Differences between Chromebook, Windows, Apple, Linux computers | An independent review

In the many years that I work in the IT sector, and having also had my own business in which I also sold hardware, I have been able to advise many people on the various types of computers that can be found on the market. Unfortunately, many people are influenced by the marketing activities of the various companies, or they are influenced by friends who have little or no understanding of what they are talking about.

Advertising says Chromebook

I decided to do this article because lately I read how many are advertising Chromebooks, attracting people with less money to these “magical and cheap” devices.
But be careful! They are not the right choice for everyone!
It is true that you can buy a Chromebook for 200 euros, but beware! It is not a computer as we are used to conceiving it. The Chromebook is more of a great phone! So if you don’t know exactly what a Chromebook is, for 220 euros I recommend buying a Windows computer instead, which would give a wider type of use, and much more useful for you and / or your child.

Who to get advice from

I would therefore like to try to give a rough indication on this topic, and my target is the person with a medium-low level of technical knowledge: that is, all those who do not work in the sector. However, consider that there are special cases, and my guide only wants to be on the “general” case.
From my point of view you can only get advice from a few categories of people:
– those who work in the IT sector, but with a background in electronics (minimum 30 years of age, with firmware development skills)
– those who work in the electronics sector (hardware designer)
– the owners of small hardware sales shops, if they know how to understand the real needs of the customer
For everyone else, I believe that today’s level of complexity, and the vast field of experience that one must have, makes it difficult to fully understand the differences between the various technologies. Unfortunately this aspect cannot be acquired from “I read in a magazine that” or “I read on the internet that”. Personally in more than 20 years of profession, I have had the opportunity to work with a great multitude of systems, I have seen technological development, I have seen companies appear on the market, I have met happy and unhappy computer owners, and it is easy for me to understand the differences, strengths and weaknesses of the various solutions.

So: what is the best computer ever? The correct answer is: none, it depends.
But it depends on what? From the use you want to make of it. Depending on how you use it, the answer will change.

A quick overview

So here’s a quick overview:

  • Chromebook: Okay if you need a smartphone (Android type) with a large screen. The features are the same. For those who want a giant phone.
  • Windows: it’s fine if you want a very compatible, flexible computer that can solve any need, with a great variety of prices. For everyone.
  • Apple: Okay if you want an expensive but designer computer, but with little software flexibility and interaction with other computers. For freelancers in the graphics sector and students.
  • Linux: okay if you want a computer that you can fully customize, very flexible, with great possibility of free software, good interaction with other computers, but on which you will have to do everything yourself. For enthusiasts.

A summary table

Chromebook Windows Apple Linux
Cost Low All price ranges High All price ranges
Free software Low, like Google Play Great availability Low Great availability
Specific paid software (Autocad, Visual Studio, Office, etc.) Low Great availability Limited Limited
Hardware configuration flexibility upon purchase (cpu, ram, video card, battery, etc) Low Total Low Almost total
Possibility of repair Good Great, but it depends on the models Low Great, but it depends on the models
Possibility of hardware upgrade (cpu, ram, video card, battery, etc) Good Great, but it depends on the models Low / None Great, but it depends on the models
Quality of design Media Low-High, depends on the model High Low-High, depends on the model
Protection dto viruses High Medium-High Medium-High High
Variety of choice when buying Media High Low High
Iteration with other computers (sending files, networking, office use, etc.) Low-Nothing Almost total Medium-low Media
Optimization for graphic works (professional use) Low-Nothing Medium-High High Media
Battery life High, depends on the model Low-High, depends on the model Medium-High Low-High, depends on the model
Use for video games Low, only from Google Play and Steam Almost total Low (Steam) Low (Steam)
Battery replacement Low-High, depends on the model Low-High, depends on the model Low-Nothing, depends on the model Low-High, depends on the model
Ease of use for first use High (it’s a phone) Medium-High High (but limited functions) Low
Ease of use for experts High High Medium-High Medium-High
Support for printing with common printers, even older ones Medium-Low, depends on the printer model Almost total Medium-High, depends on the printer model High, depends on the printer model
Quality / price Low High Media Media
Recommended use type For those who want a great phone For everyone For freelancers in the graphics sector, students For enthusiasts

The key point: the price

The table takes into account a factor that many either ignore or have not considered: the purchase price.
For example, years ago, when Apple computers resumed sales, many people told me “It’s much better than Windows! It’s much faster!”. Then I found out that they were comparing an old $ 200 Acer laptop (actually a Netbook, the Chromebooks of the time), with a new $ 2000 Apple! But what’s the point? it’s like comparing a 1980 Fiat Uno with a 2020 Audi Q7! What will be better?
Believe me, Windows computers for 2000 euros exist (and existed) and – for the same price – are superior in everything to Apple computers.

Where to buy

Pay attention also to the sellers of the big chains: usually they want to sell you what suits you, and often they don’t even know what they are talking about. It often happened to me when I accompanied people to buy computers in various chains. The best is always the shop “near the house”. He puts his face to it, he can advise you, even if you spend 10 euros more, then you will have a friend in time of need.

