Google is running a series of ads right now that portray Windows laptops as slow, thick laptops for Luddites.
Or in the vernacular, a Windows laptop is a POS compared to the shiny new Chromebooks running on the shiny new Chrome OS.
While the ads are not exactly honest (I can’t remember the last time I saw a Windows laptop as thick as one shown in one of the ads and Windows boot-up times are fast now), Google has a point.
Chrome OS is where laptop operating systems are headed. Or, at least, where they should be headed. Microsoft’s own efforts are testimony to that. Windows 10 S (or the S Mode) has been designed to compete with Chrome OS.
I use both a Pixelbook, introduced in October 2017, and a Pixel Slate, introduced in October 2018. But I also have a stable of new Windows 10 laptops and MacBooks so I’m as qualified as anyone to make a comparison.
Chrome OS + Chromebook = Efficiency
Chromebooks age well. My 2017 Pixelbook with a dated, “slow” (ultra-low-power) 7th generation Intel Y series processor runs Chrome OS as fast as my newest 8th Gen quad-core laptops run Windows 10.
The Pixelbook doesn’t need to be tricked out with the fastest CPUs, lots of RAM, and the biggest SSDs to run fast. It’s modestly configured with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. On the other hand, most of my Windows 10 laptops now come with at least 16GB of DDR4 RAM, fast 512GB SSDs and quad-core 8th gen processors. Yes, the newest Windows 10 laptops are fast but so is the older bare-bones Pixelbook.
And that’s the point. Chrome OS is more efficient than Windows.
For me, the mobile app compatibility is the biggest draw: my Chromebooks run Android apps, which, in my case, is all the apps I use on my Android phones. The world has gone mobile and a laptop that runs smartphone apps is (or should be) the future.
Secure, no constant update hassles
The Chromebook platform is secure, stable, and self-maintains. The latter makes a big difference. You’re not constantly hassled by updates and reboots. Pretty much everything is taken care of in the background.
Runs Microsoft Office
The Chrome OS does a decent job of running Microsoft Office / Office 365. It’s not full-fledged Office but it’s close enough. (Not to mention Google Docs of course, which is native to Chrome.)
This is the argument that sways most consumers. Chromebooks are inexpensive so they don’t need to be chronically on sale* like MacBooks and Windows laptops. Chromebooks are typically between $400 and $600, while the most expensive, models (like the Pixelbook) start at $999. Fully-loaded MacBooks are well over $2,000 and a well-appointed Windows laptop is typically about $1,500.
But Windows 10 laptops are hardly for Luddites
The truth is, the latest laptops from HP and Dell, and other Windows 10 laptop vendors, are a technology tour de force. They can come configured with fingerprint and face ID, AMOLED displays, multi-terabyte NVMe PCIe M.2 SSDs with Intel Optane technology, and Intel’s latest Core i9-9980HK 8-core “Coffee Lake” CPUs.
And vendors like HP and Dell manage to squeeze all of that technology into relatively thin and light laptops.
Windows: it’s all about legacy and games
Chromebooks are missing these two big must-haves. The millions and millions of PC gamers out there will always buy Windows laptops. They’re not switching to Chromebooks. Never going to happen. And millions of businesses need the backward compatibility that only Windows offers. Chromebooks run some Windows applications but there are a lot more than they can’t run.
Conclusion: Chromebooks are a big smartphone
I find Chrome OS a refreshing break from traditional PC operating systems. And since I spend the bulk of my time in the Chrome browser whether I’m on my Android phone or on my laptop, it’s painless for me to go from my Pixel 3 XL to my Pixelbook or Pixel Slate.
That’s the future and Google is going to getting there before Microsoft or Apple.
*But when Chromebooks are on sale, they’re a steal. For example, Google occasionally discounts the Pixelbook by $200 or $300 from the regular price of $999.