General discussion

Would you buy a Chromebook or budget PC laptop for travel?

Hi I hope your readers can help me make the right decision. Here it goes. I will be doing some traveling this summer and I'm right now contemplating on buying an inexpensive laptop to take along with me. As for my purpose of the laptop, I will most likely be using it for email, checking on photos I have uploaded to my photo site from my phone, writing some personal journals, social media as well as using it for some entertainment like watching videos and reading, but nothing heavy on computing. Initially I was dead set on buying a budget PC laptop around $300 as I am a Windows user, but then saw some Chromebooks that were less expensive and much lighter in weight, however I'm not familiar with them and assume there are certain limitations as compared to a PC running Windows. I have a couple of months until I take off on my first trip and I would like to get some opinions on a Chromebook vs. a budget Windows PC so I can weigh out my options and hopefully make a good decision on one and not regret something I must lug with me throughout my travels. Looking forward to your help. Thank you.

--Submitted by Bruce D.

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both will work

both will do exactly what you want. the only issue you may have with a chromebook is storage space for your pictures but nothing that a usb drive cannot solve. if you have a smartphone, you can use a chromebook so there is really no learning curve to speak of. If you have a local walmart, best buy or other store locally that stocks them, check them out.

a simple search will do a comparison of the two. just use windows laptop vs chromebook as keywords.

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I would use a Win10 laptop

I have both but for travel I would bring an inexpensive laptop so I could watch movies even if I didn't have a wifi connection. I have a small lightweight Lenovo touchscreen laptop that I bought at Walmart for about $230 a few months ago. Just make sure that the PC you buy has at least 64GB of storage. A lot of inexpensive new Win10 notebooks have only 32 GB of storage and Win10 doesn't like to run in that small a machine. If you just want to do web browsing and email a Chromebook can do those just as well. in the past Chromebooks were less expensive but now their prices are in that range but they tend to be a little lighter.

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Let me share my travel laptops.

I have a Chrome laptop and a cheap W10 laptop. Both were refurbs from groupon. The i5 8GB HP probook started at 249USD and we swapped in an on sale 480GB SSD to give it a performance boost (about 59USD.)

Due to the nature of my travels a Chromebook isn't useful as we need to demo apps and may have to edit, recompile and publish our Android apps while on travel.

But a Chromebook is in the collection and it's mainly used to demo web based systems.

Let me share that I'd stick to 12 to 14 inch Chromebooks since that's a bit more manageable and big enough for watching videos during travel.

If you check Groupon you may find these in the 99 to $199 USD price range. The price of new Chromebooks here are not very attractive.

Example Sub 200 refurb full W10 laptop. Even has SSD.

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What to buy

Years back I bought a Acer 10 Switch because it was the last one Costco had and was 1/4th what original price was. my purpose was a bible replacement for my large print king James. Which has now been replaced by my smart? phone.
The Acer has also been handy on trips., i can plug my phone into it and download pictures taken and store them on 64G micro memory chips and my digital camera with card reader adapter.

So. the screen size dosen't matter as much as the versatility.

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Frankly, either will do

I have taken the time to learn Apple, Chromebook, Windows, and Linux. Security wise, if you take the proper precautions any would work. With Chromebook, you need a connection to the Internet to do the things you are listing. (OK, there are some local apps and Android apps available that can do local notes.) Linux, Apple, and Windows do not. Security wise the most secure one is the Chromebook. (It is said most hackers like to use that at conventions as they are mostly unhackable (with a VPN). So, if you are on line all the time, I would recommend that. If not then my next choice would be either a Windows laptop, or an Android based tablet. (You can find them very cheaply, get a blue tooth case with keyboard, and you can do everything you want to do.)

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Either Will Be OK

It sounds like, for what you say you need this for, either will do. However, you really should think of what you might want to do "one off". By that I mean, you want to upload photos (I have more to say on that in a bit). But would you like to run them through Photoshop (even "Elements" first to clean them up?) Watching videos... I guess you could do that with either if you have the bandwidth. But here are my thoughts and experience in terms of TRAVEL that can affect you regardless of which solution you choose.

