Chromebook vs. laptop: What is the difference?

Updated on June 14, 2024

The differences between Chromebooks vs. laptops include portability, performance, operating systems, price, security, software, hardware, user interface, and battery life. Phew, it’s a long list. Each device has pros and cons surrounding features and capabilities like internal storage availability, processing power, and affordability.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, portable computers had names like The Osborn 1, Compaq Portable, and Epson HX-20. 

OK, so the ’80s weren’t that long ago, but the culture felt like a completely different universe, and those mobile devices were the blueprint for modern-day Chromebooks and laptops. We’ve come a long way from MS-DOS operating systems, 5-inch, green screen displays, and floppy drive storage. 

Thankfully, the future is now, and we have a world of innovative technology at our fingertips. With countless options, deciding between a Chromebook vs. laptop can feel overwhelming. Whether you’re a college student knocking out assignments while hopping between classes or a hardcore gamer with high-performing PC needs, our laptop vs. Chromebook guide can help you make the right choice. 

What is the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?



Lightweight and highly portable

Versatile for various tasks and applications

Optimized for web-based tasks and cloud applications

Range of devices and operating systems

Affordable with fast boot times

Powerful hardware options for resource-intensive tasks

Streamlined, secure, and user-friendly Chrome OS

Diverse market with different form factors and specifications


Chromebooks are cloud-based with minimal local storage. They’re slim, lightweight, and highly portable. 

Laptops vary in size, weight, and shape. Though still portable, hardware and features—like local storage—make some laptops bulkier than others.

Use cases

Chromebooks are ideal for web-based tasks and online productivity. One of its built-in features, Google Workspace, includes a suite of cloud-based tools like Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets, Chat, and Meet, providing convenient access to students and remote workers.     

Laptops are best suited for professional use, catering to users who need a high-performing device with more processing power. They may require local software applications, larger storage, and the ability to run different operating systems.


Chromebooks focus on simplicity, fast boot times, and reliance on cloud-based applications. As Chromebooks excel with web and online apps, users don’t need high-powered processors.

Laptops are capable of handling applications and tasks that require comprehensive resources. Gamers, graphic designers, and video editors may find laptops with graphics cards and faster processors advantageous. This enhanced performance may often result in longer boot times, occasional lagging, or higher pricing.

Operating system

Chromebooks use Chrome OS, a lightweight and secure operating system developed by Google. Chrome OS is designed for simplicity and speed and features automatic updates, fast boot times, and a user interface that makes it easy for users to leverage cloud-based apps and storage options.

Laptops offer various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. This provides flexibility, compatibility with various software, and a tailored experience.


If you’re on a tight budget or need a student discount to get a new laptop, Chromebooks are generally ideal. The focus on web-based apps allows Chromebooks to be more affordable. 

Laptops come in a wide price range. The pricing depends on the brand, specifications, performance, hardware, and additional features.


Chromebooks are known for their strong security features. They employ sandboxing, which means running web pages and applications in isolated environments, enhancing security. Automatic updates ensure consistent protection against the latest security threats, while cloud-based storage protects against the risk of data loss in case the Chromebook is damaged or lost.

Laptops may have varying security features, depending on the operating system. Windows and macOS both provide built-in security features, like antivirus tools and firewalls. However, users may need to manage security settings or updates manually, increasing the risk of vulnerability.

Software and apps

Chromebooks are cloud-centric, relying on web apps, extensions from the Chrome Web Store, and cloud storage. The Chrome OS is optimized for Google Workspace for seamless integration with apps like Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Chat, and Slides. 

Laptops support a variety of applications across different operating systems, based on the kind you buy. For example, macOS laptops provide users access to the Apple App Store, which offers a library of applications tailored specifically for Apple devices.


Chromebooks have lightweight hardware since most data stores in the cloud. They often feature adequate processors, enough RAM for basic apps, and small amounts of internal storage.  

Laptops offer a wide range of hardware choices depending on the user’s needs. High-performance laptops can have powerful processors, more RAM, and larger storage but come at a higher price point.

User interface

Chromebooks feature a minimalistic, intuitive, and user-friendly interface centered around the Chrome web browser. The interface features a taskbar for managing browser tabs and a web application launcher.

