Chromebook vs Ultrabook

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Today’s laptop market offers many choices. If you are looking for a sleek, modern laptop that’s lightweight and powerful, what should you choose? Ultrabook laptops typically use low-power Intel processors, solid-state drives, and a unibody construction to make the smallest, lightest product possible. Chromebooks use the Linux-based Google Chrome OS and are designed primarily as an internet-based computer, storing everything in the cloud. Both have great features as well as some drawbacks, but a side-by-side comparison can help you choose.

The similarities

Apart from the fact that they are both essentially laptops and therefore have the same basic features (screens and keyboard, hardware, batteries and so on), Chrombooks and Ultrabooks don’t actually have that much in common.

If we are to look at the things that make them similar, it's obvious that both are light and thin and both tend to outlast regular laptops in terms of battery life (five or six hours of use between charges, and even more than that for some of the top Ultrabooks). But the differences are the things you really need to know about when choosing between them.

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Chromebooks are meant to be mini-laptops. They tend to be small and cheap, around £150-£250. They have a more-limited feature set than Ultrabooks, but this can be an advantage if a Chromebook meets your needs. You can use one to edit documents, surf the web, and check email. They are very simple to use and operate much like a smartphone, letting you make purchases from an App Store to add new functions. Check out the Toshiba Chromebook for a decent example of a Chromebook.

Since Chromebooks are so simple, they can be incredibly fast at what they do. They don’t run Windows, so they are immune to much of the malware that plagues other laptops and they don’t require constant software updates.

However, they have two big limitations. First, they are designed to be cloud based, which means you won’t be able to get to your stored data or do use many of the computer’s functions if you can’t get online. The second big limitation is in software. Since they operate the Chrome OS, they cannot run typical Windows programs such as Office, Photoshop, or Windows games.

So in a nutshell, Chromebooks offer:

  • A small and cheap alternative
  • A laptop that's simple to operate
  • The ability to make purchases from an App Store and add new functions
  • A speedy processor speed
  • Immunity to the majority of malware


Ultrabooks are higher-end laptops than Chromebook and are meant to complete with the MacBook Air. Technically a laptop must use Intel Core processors and run Windows to be called an Ultrabook. Additionally, they can be no wider than 22 mm and must offer a battery life of at least 5 hours. They are basically just thinner, lighter versions of a standard laptop, and as such are able to perform any operation and run any software you are used to on a typical Windows machine.

Most have solid-state drives so they can boot up and access applications quickly, and they tend to offer better quality displays, backlit keyboards, and metal chassis. Many offer a touch screen. All of this comes at a price, however. These machines are in the luxury category; expect prices to be about double what you would spend on the cost-conscious Chromebooks

In the quest to create the thinnest, lightest machines, some concessions have to be made. Most Ultrabooks have fewer ports than full-sized laptops, and most lack an Ethernet port, which can be a problem if you need a hardwired network connection. Another limitation is storage. The switch to SSD drives makes these computers seem faster, but these drives are more expensive than traditional storage so you tend to get a smaller hard drive for your money. These limitations can be overcome by carrying USB network adapters and additional drives, but this means more money spent and more devices to keep track of.

  • In conclusion, Ultrabooks offer:
  • A more sophisticated, powerful laptop
  • At least 5 hours of continuous battery life
  • High quality displays, backlit keyboards and metal chassis
  • Touch screens on some versions

The verdict

When rating the two types of machines, there is really no clear winner. Obviously, the laptop that is right for you depends on what you need it to do and how much you are willing to spend. Using the basic facts outlined here should help you do a little comparison-shopping to make your best choice.