Chrome OS devices have proved popular in the US to-date, but momentum is starting to pick up in the UK. Barking and Dagenham Council deployed 2,000 Chromebooks to replace Windows XP systems earlier this year and ABI Research expects sales to reach 11 million units annually by 2019.
All the major PC manufacturers from Acer through to Samsung are busy churning out the low-cost laptops. It's clear these sub-250 devices can help SMBs, educational institutions and government organisations cut costs, but is performance capable of matching legacy operating systems like Windows? We put them head-to-head to find out.
Windows 8.1 vs Chrome OSFeatures and Flexibility Applications Performance Management and Security Cloud and Connectivity Price & Verdict
Interface and Ease-of-Use
It's no secret some companies and users have found the move to Windows 8.x a challenge. The Start screen and its Live Tiles are touch friendly, but not everyone feels comfortable using an OS where much of functionality is hidden and a simplified tile system is promoted over the traditional desktop.
Windows 8.1 UI arguably works better on a tablet or a smaller laptop, and business users will appreciate the smaller touches, like the way clicking or tapping on a URL inside a link opens up internet Explorer in a split-screen view, rather than simply switching to the browser. What's more, you can chose to boot to the conventional Desktop interface, use the Taskbar as an application launcher and disable the Charms if you wish.
Ironically, Chrome OS looks more like conventional desktop operating system than Windows. There's a dock/app launcher in the bottom left-hand corner and a system tray with time, network and battery indicators on the bottom right, which also provides one-click access to the basic settings.
Chrome OS supports multiple windows, with a multi-function maximise and minimise button that can also dock windows to the left or right of the screen and resize them to fit halfway a bit like Windows' snap feature.
It's not sophisticated, but it is simple and some users will find it more intuitive than Windows 8.1
Winner: A Tie. The Windows 8.1 UI is more sophisticated, configurable and effective on touchscreen devices, but Chrome OS is the more intuitive, consistent and strangely more conventional of the two.
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Stuart has been writing about technology for over 25 years, focusing on PC hardware, enterprise technology, education tech, cloud services and video games. Along the way he’s worked extensively with Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and Chrome OS devices, and tested everything from laptops to laser printers, graphics cards to gaming headsets.
He’s then written about all this stuff – and more – for outlets, including PC Pro, IT Pro, Expert Reviews and The Sunday Times. He’s also written and edited books on Windows, video games and Scratch programming for younger coders. When he’s not fiddling with tech or playing games, you’ll find him working in the garden, walking, reading or watching films.
You can follow Stuart on Twitter at @SATAndrews.