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(Pocket-lint) - You're after a compact but powerful computer you can take on the road with you – so do you opt for one of the cloud-based Chromebooks backed by Google, or stick with the more traditional choices of Windows and macOS? We're here to help you decide.

That means pitting these portable computers against each other in all the areas that matter: design, specs, software, and more. We've done all the hard comparison work for you.

Chromebook vs laptop: Design

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When it comes to Chromebooks, you've got a good choice of styles and designs to go at – from Google's high-end Pixelbook to cheaper options like the Asus Chromebook Flip.

The variety of Windows laptops is even greater, from conventional laptops like the Surface Book 2, to the increasingly popular 2-in-1 designs such as the Dell XPS 13. Whatever screen size, finish, and colour you fancy, chances are there's a Windows laptop to suit your tastes.

It's only when it comes to MacBooks that your choice is a bit limited. If you like Apple's choice of aesthetics (and they look pretty superb to us) then it's great, but there isn't a lot of variety here.

It's about honours even for design. Whether you choose a Chromebook or a conventional laptop, you should be able to find something sleek and stylish.


Chromebook vs laptop: Specs

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If you're after a powerful computer, you don't want a Chromebook. These machines are designed to run web apps, and have specs to match: less powerful processors, less RAM, and smaller amounts of storage.

There are a few exceptions, like the aforementioned Pixelbook, but by and large Chromebooks don't match the power and performance of Windows or macOS laptops. On the plus side, they'll usually cost you less as well.

If you opt for a conventional laptop from HP, for example, you'll get a huge choice of specs (and prices) – from budget, low-powered models to screaming-fast gaming computers. For demanding tasks like video editing, or for running games, go for a laptop.

Chromebook vs laptop: OS

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This is the biggest difference between Chromebooks and other laptops, with Chrome OS basically just a browser and nothing else – all of your computing and file storage happens in the cloud, so you're relying on web apps like Google Docs and Gmail to get stuff done.

Windows and macOS laptops come with a web browser and everything else you want, whether that's Photoshop or iTunes. You can do much more with these machines offline, and the programs can be much more sophisticated and powerful, because they're not limited by the restrictions of a web app.

That's not to say Chrome OS doesn't have its advantages. It's lightweight, it doesn't slow down over time as much as Windows or macOS, and you don't have to worry about extras like antivirus software. Just make sure everything you need can be found online.


Chromebook vs laptop: Verdict

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Those are the basic arguments of the Chromebook vs laptop debate, so you should have a better idea of which option is going to work best for you. It really all boils down to what you're planning to do with your new computer.

If you already spend most of your computing time inside a web browser, then a Chromebook makes sense: they're fast, intuitive, easy to maintain, and often very affordable. The newest models have the added bonus of being able to run Android apps too, so you can run apps like Microsoft Word or the latest mobile games.

For more configuration options, more power, more applications, and something that's going to work whether you're close to Wi-Fi or not, go for a normal laptop. The only debate then is whether to pick Windows or macOS.

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Writing by David Nield.