Chromebooks vs laptops: What budget buyers should know before getting one

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HP recently unveiled its Chromebook 11a at a starting price of Rs 21,999. As the name suggests, it’s not a Windows PC but a machine that runs on Google’s Chrome OS. At this price, it does look like an appealing option. But what are Chromebooks? Should you be buying one if you are operating on a tight budget? Here we tell you what you need to know before opting for a budget laptop:
What is a Chromebook?
Despite being around for close to 10 years, Chromebooks — especially in India — haven’t really become mainstream. However, off late, things have changed for the better. Chromebooks are meant to be low-cost laptops that run on Google’s Chrome OS. One of the key differentiators between a laptop and a Chromebook is that it bets heavily on apps rather than software which is found in laptops.
What’s the Chromebook all about and how is it different from traditional laptops?
The Chrome OS is the heart and soul of a Chromebook. Based on Linux, it uses Google Chrome to do basically everything. Think of Chrome on an Android phone and magnify its functionality in the form factor of a laptop. You get a file manager, app launcher, web-based apps. You can stream from popular OTT services, use all of Google’s services and apps. What you also get is Google Play Store that allows you to download all Android apps — if you feel the lack of software in the machine.
One major difference between a laptop and Chromebook is that you really can’t install certain software in any form. For example, some of Adobe’s software won’t work on Chromebooks. If you are looking to do some heavy-duty ‘pro’ level work, then the hardware on Chromebook will let you down. A laptop can be ‘customised’ according to different specs — something you can’t do on a Chromebook.
Who is the ideal buyer of a Chromebook?
If you are in the market for a ‘budget’ laptop, say under Rs 30,000 then the Chromebook makes for an interesting buy. For starters, it’s much faster — thanks to Chrome OS — than a laptop in the same price segment. For those looking to buy laptops for children’s online classes, the Chromebook is a very good option to go with. They don’t cost much and will handle pretty much a ‘casual’ PC user wants from their devices. People who are Android users and don’t want to learn another new interface will also find Chromebooks rather easy to use.
Who isn’t the right buyer for a Chromebook?
Gamers, professionals, and buyers who look for high-end specs in a MacBook or a premium Windows laptop. The Chromebook isn’t meant for anyone who wants to edit videos, use graphics-intensive software and programs. Even though there are high-end Chromebooks available — not many in India though — traditional laptops remain a better bet.
What you should keep in mind before buying a ‘budget’ laptop or Chromebook?
Do remember that Chromebooks are well-known for their battery lives. And Chromebooks also give plenty of connectivity options in terms of ports. A Windows PC under Rs 30,000 means you will have to compromise on one factor or the other — either the RAM will be less or storage or the processor won’t be snappy. Chromebook offers better value under Rs 25,000 than most Windows laptops out there.
For some Chromebooks might feel like be a new learning curve and for them, the tried-and-tested Windows is a better option. Keep in mind that a traditional laptop — especially premium ones — will always be ahead of Chromebooks in terms of a complete package. But if budget is a constraint then the Chromebook can be a dependable, easy-to-use option for first-time buyers of a laptop.

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