Are Cheap Windows 10 Laptops “Chromebook Killers?”
Microsoft and PC vendors are striking back at the Chromebook with an array of sub-$200 laptops. Will the latest batch of low-cost Windows 10 machines tempt consumers away from Google's increasingly popular alternative to the traditional Windows laptop? Read on to see which is best for you…
Chromebook Versus Win10 Laptop
In January, I discussed the pros and cons of sub-$250 Chromebooks. In that article, I noted that Microsoft was offering PC vendors free licenses to install Windows 8/8.1 on low-cost machines, in an effort to claw back market share from Chromebooks powered by Google’s Chrome OS. That deal extends to Windows 10, and prices of so-called“Chromebook killers” are plummeting.
Acer just announced a new line of Aspire One Cloudbooks with Windows 10, starting at just $169. Hardly a stunner in terms of specs, the Cloudbook 11 sports an 11-inch screen, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of local storage. HP’s Stream 11, priced at $230 last November, is now going for $179 on Amazon. It comes with Windows 8.1 but upgrading to Windows 10 is free.
And the DigiTimes Research market intelligence firm reports that Microsoft will launch their own Windows 10 laptops, priced at $149-to-$179 this summer.
The hardware specs of these cheap Win 10 machines are comparable to similarly priced Chromebooks. Integrated chipsets such as Intel’s Bay Trail system strike a compromise between performance and power consumption. You won’t be doing processor-intensive tasks (e.g., managing large databases, photo/video editing, online gaming) on these machines, but battery life is exceeding 8 hours in some cases.
Displays are only 11.6 inches diagonally, with middling resolutions that won’t do justice to full HD videos. Most Chromebooks have similarly small screens, but 13 and 15 inch displays are also available for less than $250. If the 11-inch Win 10 laptops are accepted by consumers, larger screens will surely follow.
Microsoft is pushing Win 10’s cloud-computing features hard. The Cloudbook from Acer is billed as “made for the cloud.” It comes with a one-year subscription to Office 365 and a terabyte of Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage space. The low-end Cloudbook comes with only 16 GB of local storage space, pretty much forcing users to sign up for a Microsoft account for access to cloud services or pay more for 32 or 64 GB of local storage.
But Wait, There's More (to pay)...
Of course, once the free trial period ends, Office 365 and OneDrive will become recurring costs. That combo costs $10 per month or $100 per year, which could quickly eclipse the cost of the laptop. Of course, there's always Google Docs/Drive (cloud-based), and Libre Office (desktop-based) which are free. But Microsoft and the PC vendors who are offering these Windows laptops won't ever steer you in that direction.
The obvious upside of a laptop running Windows is that it will run Windows-based software. A Chromebook (which runs on the Chrome OS) will not. But as more and more apps move to the cloud, this distinction becomes less and less important for more and more users. Even this new crop of Windows 10 laptops is pushing users to the cloud for common tasks like word processing, spreadsheets, and storing files.
Can cheap, cloud-centric Windows 10 laptops compete effectively against Chromebooks? For most home users, I think the answer is, “no.” Google’s Chrome OS was designed from scratch for the cloud, while Windows 10 has its roots firmly in the desktop where powerful processors, lots of RAM, big displays, and ample local storage are assumed. Microsoft is trying to put a cow on roller skates.
Then there’s the worry-free simplicity of Chromebooks. They boot in less than 7 seconds, while Windows 10 takes 30 or more. There are no software updates to download and install; updates happen on Google’s servers. Minimal system software on a Chromebook means minimal “surface area” for malware to attack.
Are You The Ideal Customer?
Businesses, educational institutions and government agencies that are heavily invested in Microsoft infrastructure are the best hope for cheap Win 10 machines like the Cloudbook. Developing countries are another target market.
A cheap Win 10 laptop might make a good first computer for a youngster; indeed, the cotton-candy colors of the HP and similar laptops suggest that’s what the vendors have in mind. But most college-bound children will want laptops on which they can crunch numbers, play games and watch high-definition videos, not something that looks like it was borrowed from a kid sister.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 10 Aug 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Are Cheap Windows 10 Laptops “Chromebook Killers?” (Posted: 10 Aug 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved