Top 3 reasons to buy a Chromebook over a cheap Windows laptop

While in previous years there were some legitimate reasons to go for a Windows laptop over a Chromebook, they're all gone in 2019. For the vast majority of computer users, Chrome OS will offer better performance and need less maintenance, especially at lower price-points. Whether your kid needs a new laptop for homework or you need to upgrade to a computer that doesn't take 5 minutes to boot up, your best bet for a simple computer is a Chromebook, and that goes double for getting a computer under $400.

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Built for business, built to last

Chromebooks are consistent, durable, and enterprise-approved

Chromebooks are expanding from significant footholds in two industries that have very important technological priorities: education and enterprise. Both of these fields have to distribute and maintain computers for hundreds to hundreds of thousands of users of varying skill level, so there are three things they value over all else:

  • How easy is it idiot users to work on?
  • How hard is it for idiot users to break?
  • How hard is it for our IT department to keep it updated and secure?

Chromebooks feature a very simple, sandboxed operating system. Even grade-school children can learn their way around a Chromebook with minimal instruction, and since Android apps on Chromebooks are sandboxed from the core Chrome OS system, it's very hard to break that system. Chromebooks sign in through a Google Account or enterprise cloud-based account and sync to said account, any user in the company can log into any Chromebook the same way, which brings us to another beautiful benefit of Chromebooks.

Sign in to any Chromebook for the same experience

Sign in with any Chromebook, get the same experience.

Chromebooks are designed around using the cloud for most of your document and data storage. If a student smashes their Chromebook on the bus or spills acid on it during a lab, all they need to do is log into their account on another Chromebook — or log into that account on their phone or home computer — and keep working on their homework; the only data they lost was whatever was saved in the Downloads folder.

Read more: How one non-profit uses Chromebooks in the workplace

Keep it supported. Keep it safe.

Chromebooks have an assured support life

Windows updates can take your computer down for hours at a time with little to no warning, and while the machine reboots to install updates, you can't use your laptop for anything. Windows 10 has alleviated some of this strain, but updates that keep your machine offline for 20+ minutes still happen, especially with big quarterly updates. Some Windows machines — especially cheaper laptops — often don't get the driver and firmware updates from their manufacturers needed to keep up with updates.

Updates are a necessary evil

Chromebooks fix most of these problems, for one reasonable price.

Chromebooks all have their driver/firmware/system updates pushed out through Google, keeping Chromebooks updated every 6 weeks or less. When an update comes, Chrome OS will install it in the background, then an icon will appear in the bottom-right system tray when finished, noting that your Chromebook is ready to reboot. Chrome OS will not force itself into a update reboot the way Windows can (and often does).

This nearly perfect update system does come at a small price, and that price is that every Chromebook on the market has an Automatic Update Expiration (AUE) date, after which Google isn't committed to pushing out updates. Most Chromebooks have at least 5 years of support between their release and their AUE date; for instance the HP Chromebook X2 will be updated until June 2024, 6 years after its 2018 launch.

Find out what your Chromebook's Automatic Update Expiration date is

Do it all and do it all easily

You really can do everything you need to on a Chromebook

To this day, some people still think Chromebooks aren't real computers that can't do anything without an internet connection, and those people are dead wrong. Not only can a Chromebook do just about everything your Windows machine can — outside of professional-level CAD rendering, hardcore PC gaming and some proprietary programs like iTunes — a Chromebook will do them better and faster than a bargain-bin Windows laptop, and do them better for years longer.

OneNote on Chromebook with pen

Google Play has brought Android apps to almost all Chromebooks, and if you can do something on an Android phone, you can do it on a Chromebook. This includes using the Microsoft 365 apps like Microsoft Word (opens in new tab) and Adobe Cloud Creative apps like Lightroom CC (opens in new tab). In addition, Linux apps are slowly coming to more Chromebooks, meaning that the professional-level CAD rendering and other high-end, computing-intensive tasks that are still currently unavailable on Chromebooks are going to be widely available before long, too.

And no matter what you install, Chromebooks continue to purr along since everything is sandboxed and secure. While Windows machines start to bloat and crawl the more programs you install and the more you use the machine, my five-year-old Lenovo Chromebook is still as steady, stable, and almost as speedy as it was when Jerry sent it to me back in 2014.

Four years and still going strong

Do yourself a favor and buy a Chromebook

A $300 Windows laptop is going to be crawling and begging to be put out of its misery in a year or two, while a $300 Chromebook just asks "What's next?" and keeps on helping you bang out term papers and catch up on emails. It's good enough for your kids' schools; it's good enough for IT professionals across the country, and it should be good enough for you, too. These are some of the best Chromebooks you can buy today.

Lenovo Chromebook C330 (opens in new tab) ($250 from Amazon)

Our favorite Chromebook right now lasts 10 hours on a single charge, zips along even with a dozen Chrome tabs and Android apps open and 64 GB of storage for offline movies and document editing.

ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4 (opens in new tab) ($470 at Amazon)

This fine-looking 12.5-inch Chromebook is great for working women on the move or students looking to get homework done while split-screening Twitch or YouTube. With long-lasting battery and a lightweight aluminum casing, the C302 will go all day.

ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA (opens in new tab) ($329 at Amazon)

With a 10 inch screen and compact design, this is a great Chromebook for kids or for users that want a grab-and-go laptop that's small enough to fit in a satchel. The keyboard may seem a bit small for some.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

  • None of my tools would work. My CAD is only supported by Windows. My numerous software IDEs are only supported by Windows. SPICE, only Windows. PCB layout, Windows. My laptop supports a stylus. And to be honest, I like Win 10.
  • I agree that for UNDER $300 Chromebooks rock. And perhaps up to $400. But for $600, one can get a pretty decent Windows 10 laptop on sale with an SSD and a backlit keyboard. Android apps on Chromebooks are HALF BAKED. Perhaps it's Google. Perhaps it the App Developers. But the majority of Apps that I want to use on a Chromebook don't scale properly, are clunky with a touchpad (sorry myself and most computer/laptop users aren't into touchscreen laptops), or flat out DON'T WORK at all on a Chromebook. I think Chromebooks have a place -- but they are certainly no replacement for computer.
  • Nope, there is still need for proper computer. Chromebooks are fine but for now they can not replace laptop, way too many compromises - biggest for me would be Wireshark, Nmap and few other tools...
  • This is one of those articles where it's really hard to know how to even start a reply. Chromebooks are consistent, durable, and enterprise-approved Guess what - most enterprises lock down the laptops they hand out so end users can't tinker with them. They also control which laptops are bought and so can make a fairly consistent system. And you can't really get more enterprise-approved than Windows. Chromebooks have an assured support life You've kind of mixed two things here - assured support life usually means 'how long will the hardware be supported by the OS maker' and there let's be honest, no one beats Windows. Not even Google. But if you mean 'uptime', again, enterprise systems are locked down, and no one gets updates until IT has checked it out. You seem to be operating from some odd perspective where in an enterprise, they just tell an employee to go out and buy a laptop and bill the company. In fact, any competent IT department tightly controls what employees get and what gets connected to their network. You really can do everything you need to on a Chromebook There are LOTS of things you just can't do on a Chromebook - especially if you exclude 'remote into a PC somewhere and use that for the things you can't do on the Chromebook' - and a lot of things you can do.. sort of.. maybe. Not to mention how to deal with non-web based LOB apps. ChromeOS is fine if you're doing lightweight tasks and can be online while doing them (because, yes, you can do things offline - but then the kinds of tasks and options gets even smaller). Interestingly, the best use cases are: writing text, very light weight drawing/sketching, diagramming, research (mainly via Wiki or Google). Not surprisingly - I just described a web blogger - i.e. the kind of person writing an article for a tech blog.
    Add 'check your email' (if your email server has an online portal that web accessible), IM (again, if your preferred IM client has a web interface) and doing online maintenance like checking your bank balance and if you can live with that, you're jake. As for suggesting using Android apps to fill in the gaps, that's actually an admission ChromeOS can't do it all. And worse, it undermines your first point: if users are free to download apps from Google Play, they're open to downloading uncontrolled and potentially dangerous apps. Finally - the value proposition. Sure - you can get Chromebooks for $200.. but you can actually get Windows laptops or even 2-in-1 convertibles with pen and touch support for around that price or a little more. But interestingly, you can get an iPad 2018 for $350 or a Surface Go for around $399 and these are supported by their respective OS makers. Conversely, Chromebooks can get as expensive as $1,500 which is MacBook Air and Surface Pro level for basically a brower and an Android app player. Oh.. and both the MacBook Air and Surface Pro can run Chrome and can run Android apps through emulation. Long version short: if all you need is a browser, Chromebooks are probably good enough. Then again, to quote this article...