Cruises - You may have to PAY for Internet access. That may or may not include WiFi. Some ships you have to use their little data center and others have WiFi. You pay for both. Speeds? VERY slow, in My experience. Probably too slow for streaming as well as expensive). Preloaded video? Of course. No issue.

Other Places: We went to Tahiti. More specifically, we went to Bora Bora. AT&T had no reciprocal agreement with the local cell network company. So no way to use a cell phone for uploading anything. Even with International Roaming, it was all a separate charge. Speeds of WiFi that weren't free? Slow.

So, I think the most important thing isn't going to be the gear you choose (by the way, how are you planning to take photos?). It is going to be how do you get Internet access and how much will it cost and how fast will it be? Don't just assume that everywhere you go you get free WiFi or free Internet or even cell data services. That homework will be more important. As for the choice, you should be more interested in if you need to process photos first. One thing I noted was if you are going to use a decent camera with an SD card, you might want to have a laptop or tablet with plenty of storage so you can off-load the photos at LEAST to a hard drive. But, I found out the hard way (monthly cell bill over $4000) that you need to do a lot of checking on just what kind of access you will have (and cost and speed).

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Both are similar

Both are similar in some ways, and in others, fundamentally different.

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I'd get a PC

I would get a WIndows 10 PC. It is more versatile and capable.

And if you have an Android phone, you pretty much already have a Chromebook.

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Android tablet is best for me
When not travelling, I use Win10 on desktop and and an Android phone.  The screen size on the phone is ideal for "phone purposes" but it is too small to serve as a proper substitute for a computer.

For travelling - I decided that a 7 inch Android tablet was best for me and bought a cheap Lenovo tab7 (tb-7504F). Today there is a Tab E7 tablet which I expect is similar. It is effectively an Android phone with wifi, but without a cellphone capability. Lightweight with good battery life.  Many ways to exchange data with other devices - including memory sticks/flash drives that  have  reversible connectors (USB Type-C and the alternative of traditional USB ).

I find the combination of inexpensive  Android software and cloud-based products such as Gmail and Dropbox is excellent for my purposes. I use Android/Xodo to organise and manipulate PDFs for presentations on the tablet.

I used to have a small tablet that ran (normal) Win10 - but I found that it was great until there was a Win10 upgrade - then there could be problems.  When I was away from home, I needed a machine that was absolutely dependable and didnt want to wait for huge Win10  upgrades to be processed (and maybe fail).
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I would recommend the Chromebook

For your stated purpose a Chromebook would be ideal.

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Chromebook, make sure it's full HD

I'd go for a Chromebook. From the uses you outlined I think it would handle everything. For a given budget, you'll get better battery life, faster start-up and snappier performance. Even if you hadn't mentioned photos, I'd have said to make full HD display (1920x1080) a requirement. You can get by with a Celeron or equivalent for the processor -- the only lag I see on my 2018 14" Celeron HP is about 1 sec when going from part to full screen on YouTube. A touch screen is good to have, especially if you expect to run Android games, but I wouldn't consider it essential. Refurbs are widely available. Make sure you get at least 4 GB RAM and the Google Play Store for Android apps.

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Get the Windows machine. You already know how to use it. Last thing you need is to be out and about with something you don't know how to use.

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Chromebook Probably

I've bought my share of $300 PC Laptops and 18 months later, I'm cursing myself for spending the money on a machine that takes forever to boot up and gets slower by the day.

That's why I switched to a Chromebook and would definitely consider one for that price range. They are fast and nimble. For what you're saying need, a Chromebook would be a perfect fit.

That said, if you want to do image or video editing, the Chromebook is a no-go.

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I never buy sub standard

Having a trip overseas planned just a month away I have just received the Lenovo Thinkpad L580 that was on sale over Easter, that I will be taking with me. It is nowhere near top of the range, but it is fast to boot up and seems perfectly capable of doing the job I bought it for, as well as being a good backup laptop in case my wife's should ever break down. She does rather a lot of work on the one she has and rather than skimp or go overboard, I think I actually chose rather well.

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Would I? I did, and I wouldn't do it again.

I thought a Windows laptop for $149 was a great way to get a cheap computer after my nice high end gaming laptop died a month after the warranty expired.

I purchased an Acer Aspire 1 with a Celeron N3450, 4GB RAM, and a 32GB eMMC storage space. I added a 128GB USB drive and transferred all my goodies from the laptop drives (two 500GB units that were mostly empty except for games and mods which I won't work on this cloudbook/netbook anyway).

This computer works great as long as I only try to do one thing at a time. The processor isn't the bottleneck, CPU hardly goes over 30-35%. The small storage space isn't either, as long as I keep clearing off old windows updates. It's the RAM. You can't upgrade it. If this thing had 8GB it would be fine. I tried adjusting the page file size, running Readyboost on the 128GB SanDisk mini thumb drive and even on an SD card from a camera (SanDisk ExtremePlus 64GB).

Nothing helps. Once you open more than 2-3-4 tabs in Firefox or Chrome, it locks up, quits out, restarts Windows Explorer, and I have to restore tabs and quickly x one out and finish reading the others before I open it again.

I am currently shopping for a thin, light, older Dell laptop. Right now a refurbished Latitude E7270 will be a trim little 12.5 inch thing with a 6th gen i5 or i7 and it'll run about $300-$400 depending on CPU, memory, and drives. One I'm considering on eBay has 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD and the i5-6300U and is only $279.

So there's options out there. Ultrabooks from the recent years used may be an excellent alternative to something really restricted like a Chromebook or cloudbook/netbook. Once manufacturers start offering them with 8GB of RAM or more they will be relevant again.

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BUY A used thinkpad

thinkpads are hecka durable and designed to upgrade. thinkpad E450 on ebay was $99, install SSD, add RAM. boom, you have very capable laptop, better than new

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Get the right laptop

Find out about what can be done internally on the laptop model. Several very cheap models are the basis for far more expensive configurations and can be mostly brought up to that same spec for much less than the OEM would charge.

Example: I recently got a Dell i5575 from Walmart for $330. (Be sure to use Ebates to get that 1% back. Every little bit helps. I also put it on a credit card that gave me another 1% back on the purchase.) This model only has 4 GB of RAM and a painfully slow 1 TB HD. Unlike some other cheap laptops, the RAM is not part of the main board and there are two usable slots, including the one containing the 4GB SO-DIMM. A pair of 8 GB SO-DIMMs brought it up to 16GB, leaving the original 4GB unit available to bring another laptop up to a more usable amount of RAM, and allowing me to recover some of the cost. Not a lot but every little bit counts.

In addition to the SATA hard drive location (which could be replaced with a SATA SSD) there is an M.2 slot. This offers a means to make the existing hard drive perform far better for some critical uses. A 16GB Optane cache card to go in that M.2 slot can be had for as little as $20 on Amazon. This will greatly improve the speed with which the laptop boots and returns from hibernation. It will also speed up the loading of the most used applications. It's a pretty big improvement for a mere $20. A 32 GB version is also offered for around $60. For that much more it likely makes more sense to just go with an SSD replacement of the hard drive. It will be slower than the Optane cache but the speed will still be greatly improved and applicable to everything involving the hard drive.

For my own use, I put in 16GB RAM, a 1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD, and a 1 TB SATA SSD. I had a lot of credit points on my Amazon Visa card, so all three items cost me a bit less than $200. (And because it was that card used on Amazon, I'll be getting a fair bit back in points.) The resulting laptop would have cost closer to $1000 from Dell. The screen is lousy for any kind of fast action games but the HDMI port will connect to any available screen, like a hotel room TV. For most work and watching video the screen is adequate. The only other area that makes it less than satisfactory is the lack of a keyboard backlight but a little bendy USB lamp will mitigate that for about $3.

So, starting with the right base hardware allows for a lot of improvement for cheap if you're comfortable with doing the work or know someone who is.

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Never a Chromebook

I would never use a Chromebook even if I worked for Google on the team responsible for the Chromebook. The web is just not that important. I personally would use my smartphone or tablet before I would ever waste money on a Chromebook.

