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Should I get a Chromebook or a laptop?

Answer: Technically, a Chromebook is a laptop (a portable computer you can use on your lap). If you're planning on getting a new laptop, you have three primary choices:

  1. Chromebook
  2. Windows laptop
  3. Apple laptop

Chromebook, Windows, and Apple laptops

The most important question to answer when choosing a laptop is, "Will it run my software?"

The answer to this question depends on the operating system (OS). Chromebooks run Chrome OS, Windows laptops run Windows, and Apple laptops run macOS. Windows laptops run the widest variety of software, Macs run most popular applications, and Chromebooks are a distant third with limited software options.

If you need to run Microsoft Office, it makes sense to get a Windows or Apple laptop. Both operating systems can run Office programs, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You can't install Office on a Chromebook, but you can run Google's G Suite apps, such as Docs (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheets), and Slides (presentations), which can open and save Office file formats. If you need to run Apple's iWork programs, such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, it makes sense to get a Mac.

▶ I recommend choosing a laptop based on the primary software you plan to use. However, there is a workaround for each of the major office suites — you can use the web version. Microsoft Office 365, Apple iWork, and Google G Suite are all available as web apps, meaning you can run them in a web browser on any laptop, including a Chromebook.

If you plan to use your laptop for simple tasks such as surfing the web and sending emails, a Chromebook might be a great choice. If you want to play games, a Windows laptop is by far the best option. If you want to edit photos, videos, or audio, a Mac might be the way to go. If you're on the fence, try out a few different laptops in person. Practical things like the screen quality and feel of the keyboard might lead you to an easy decision.

Published: December 21, 2019 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center