You have $200 to spend. Should you buy a Chromebook or a Windows laptop?

Here's advice on which kind of machine you should buy

hp stream 11

The HP Stream 11 (shown here in Orchid Magenta) is the smallest model in the product line, which also includes models with 13.3-inch and 14-inch displays.

Credit: Image: HP

Prices of some Windows laptops have plummeted to $200, right in the inexpensive Chromebook range. At that price would you be better off buying a Windows machine or a Chromebook?

There are plenty of Windows laptops available for $200 or under, including the HP Stream 11 (available for $179 at the Microsoft Store), the Acer Aspire E 11, and others. As for Chromebooks, take your pick at under $200 -- there are plenty to choose from.

So which kind of machine would you be better off buying? When it comes to the actual hardware itself, there won't be much of a difference between a $200 Chromebook and a $200 Windows machine. You'll get entry-level hardware with enough power to create documents, browse the Web, check email, and so on, but not for high-powered tasks, and not for running too many applications simultaneously.

So it really comes down the the software --- which operating system is better for you, Windows or Chrome? If you don't expect to be connected to the Internet all the time, then a Windows laptop is clearly superior. Although Chrome is taking steps to make more apps work offline, the default is still online-only. That's not the case with Windows machines. Office, Outlook, and countless other applications can work offline, not only online.

If you're looking to run industry-standard software, a Windows machine is a better bet as well. Your place of work may well have standardized on Windows software. And even if it hasn't, there are far more applications available for Windows than for Chrome. As for document-creation, Office beats Google Docs hands down.

And although a $200 Windows laptop is nobody's idea of a game machine, there are still plenty of games you can play on it, far more than you can play on Chrome.

On the other hand, you can't beat Chrome for simplicity. You won't have to deal with Windows' myriad problems and issues, particularly Windows 8's. The interface is simpler and easier to use. And there's also less malware targeting Chrome. And although there's not as much software available for Chrome as there is for Windows, in Chrome what you get is generally free.

So which is for you? If your main goal is simplicity, and you expect to be always connected when using your machine, then Chrome will be your best bet. For everyone else, your $200 would be better spent on a Windows machine.

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