other attacks, with a variety of consequences.
Google also said recently that it’s working to separate the security aspects of ChromeOS from new features. Right now, when a Chromebook exits the support window, that’s it: no new features, no new security updates. In the future, though, Google’s support window may put a hard stop on new ChromeOS features, but may keep adding security patches for longer.
Which is more secure, a Chromebook or a Windows PC?
Security isn’t a question that can be answered absolutely, but Chromebooks and Windows PCs differ fundamentally here. The relative simplicity of a Chromebook offers a far smaller “attack surface” than a Windows PC does. The complexity of Windows PCs, including the software Windows supports, provides hackers many more opportunities to attack.
Google developed Chromebooks with security as a priority, using everything from isolated, “sandboxed” processes to verified boot to help protect your system. (Our sister site, TechAdvisor, has a more detailed explanation.) For people who worry about websites that hijack your browser or download malware, a Chromebook’s defenses protect you without making you think about it much.
Keeping a Windows PC safe can be a much more complicated business. Security starts as soon as you begin setting up a new PC. Regular maintenance is required for both your antivirus software and the Windows operating system, though most happens automatically. Still, holes are constantly being discovered, such as the Meltdown/Spectre vulnerabilities, as well as the more recent Foreshadow/L1TF exploit. You have to be vigilant, or at least not too lazy, to protect your Windows PC. Fortunately, Windows’ built-in Windows Defender software is far better than it used to be, enough that Windows can basically take care of itself.
Login security works about the same on both platforms. Logging into a Chromebook requires a Google account and its password. While U2F hardware keys for logging in can be used, a typical home user probably wouldn’t. Windows PCs also prefer a Microsoft account and password (though you can log into the PC locally without one).
Authentication options include Windows Hello (either via a fingerprint reader or depth camera, or else with a short PIN), which provides a casual level of security that also lets you resume work quickly and easily. It’s a cross between ease-of-access and security that Microsoft has invested in heavily, and it’s a convenience that most Windows users appreciate. Don’t forget that Microsoft hates passwords and a Windows 11 passwordless option is available, with your phone’s authentication features doing much of the work.
Still, Chromebooks have improved here as well. ChromeOS 88, which rolled out in January 2021, supports WebAuthn, a feature that allows you to log into a website using your fingerprint or PIN. (Your Chromebook needs to have a fingerprint reader for this to work.) In this case, your phone replaces your PIN as a means of two-factor authentication.
Windows 11, though, introduces a huge wrinkle: Some PCs simply can’t be upgradable to Windows 11, because they lack the required hardware, including what’s known as a Trusted Platform Module, or TPM. But that TPM was specifically architected to provide more security to Windows platforms, too.
What Chromebook should I buy?
When buying a Chromebook, the main things to consider are the memory size—believe it or not, that’s more important than the processor. More RAM means more open, available tabs, and surfing the web is the most important job of the Chromebook. Screen size and resolution are the next priority: Cheap Chromebooks can have 11-inch, 768p screens. Buy a 13-inch or 14-inch Chromebook with a 1080p (1920×1080) screen if you can—your eyes will thank you for it.
Chromebooks can have a variety of low-end microprocessors to choose from, some of which you may have never heard of. PCWorld’s Alaina Yee recommends buying a Chromebook with a Pentium or Celeron processor—and that’s a good place to start if you don’t feel comfortable parsing Chromebook specifications. Anything more powerful than that, like an Intel Core chip, is just fine too.
Of the Chromebooks we’ve reviewed, we are particularly fond of the Chromebook Spin 713 and HP Chromebook X2 11. Our older picks include the Lenovo Chromebook Duet and Google’s own, luxurious, aging Pixelbook Go.
What laptop should I buy?
When buying a laptop, consider buying one of PCWorld’s recommended laptops. Buying a laptop is relatively easy: simply look for an up-to-date AMD or Intel processor, and look for the lowest price.
Laptops with an Intel Core i3 or an AMD Ryzen 3 should be considered the minimum specification, with a Core i5 or Ryzen 5 preferred. Buy a laptop with at least 8GB of RAM inside and 256GB of storage. More RAM means more available tabs and a larger variety of applications; documents, video, and apps may require more storage space.
Buy a laptop with at least a 1080p screen, and a comfortable size. Remember, a larger laptop is typically heavier, too.
Gaming laptops should be avoided unless you intend to play games! Gaming laptops use a discrete GPU, and tend to be more expensive. But they’re fun! If you’re in the market for a gaming laptop, select from one of our top picks in gaming laptops.
Dominic Bayley / IDG
Which is better, a Chromebook or laptop?
While we can’t say for certain which platform you’ll prefer, here’s a suggestion: If you think that a Chromebook could be right for you, take a Windows PC, download the Google Chrome browser, and then work exclusively within it for a day. While both platforms now offer Android apps, ChromeOS still offers a broader, more popular range from the Google Play Store.
It’s fair to say that Windows offers a more comprehensive experience, but ChromeOS is usually a significantly simpler, cheaper alternative. The buying decision usually works out to something like: “I can do almost everything in Windows with a Chromebook, but…” It’s that last little bit—printing, file management, etc.— that will guide your decision. Good luck!
Updated on Dec. 7, 2022, with more buying decisions, updates, and further details.