Chromebook vs MacBook Air: Which is best suited for your needs?

 @AmruthaGayathri on June 13 2011 7:16 AM

If you think MacBook Airs and Chromebooks are apples and oranges, hold on. With the price of a MacBook Air you might get two Chromebooks (or even three, if it's the cheapest Chromebook); but will MacBook Airs retain their special place when pitted against Chromebooks? Should you buy a Chromebook or a MacBook Air?

1. Pricing- The value-for-money preposition is not exactly in favor of MacBook Air (as is the case with Macs in general). The price tag problem of Apple seems to be exacerbated with MacBook Air. For many users MacBook Airs are beautiful silver-thin machines that run aging processors, too little RAM and anemic graphics. Instead of justifying the price with better processors and packaging, Apple rides on its brand name and Mac's shining aluminum case. Added attraction is that Google has announced a scheme to sell Chromebooks for $20 a month that combines both hardware and online services.

2. Portability- Until Chromebooks, MacBook Airs reigned because there weren't too many alternatives for an ultraportable laptop. With the Acer Chromebook (2.95 pounds) almost equaling, and Samsung Chromebook (3.26 pounds)riding close to MacBook Air(2.3 pounds) the tables are apparently turned.

3. Branding- Samsung and Acer are nowhere near Apple when it comes to branding. In fact had it not been for Google's new OS, the Chromebooks wouldn't even sound cool being manufactured by the comparatively lesser players of the laptop market.

4. Looks- If you get carried away by everything that is Apple, do not waste time thinking about Chromebooks. They have a long way to go before they develop something as stylish and sleek as MacBook Air. In fact the Samsung Arctic White model, according initial reviews, is borderline tacky.

5. Processor- According to those who used Chromebook for beta testing of Google, Chromebooks' major shortcomings are performance and durability related. Chromebooks aren't great for juggling between numerous browser windows, and applications. Revelation that Chromebooks are 'differently-named' netbooks will dawn upon you in no time. While the Intel Core 2 Duo processor of Airs is hardly remarkable, it would definitely beat the Atom processors any day. If rumors can be believed, Apple will ship their first MacBook Air models upgraded to include Intel's Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt high-speed interconnect, later this month in preparation for a June or July launch. If that will be the case, users wouldn't have to be confused between Chromebooks and MacBook Airs, if processor is the only concern.

6. Operating System- Chrome OS is not fully fledged like Mac OS X. It is more of a platform that enables access to web and to other web services and applications that are a little more than glorified web pages. If you are familiar to the Google Chrome browser, you might not even find too much difference in the user interface and overall feel.

7. Adobe Flash- Chromebooks come with integrated Flash support which isn't Apple's forte.

8. Cloud storage- If you're one among those who constantly scan computer and out of anxiety of an impending hard disk crash, and indulge in time-consuming back-ups, probably you should go for a Chromebook. With your data being stored and synced with the cloud, you have nothing to worry about data loss. You can login to your account using any Chromebook anywhere in the world and still have the exact same feel.

9. Internet connectivity- MacBook Airs are Wi-Fi only models while Chromebooks offer 3G world connectivity. Though Chromebooks will be rendered useless without web access (until Google launches applications that can be accessed offline), that argument sounds almost silly. How many of us spend time on a laptop that isn't connected to internet? Unless in a situation where all the Internet is 'dried up' (Remember the 'Over Logging', the sixth episode of the twelfth season of the comedy series South Park) Chromebooks will most probably not fail you.

10. Battery Life- Chromebooks can be used almost forever without running out of battery. Samsung model offers 8.5 hours continuous battery usage and MacBook Air is nowhere near. If you are an outdoor person who generally gets fed up with finding an outlet every now and then, Chromebook is Godsend for you.

PS:Both MacBook Air and Chromebook are certainly not for graphic designers, game developers or anyone who make use of high end applications and platforms. But Chromebooks score lesser when it comes to gaming.

Specifications comparison

Specifications

MacBook Air

Samsung Chromebook Series 5

Acer Chromebook

Price

$999+

$429+

$349+

Weight

2.3 pounds

3.26 pounds

2.95 pounds

Processor

1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

Intel Atom Dual-Core

Intel Atom Dual-Core

Memory

2GB (4GB maximum)

2GB Standard System Memory

2 GB Maximum System Memory

Screen Size

11.6

12.1

11.6

Battery Life

 

Up to 5 hours

Up to 8.5 hours

Up to 6 hours

Display

LED (Glossy)

LED (WXGA, Non-Gloss)

LED-backlit LCD

Resolution

1366x768 (16:9 aspect ratio)

1280x800 (16:10 aspect ratio)

1366 x 768 (16:9 aspect ratio)

Storage

64 GB of flash storage

16 GB SSD

16 GB SSD

Webcam

HD

HD

HD

Connectivity

Wi-Fi Only

Wi-Fi & 3G

Wi-Fi & 3G

USB Ports

Two 2.0 ports

Two 2.0 ports

Two 2.0 ports

Memory Card Reader

Yes

Yes

Yes

Video Port

 

VGA, HDMI

VGA

HDMI

Bluetooth

Yes

No

No

Keyboard

Yes

Yes

Yes

Track Pad

 

Multi-Touch

Multi-Touch

Multi-Touch

Dimensions

 

11.8 (W) x 0.11-0.68(H) x 7.56

11.6 (W) x .8 (H) x 8.6 (D)

Not Available

Internal Mic

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Speakers

Stereo

Stereo

Stereo

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