Laptops offer diverse user interfaces depending on the device. For example, Windows laptops provide a customizable desktop with a Start menu and taskbar, allowing users to organize and access applications efficiently, while a Mac’s interface features a Dock for app shortcuts and a Menu Bar for system controls.

Battery life

Chromebooks typically have a longer battery life because of their light operating system and utilization of web apps. Chrome OS manages power efficiently, with many Chromebooks lasting an entire day on a single charge.

Laptops have varying battery life depending on hardware, usage, and processing power. Laptops that use heavy resources to perform tasks may experience a shorter battery life, though manual tweaks to performance settings can help extend battery life.

Chromebook vs. laptop: Pros and cons

Comparing Chromebooks and laptops accentuates their similarities and differences. However, laptops and Chromebooks have pros and cons of their own. Here are a few.




  • Affordability: You can find good deals on Chromebooks, with many starting under $100 for refurbished laptops

  • Fast boot-up: Chromebooks boot up in seconds for a fast user experience. 

  • Security: Chromebooks excel at security, with automatic updates and sandboxing features.

  • Easy to use: Chromebooks are minimalistic, user-friendly, and ready to use out of the box. 

  • Long battery life: Chromebooks can last an entire day on a single charge.


  • Software compatibility: Chromebooks leverage web-based applications, limiting compatibility with certain software.

  • Offline functionality: Cloud-based apps may be limited without an internet connection.

  • Performance: Chromebooks may lack processing power as compared to laptops.

  • Local storage: Lightweight hardware results in minimal storage options.

  • Gaming issues: Chromebooks may struggle with some resource-heavy video game titles.



  • Versatility: Laptops have a wide range of hardware and software compatibility.

  • Offline functionality: Local software may not require an internet connection.

  • Storage: Laptops offer large internal storage options.


  • Cost: Laptops generally have higher pricing.

  • Security: A wide range of software options increases security vulnerability risks.

Updates: Laptops may require manual software updates.

Frequently asked questions

Still on the fence about a Chromebook versus a laptop? Check out these frequently asked questions to help you solidify your choice.

Which is better, a laptop or a Chromebook?

Choosing between a Chromebook and a laptop depends on user preferences and how you’ll use it. Chromebooks are generally more affordable and portable, while laptops support a wider range of apps and complex tasks. Users who want easy-to-use, and cost-effective options may prefer Chromebooks, while those who need something more advanced might choose a laptop.

What is the best Chromebook?

Determining the best Chromebook depends on specific requirements. Popular choices include the Google Pixelbook for its premium build and performance and the Acer Chromebook 14 for its affordability and decent specifications. The best Chromebook for an individual depends on factors like budget, performance needs, and preferred design.

What is the best laptop?

The best laptop depends on personal preferences and, considering factors like budget, intended use, and performance. High-end options like the MacBooks, Lenovo ThinkPad, and Dell XPS are renowned for their performance and build quality. However, budget-friendly laptops like the Acer Aspire and HP Pavilion also offer reliable options with good specifications.

What can't you do on a Chromebook?

While Chromebooks are great for web-based tasks and productivity, they may be limited if their use cases are complex or require a lot of storage. Examples include video or music editing software or online gaming. 

Additionally, offline functionality can be restricted for some applications, requiring an internet connection. Users who use specific local software or demanding applications may find Chromebooks less suitable.

Can a Chromebook do everything a laptop can?

Chromebooks are well-suited for many tasks, including web browsing, document editing, and online activities. However, they may fall short for users requiring resource-intensive applications or extensive offline functionality. Tasks like professional video editing, certain gaming experiences, and reliance on specific software not available on Chrome OS might be better suited for traditional laptops with broader software compatibility.

Chromebook or laptop: Which one should I pick?

Choosing between the Chromebook vs. laptop takes in-depth consideration and weighing the pros and cons. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gamer looking for a high-performing laptop that won’t lag during a critical round of “Fortnight” or a student on a tight budget who needs a user-friendly, highly portable device–Back Market has you covered. Our refurbished laptops and Chromebooks are tested and perfected so you can experience tech at its best.  

Miguel G.

Written by Miguel G.Sr. Tech Copywriter (US)

Miguel is always looking for new ways to provide unique perspective on popular tech and has taken his writing to the refurbished industry to promote sustainability. Outside of creating content, you might find him travelling the globe, coaching a fitness class, or cheering on his favorite sports teams (Go Dolphins!)

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