Putting the Chromebook through its paces
A lot has been said about how a Chromebook would work in real life. I have spent several pages explaining how I have been able to fit the Chromebook into my work and into my play. The myths and old preconceptions about what a Chromebook is, are gone. It is ready to be considered a full-fledged laptop.
I was able to borrow a MacBook Pro from my work. Now it was a slightly older model but still good for this test. The PowerBook was the 2012 model with the 15 inch, non-retina display. Under the hood, it had an Intel Core-i7 processor and 8GB of RAM. I compared it to my Acer Chromebook 14 with the Intel Celeron and 4GB of RAM.
First things first
I know that this is comparing Apples to Oranges (see what I did there?). The Chromebook is designed to work with the cloud and connected to the internet. It does do well off-line but connected is where it shines. The Apple, on the other hand, has a large hard drive and way more processing power to handle off-line tasks.
So I didn’t do anything crazy like run Adobe Photoshop on the MacBook to prove that the Chromebook can’t handle it. Here’s the spoiler alert. If you need to run software that requires a Windows or Mac Operating System, then you will not be able to run it on a Chromebook. Just the same way you can’t run Window’s only stuff on the Mac either.
It’s not a good comparison point.
On to the testing
First up, I compare how long from power button to working. My Chromebook smokes through start up in a little under 9 seconds. Really from the time I hit the power button till I can send an email is faster than the boot time for the Apple. This is a strength of the Chromebook. Then again, who really turns their laptops off anymore anyways.
I tried streaming a show from Netflix, both machines handled this really well. Neither of them showed any stutter in the playback. The Apple did handle it a little better since the increased RAM helps with the taxing processes of decoding the video stream.
The Chromebook did a good job, and once both videos were playing there was no difference. Same went for streaming music.
The Chromebook cannot run Microsoft Office, the Apple can. The Chromebook uses Google’s suite of office products: Google Docs for word processing, Google Sheets for Spreadsheets, Google Slides for presentations, and Google Keep for note taking. Each of these products can be used offline and work just as well as their Microsoft counterparts. Keep in mind, Google Sheets is not as powerful as Excel but works well enough for 98% of the tasks I perform on a laptop anyways.
The MacBook run Microsoft Office like I said. Even this is a newer development and is not without its issues. Office for Mac has been known to be buggy and has struggled with updates here in the office.
Adobe Photoshop is the king of the hill in photo editing. There are many clones out there, like GIMP, which is Open Source and Free for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It will not, however, run on a Chromebook. If you need to do photo editing, all is not lost. There are several apps for Chromebook that can handle your photos. I used Pixlr and was able to manipulate my photos all I wanted.
I did not try to perform Photoshop-like tasks with the Chromebook. Again, the Mac wins hands down there. With a faster processor and more memory, it was better suited to the task.
The Chromebook killed it here. I easily get 10 hours out of my Chromebook under normal use (screen at 75% and mostly web browsing) The MacBook was crying for a charger at about 5 hours. Both laptops had outstanding standby time. The Chromebook does have a more efficient sleep setting, it’s battery lasted much longer without being plugged in than the Mac did.
The lower power needs of the Chromebook really help wring the last few electrons out of the battery.
Both machines are clad in aluminum, while the MacBook is a solid piece of the silvery stuff, the Chromebook has an aluminum chassis. The bezel around the screen is plastic and so it the back of the screen. This made the Chromebook much lighter than the Macbook. I think both machines look really good.
The downside of the metal chassis on the Mac was the heat. The i7 runs a little hot under load and the aluminum did a great job of transferring that heat to my legs. The Chromebook always runs cool and I never notice it getting hot, even when running a lot of processes at once.
The Mac was also prone to vibration, I think this may have been due to the hard drive being a little older. It shook as it ran, not really bad, but it was noticeable.
The Chromebook is able to handle about 20 tabs open at once. Chrome disables flash and other process heavy tasks on tabs that have been inactive for awhile. This frees up the processor and the memory for more current applications. I do find that with 20 tabs open, that trying to do anything else on the Chromebook, like edit a word document and download a file, started to lag a little.
With the MacBook, having twice the RAM did not have such a problem. Again, a trade has to be made.
This is another place the MacBook beat out the Chromebook, now this is a comparison of my Chromebook and its ports. Every Chromebook is a little different but pretty close to this. Most notably though is the Acer’s lack of an SDcard slot. With the Chromebooks 32GB of hard drive space, I have not even come close to using all of it yet. Chromebooks automatically back everything up to Google Drive. I have over 100GB and free photo storage there, so I should never run out of space. Also, any apps I run are shortcuts to cloud-based applications, so I don’t have gigs of files for applications taking up hard drive space.
The Chromebook has 2 USB 3.1 ports and a full sized HDMI. It’s really about all I need. The MacBook has more, but then again it is meant as a “serious” laptop. The MacBook also sports a DVD/RW drive in this configuration. I don’t even remember the last laptop I owned with an optical drive.
Is the Chromebook better than the MacBook? For what I need done, yes. I use it for word processing and note taking at work. I also use it for managing this blog and editing the photos for it. I surf the web, read other blogs and check email. Why would I need a laptop that cost 4 times as much? I paid $269 for the Chromebook at Best Buy. This MacBook I have been using runs north of $1300 dollars. Can I do a lot with the power and options on the MacBook? Yes, I can, do I need all of it? No.
I have brought up in previous articles that I have switched to a Chromebook and I am not going back. True, there are some things a Chromebook can’t do that a MacBook can, there are also some things a MacBook can’t do, that a Windows machine can. Not out of the box anyways.
Basically, it comes down to what you want in a laptop. If you need a powerhouse machine to get a lot of stuff done that requires a lot of specific programs, then, by all means, go Windows or Mac. If you need to just get work done and spend most of the time on the Web or writing, then the Chromebook offers the best bang for the buck.