September 12, 2023

6 min

Chromebook FAQs, Answered

Get the answers to the most common questions you have about Chromebooks.

CDW Expert CDW Expert

The Top 10 Chromebooks FAQs

What is a Chromebook?

Chromebooks come in various models: clamshell laptops, 2-in-1s, and tablets. These Google devices are budget-friendly, offering the same functionality as traditional laptops with only a few key differences. The most notable is the Chrome OS operating system on which they run. Rather than running traditional desktop-based applications, Chromebooks use cloud-and web-based applications like those offered within Google Workspace. Many users enjoy them due to their lower price point, ease-of-use, portability, and their web-based capabilities.

Want to learn more about Chromebooks? Read our article on the pros and cons of Chromebooks.

What are the differences between a Chromebook and a laptop?

Chromebooks run on Chrome OS, which is based on Google’s popular Chrome web browser. Laptops run on various operating systems, including Linux, macOS, and Windows. Chromebooks also require an internet connection for many of their web-based applications and features whereas laptops do not. Also, you’ll oftentimes spend less on a Chromebook than a laptop since they tend to have lower hardware specifications and are intentionally designed to be affordable and lightweight.

Read our comprehensive guide on Chromebooks vs laptops to learn more.

Should I get a Chromebook or a laptop?

If you are debating between a Chromebook or laptop, the first thing you should ask yourself is what you intend to do with the device. Let’s say you just want something for web browsing, checking email, or light document editing. A Chromebook would be a fine choice to handle these tasks and would save you some money.

On the other hand, say you’re a college student with an interest in graphic design. Such an interest would require both specialized software and powerful hardware. You’d be best off purchasing a laptop, since you’ll want a device with adequate RAM, a dedicated graphics card, and local storage to withstand your work.

Fundamentally, the tradeoff is simplicity and affordability for power and flexibility.

Can a Chromebook replace a laptop?

Not in all respects, no. Not all software available for laptops is available for Chromebooks. Additionally, most Chromebooks come equipped with about 4GB RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, and a CPU that can’t keep up with a modern laptop. If you’re looking to do any tasks beyond streaming YouTube, checking email, or writing a paper in Google Docs, you’re likely going to struggle with a Chromebook. That’s not to say many users wouldn’t be able to replace their laptop with a Chromebook—if you’re only concerned with basic computing tasks and have strong, consistent internet access, a Chromebook could very well replace your laptop. Before you make a leap, be sure to investigate if you can run the software you need on a Chromebook, both in terms of software availability and Chromebook hardware specifications.

Can a Chromebook be used for gaming?
  1. Cloud gaming - Firstly, you’ll need a strong and consistent internet connection. Then, you’ll need to access one of several cloud gaming streaming services, which include NVIDIA GeForce NOW, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Amazon Luna and Boosteroid. You then simply download the games from the cloud. You can play graphically demanding gaming titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite without a dedicated GPU since Google’s cloud servers handle the lion’s share of the computing load.

  2. Android gaming – There are hundreds of Android games on the Google Play Store, including hit titles like Roblox and Stardew Valley. The Google Play Games app acts as a gaming hub, where you can find games, customize your profile, find friends, share your gameplay and much more. Some games in the Play Store are even specifically designed for Chromebooks.

  3. Browser-based gaming- You can play some games right in your web browser, like Wordle and Celeste Classic.  These games don’t take up any device memory, are free to play, and don’t require strong system specifications.
Can you use Microsoft Word/Microsoft 365/Windows on a Chromebook?

Yes, you can. There are several ways to use Windows software and even the entire OS on a Chromebook:

  1. Microsoft offers a free, browser-based version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It’s as simple as logging into your Microsoft account. Their features aren't as extensive as their desktop counterparts, but they get the job done and allow you to collaborate with others. Microsoft 365 comes at an additional cost depending on what plan you purchase.

  2. The MS Office web apps are available at the Google Play Store. They have more features than their browser-based equivalents, but not as many as their full-featured desktop counterparts.

  3. The Chrome Remote Desktop extension allows you to stream the full desktop version of MS Office from another device and run it on your Chromebook. The obvious disadvantage here is it requires owning both devices.

  4. There is a software from Code Weavers called CrossOver which allows you to run Windows programs on other operating systems, including Chrome OS. While the software isn’t free, it’s a relatively straightforward way to run Windows on a Chromebook.
What are the pros and cons of a Chromebook?

For a more in-depth look, we’ve written an entire article covering the pros and cons of Chromebooks.

Some Chromebook pros include:

  • Battery life – you can get 10 hours of battery life on a single charge
  • Durability – Chromebooks are designed to endure the dings and drops of everyday life
  • Affordability – Chromebooks come at modest price points relative to laptops
  • Simplicity – the UI and system configuration is intentionally simple and as intuitive as a tablet or smartphone

Some Chromebook cons include:

  • Hardware—Chromebook components can’t compete with the average laptop, both in specifications and quality
  • Storage—Chromebooks lack local storage since they’re made to utilize cloud storage primarily. Most don’t have SSDs, and if they do, you’ll usually only find 128GB models
  • Software—Chrome devices may not be up-to-spec to run certain softwares
  • Gaming— although gaming capabilities have increased greatly in recent years, Chromebooks are not intended to be primary gaming devices
Is 4GB RAM enough for a Chromebook?

The baseline RAM for modern laptops is about 8GB, so a Chromebook has half of that. If you want to run multiple applications at once or want to run particularly demanding, graphic-intensive tasks, you’ll have issues with 4GB RAM. However, for your average Chromebook task like using Google Workspace or doing web research, you shouldn’t run into too many issues unless you have a ton of tabs open.

Why are Chromebooks so cheap?

Chromebooks have less powerful hardware components and displays than laptops. Since Chromebooks are cloud-centric, a good amount of the computing lift is offloaded as well as their internal storage needs. Additionally, several different manufacturers like Acer, ASUS, HP, and Samsung foster competition, driving prices down as well.

Why do schools use Chromebooks?

Here are some of the major reasons schools choose Chromebooks:

  1. Affordable – Chromebooks cost less than laptops so schools can purchase more of them for less
  2. Easy management—IT admins can easily manage their fleet of Chromebooks with cloud-based tools. This includes device setup, updates, and security
  3. Easy-to-use—computing beginners and young students won’t have a hard time navigating Chromebooks
  4. Collaborative—Chromebooks perfectly complement Google’s suite of productivity and learning apps including Google Docs, Sheets, and Classroom. This makes setting up group projects much easier both for students and teachers.

From procurement to deployment, CDW partners with schools to provide Chromebooks from all major manufacturers. Shop Chromebooks today or learn more about how Google and CDW can set up your students for success with our Google for Education tools.