Myths of the Internet

Let’s now try to dispel some myths and explain some details.
Consider that 90% of what you will find on the internet is written by people who have a direct interest in advertising a certain product (to sell it, thanks to commissions).
Unlike me, I do not live on advertising, but I only like to give an impartial judgment, based on my experience.

What is a Chromebook

Basically it’s a big screen phone, but you can’t phone. An ideal use is for those who just need to read their mail, surf the internet and watch Netflix. It doesn’t have a “desktop” to save files to. You cannot install Autocad. You will not be able to install the software your friend passed you with the stick. You will not be able to install uTorrent and start downloading torrents. A Chromebook is not the Windows you were used to.
Many times I have advised against the purchase of a Chromebook (because I knew the person and the use he would make of it), but after my clarifications they replied “don’t worry, you’ll see it won’t be a problem” (as if it were my problem). After a couple of months they asked me “Do you know someone who wants a Chromebook? You can’t do anything with it!”.
I suspect that the boom in distance learning coincided with the boom in Chromebooks because they are the cheapest on the market.

What about Linux?

When I talk about Windows computers, I’m basically talking about the same hardware that Linux uses. Linux is just an operating system, which can run on any device. For example, you can take your Chromebook, Apple or Windows, and install Linux on it. It is not for everyone, but only for enthusiasts. Then, after installing one of the dozens of possible Linux distributions, you will discover a different ecosystem, a different graphics, a different way of thinking. Very similar to Windows and Apple, but still different. Some specific hardware models may not be recognized. This is why I recommend it to passionate people: it may be necessary to do operations manually, download software, make configurations, etc. This is why I do not recommend it for non-experts.
And no, don’t install it on your mom, you may have to spend many hours on the phone explaining how to do things!

We’ll take care of it

When you buy Apple, you buy a very specific way of thinking: “we’ll take care of it”.
For many this may be fine, but for others – perhaps used to having Windows – it can be trauma.
What I mean? That Apple does not let you do what you want and how you want it, but it is as if the computer is still theirs, even if in your hands.
This means that one day they may decide that you can no longer use that program (as they did with Adobe Flash), or that certain functions can only be used with an Apple phone, or that the songs you have purchased can only be used with. Apple devices, that the program you need cannot be installed, because they consider it “dangerous”.

Apple has no viruses

Ah, and it’s not true that Apple is immune to viruses! On the contrary, they were forced to withdraw the advertisements in which they said so. If you follow the industry news, you will find that huge networks of malware-infected Apple computers, or millions of infected Apple computers, are discovered. And they find out after years…
Why does this happen? Because the diffusion of Apple computers is minimal (we are talking about 5% of the total) and therefore there is no great interest on the part of antivirus manufacturers in this system. But virus makers care about Apple systems, as users are forced to pay for everything, so they can potentially “steal” many credit cards.

Tic-Toc, the time to open the wallet is coming

I also remind you that Apple was condemned due to the planned obsolescence of their devices, basically deceiving users. Basically their software made your device seem “slow” after a couple of years, encouraging you to buy a new one! That is “we’ll take care of telling you when to buy a new one”. For me this alone would be enough to avoid a purchase of their devices, after all I’m not a cash cow!

Apple goes great with Autocad

The title was ironic. After spending $ 2,000 on an Apple computer, users then discover that Autocad cannot be installed on it.
So what do you do? Windows is installed inside a virtual machine (Parallel) on Apple. Isn’t it logical?
And why not buy a 2000 euro Windows computer and run it directly?

Windows always crashes

Personally in more than 20 years of using Windows it has only happened to me due to a hardware failure (usually RAM or hard drive), but this happens for any type of computer, be it Windows, Apple, Chromebook or Linux.
On the internet you will find many articles that sound the alarm “Windows update freezes your computer”. Do you know why? Because Windows has 90% of the market, and therefore a very high potential of users (millions in Italy, hundreds of millions in the world) and the sites earn from advertising. They are nothing more than articles that attract clicks, that’s all.
Even Apple updates “block everything” but little is said about it because it is of interest to a few.

The Windows Problem

In my opinion, the problem with Windows is that it allows too much choice, both of possible configurations and price ranges. This leads the user to make a simpler choice, such as an Apple computer that only has two models available.
My advice: if you have the budget to buy a 1000/2000 euro Apple, consider buying a Windows at the same price, the build quality would be almost the same (but with other advantages).

Upgrade an old computer

Updating an Apple computer that is a few years old is not easy, if not impossible: the hardware you can use is decided by them and very limited. In some cases, even just to be able to open it, you need special tools, available only from authorized stores. This makes the update vain, it costs less (with the same benefit) to buy a new one.

The key: be aware of what you are buying

What I want to tell you is that there is no better system than the other.
The important thing is to make an informed choice. I hope this article helped you do it!

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