I’ve written before how the only meaningful advantage Chromebooks have over Windows laptops is price. Now that prices for Windows laptops have fallen, there is no compelling reason to get Chromebooks.
Make no mistake, I am a big believer in thin client computing and think Chromebooks are well positioned for that future. But that future is not here yet.
I can also see Chromebooks doing well in primary education, where you don’t want kids messing with system settings and who don’t have any expectations for legacy software. I’m not talking about specific markets though.
So it is interesting to see Chromebook World — yes, that’s a website dedicated to Chromebooks — pit a $200 Windows laptop from Acer to its Chromebook equivalent and conclude the two offer comparable experiences. Both have similar performance, battery life, and quick start-up times.
The Windows laptop in question is the Acer E11, and it’s essentially the Acer C3 Chromebook with Windows on it. So it must be terrible right?
Boot time is under 20 seconds and return from standby is as instant as on a Chromebook. It’s smooth and it’s probably got a lot to do with the SSD…Battery life is no worse on the Windows laptop. You might be surprised to hear that but because Windows 8 and the new SoCs work so well together they can reduce power usage just as well as a Chromebook can…. In terms of browser performance there’s little difference between the Acer Aspire E11 and the Acer CB3-111. Sunspider (single threaded) scores are (best of 2 runs) 487 ms vs 542 ms.
According to the author, the Chromebook’s main advantage is security, which offers more peace of mind due to its sandbox model. This advantage isn’t meaningful, however.
For knowledgeable PC users (and by that I mean people who know not to run .exe files from unknown sources), Windows’ built-in anti-virus is more than capable.
Casual tech users may not know that, but they are the same people who will find the very concept of Chromebooks as foreign. You can see that from negative reviews left on Amazon by people who clearly don’t understand the Chromebook concept. They won’t know why they can’t install Minecraft on what otherwise appears to be a regular laptop.
Windows’ weakness isn’t a big problem for the target market that Chromebooks compete for (outside of K-12), which are tech savvy users looking for a cheap, secondary laptop.
There are other minor Chromebook advantages — memory management may be more efficient under heavy strain for Chromebooks; Windows requires more storage space and a longer one time setup process — but these are small compared to the fact that Windows can run many more apps.
Skype and Minecraft were the examples cited, but the bigger one is Microsoft Office. Not to mention other functionality like networking, USB device support, videos, media editing, etc.
With price being the same, I struggle to see why one would choose Chromebooks. Right now anyway.
In a round about way, Chromebook World agrees with me.