    "How easy is it [for] idiot users to work on?
    How hard is it for idiot users to break?" So.. perhaps the real takeaway is 'if you're an idiot, then get a Chromebook'?
  • Before I buy a cheap Chromebook I might as well buy a cheap iPad which I know has pen support, great at touch and has a ton of apps that are just designed better for tablets in comparison to Android.
  • "Top 3 reasons to buy a Chromebook over a cheap Windows laptop" Said only a contributor on android central. Don't bother, Windows 10 laptops are much more useful and flexible.
  • I got the 15" Lenovo Chromebook Yoga when Best Buy put it on sale. Anything I can't do with Chrome or Android, I can do with Linux. 8gb ram on an 8th gen core i5. It can handle it. Plus the benefits of Chrome security and knowledge that I'll never need to deal with Windows ever again. Priceless.
  • Before jumps on me, i'm a PC user; typing this on a Lenovo ThinkPad for work, and have my Alienware 15R3 for gaming (travel too much for a rig! :( ) With that said, the comments above make sense...but guys, look at the title of the article "Cheap Windows Laptop". A lot of really cheap Windows laptops would be quite a poor experience at even simpler things like IDE's.. let's not mention more complicated tasks like CAD programs. These Windows laptops that are $200-$300, are well, crappy. They're cheap, and they normally are bought and used for people to browse the web, social media, pay bills and watch YouTube. in these cases, I agree with the author that a Chromebook > cheap Windows laptops. All these cheap Windows laptops do is make people think Windows 10 is a steaming pile of.... when in reality, they're using subpar hardware. With that said, i think the title was meant to cause commotion; journalism after all! I use my Chromebook as my "every-day" machine when I don't want to bust out my Alienware or prod machines to browse the web and well, do the every day things. it's light to carry around, lasts forever, and does most things pretty quickly.
  • But I can do the same with an iPad and it is better hardware than whatever Chromebook is at the same price.
  • I would buy a Chromebook once they open the BIOS and allow installs of linux, not this half backed crouton crap. Sorry but no. I can get a lot more out of a cheap Acer laptop that I can wipe windows from and replace with linux, and if I really needed Windows I could still have that.
  • I'm surprised that comments are allowed on this post. Typically the posts meant to advertise a product have them locked out. Does this website truly need another "Best Micro SD card for ___ phone" type of article?
  • I've been using a Chromebook for about two years now, and although my opinion of them has been marginal - at best - I am slowly becoming a little more positive about them. I am by no means a "power user", but I have found my experience to be quite lackluster. My first Chromebook was an ASUS Flip, I am now on an HP Chromebook 14. Both devices were in the $300-$400 range, so definitely not "high-end" by any means, but from what I was reading here at AC, It didn't matter. Jerry writes that you can have a crap-ton of tabs open and so on without the Chromebook slowing down. I only ever have maybe a half-dozen tabs open at any given time, and It never showed signs of slowing down, but I did experience them either shutting down like the battery died, or restarting for no apparent reason. I certainly don't work it that hard. Even watching YouTube, sometimes after a dozen or so 10-20 minute videos, the next one would get all choppy and the audio sounded like extra-terrestrial communication. Sometimes shutting the browser and re-opening it resolved the issue, sometimes I had to restart the Chromebook altogether. It angered me enough that I lost my feces on my first one and sent it to meet its maker. My current Chromebook - my HP - did the same thing, just less often, but since the latest update, I don't remember the last time I encountered the problems of the past. I dunno. Would I recommend a Chromebook to my friends or even think of buying one for my business (accessing information for auto repair)? Not until I get another six months issue free.
  • They're so great, everyone who works at Google uses....
    *Looks at notes.
    A Macbook...
    Personally, my bread and butter is through Adobe. But for the average person who plays some light games, maybe types up a report for school, and surfs Facebook and YouTube, you'll be fine.
  • Lol @ the people commenting as if he didn't say "For the vast majority of computer users" in the first paragraph.
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  • I live in Israel. I am a little bothered by the fact that Chromebooks were sold here until a couple of years ago but now I can't find one.I am not a geek I only have one small laptop I tried converting it using Neverware and was unable to do that. I would really prefer to have a chrome operating system but shopping has made me wonder why I can't buy the machine at the PC store down the street.