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I'd go cheap as possible

and preferably something fast for the OS, like linux. A used Dell Latitude with SSD drive and late version of Mint.

Similar to this one, for $50 after shipping added. Chromebooks and anything with W10 is a "spy on you" computer.

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Why not a tablet?

Tablets fit better for travel. You can attach a battery when power gets low.

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I know some people can get by with a chromebook

I can't. when they first came out, I had people calling me to have me put windows 7 on it and they got mad when I told them the truth. The salesmen lied and told them it was just like any other computer. Or that's what they heard. They don't think about they have different OS's. I take 2 Lenovo T420's with SSD's and 8gb ram and spare 9 cell batteries I also take a 1Tb external drive. I like not having to worry about being real careful with the laptops and making sure I don't rough them up. These are my tanks, not a tough book, but I'm not that savage.

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I went for a Win 10 tablet

I used to travel with a very lightweight Win 10 laptop (2,8 lb). Got really tired of dragging a laptop along on travels. Tried an Android tablet but it just didn't do it for work. Finally bought a Microsoft Surface Go (the 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage version), a Surface Go Type Cover and a Microsoft Bluetooth Arc mouse (which is completely flat when you don't use it). I also bought an SD card for extra storage (which I use for OneDrive).

It was much more expensive than I had first planned, but so worth it. The Surface Go comes with Win 10 in S mode but it only took me 2-3 minutes to change to 'regular' Win 10. I now have all my Office programs and all other programs I need (want Happy ) on the tablet and have the same version of all documents on both my laptop and the tablet. One super advantage is to have Outlook 2016 on the laptop as I get a huge amount of E-mails. It's flawless to swap between the two.

It didn't take long to get used to the small keyboard and also to remember to close programs when I've used them and to not have too many tabs open in the browser. Before I had to travel with a laptop bag, now I can just put the Surface Go and the mouse in my handbag.

For me the Surface Go was worth every penny though I wouldn't advise anyone to buy the version with less RAM and storage.

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Light weight travel laptop

I like all the comments. Only surprised that battery life and charging time got so little attention. Wish you success & a lot of fun with your travel (plans). Dora.

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You can charge the Microsoft Surface Go with either the Microsoft charger you get with the tablet or with a USB C charger. Charging is really quick with the Microsoft charger. Grin

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i saw some really nice hp laptops at walmart for under $300 - and they come with dvd drive - if u are going to be taking pictures a memory card slot is nice to upload your pictures - i have both a laptop and a chrome book - i think the laptop would be nice if it comes with touch screen - and lots of space to upload pictures - i dont think chrome books come with much space

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Why not go simpler?

When I go travelling, I find nothing more reliable that old fashioned notebook paper, and pen/pencil.

I find these to be so much more reliable, than electronics.

I can write anything, at any time, and the paper never complains.

I NEVER receive an "error message", from paper and pen/pencil.

It works for me!

Why not TRY it.

Best of luck, in your travels.

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Doesn't work so well when you have to communicate with clients/colleagues. Could take weeks before a letter reaches them...

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Chromebook or buget PC

I have a chrome book which is great does everything I want although there is NO windows 10 but I highly recommend it.
I also have a HP cheapee and it is the biggest piece of garbage ever to be on the market. I do not recommend any one to purchase this brand or pay a little extra for another name. The HP is similar to the commodore 64 really bad.

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I would use my iPad

I have a mini iPad, perfect to bring on a trip. It is lightweight, takes up little space and works well with both news and entertainment apps, better than my little smartphone.

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Neither a Chromebook nor a budget PC

Neither one. Why? The capabilities of a Chormebook are limited. A budget PC laptop is not well made and is less likely to withstand the bump and grind of travel.

My travel laptop? Well, I don't want to take my best laptop, so I take my elderly Thinkpad X201 with a decent processor, 8GB of memory, tricked out with a 128GB SSD. It is lightweight, compact, sturdy, fast enough and rock-solid reliable. If need be, I can do any work-related task if I have to.

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