If you are choosing your next computer and weighing up the pros and cons of Chromebooks vs laptops then hopefully this post will explain the difference and help you decide.

After a lot of research, I recently bought my first Chromebook – an Acer C720 – as my laptop is on its way out with various issues, so I can explain my personal situation and reason for this choice.

I’ll assume you all know what a laptop is, so will skip straight to a quick overview of Chromebooks…

What is a Chromebook?

Right now, Chromebooks are basically a device set up to run the Google Chrome web browser and its various apps and extensions, but little else.

This may sound limiting, but think about how much of your day to day activities involve nothing other than a web browser – email, blogging, social media – even word processing and spreadsheets if you use a cloud based solution like Google Docs. So is that it – just a computer that offers less?

The Benefits of Chromebooks

1. Chromebooks are cheap! They typically sell for around the £200 / $350 mark.
2. They are portable. These are devices for basic computing and internet use on the go, so usually weigh in around 1kg – less than half the weight of your typical laptop. The screens are smaller at around 11″ while laptops will tend to be more like 15″.
3. They are quick. Because they are not bogged down with so many programs, they boot up in just a few seconds, which is great for just jumping online to communicate or get some thoughts written quickly.
4. Great battery life. 6 hours plus of use is pretty standard.
5. Built in security. Antivirus is included and this, as well as system updates, is updated automatically.
6. It forces you to modernise. This is the big one for me. The whole set up is geared towards 100% cloud computing and embracing apps and online storage with Google Drive. I already had one foot in and one foot out, which meant that I was never sure which important documents were on my laptop or Google Drive. I know many are concerned about the security side of cloud computing, but as an individual, I think the risks of my data being lost on a broken / lost / stolen laptop are greater.

The Downsides

-1. Currently, Chromebooks are not a complete replacement for laptops – not for me anyway. You can do most things with a Chromebook as-is out of the box, but you need to find apps to download some frequently used document types, like Excel docs.

-2. You generally need an internet connection. I rarely need to use a computer somewhere without a connection, but if you want your Chromebook to be a portable device for business meetings for example and you’re not sure if there will be wifi when you get there, you’ll need to have all your docs open and available in offline mode in advance.

-3. Management of FTP software is also an issue as far as I know so far, so if you manage any website without a CMS, you might also need a laptop or desktop.

-4. Storage. If you need to keep tens of thousands of photos or video with instant access with or without an internet connection, then this is probably not the type of device you want.

-5. Gaming. I’m not a gamer so I don’t care, but these are streamlined machines without the price and weight of big processing power, so those who enjoy the latest online games may need to look at a desktop of high-end laptop.

Overall Verdict

I use a computer for work all day every day, and am finding that the Chromebook is great for 99% of my needs. I still need my laptop for some tasks and like the ‘belt and braces’ security of storing some key docs offline as well as in the cloud.

For me, the main benefits of Chromebooks vs laptops are that I extend the life of my more expensive computer. I also get to do more work on the go – even if its just in front of the TV – without even thinking about battery life or the device being cumbersome.

If you are looking for a cheap, very portable and quick device for basic internet use like blogging / writing and communication, then Chromebooks are great in my opinion, and certainly as a 2nd computer.