How do you choose between Windows 10 S, the stripped-down version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system, and Chrome OS, Google’s web equivalent, two OS that target the low-budget laptop market? Here are some elements of comparison.
With the launch in 2017 of Windows 10 S, Microsoft clearly attacked Google’s Chrome OS system, which dominates the low-budget laptop market. The Redmond firm therefore had to prove that it could also offer a good experience with a simplified system. But how to choose today between these two now well established OS?
What is Windows 10 S?
Windows 10 S is the lite version of Windows 10 from Microsoft. The OS is clearly aimed at the education and entry-level machine markets. While Windows 10 is still the base for this version, Windows 10 S has some very specific limitations designed to make the operating system fast, secure, and easy to use. When it was launched, Windows 10 S was only available on Microsoft’s Surface Laptop, but since then it has been running many portable machines from manufacturers like Lenovo, HP, Acer or Asus. These are all entry-level machines, often with accessories like a detachable keyboard, for example.
The missing features
Overall, Windows 10 S looks and behaves like the standard Windows 10 OS. And for Microsoft, it is nothing more than a “specific configuration of Windows 10 Pro offering a familiar and simplified Windows experience, but while ensuring security and performance”. The main difference with its predecessor is that the Windows 10 S environment is locked, which means that users can only download apps from the Windows Store. Microsoft claims that with this lockdown, the environment is more secure as all applications are checked to prevent malicious program from entering the system. But this is not the only reason given by the publisher.
This tight control of the system also helps prevent PCs from slowing down over time, a drop in performance that often results from the accumulation of parasitic files in boot sequences and apps that use up system resources. This lock will not be suitable for users accustomed to downloading software from the Internet. In this case, it is better that they switch to another version of Windows if they want to keep that freedom. On the other hand, Windows 10 S is perfect for education, since the OS allows students to have access to a more closed PC, but more secure and fast, with good working autonomy.
Google’s Chrome OS is also a lightweight system that drives Chromebooks. Compared to Windows 10 S, which remains a traditional PC operating system with local applications installed on the hard drive, Chrome OS uses the Internet as its primary source. Users can download their apps from the Google Play Store just like Android devices. However, the Play Store mostly serves as a storefront for web apps, as Chrome OS does almost everything online. Google’s OS looks a lot like the Chrome browser. It all takes place in browser windows, with the majority of tasks related to servers in the cloud.
Originally it was virtually impossible to use Chrome OS offline, but gradually a number of apps – including Docs, Numbers, Sheets, and other apps from Google – have made it possible for users to work offline, then synchronize with the web servers as soon as they have access to a WiFi point. Windows 10 S is certainly more advanced in terms of file management and design, but the simplicity of Chrome OS can be very appealing to casual users who just want to browse the web or do basic office tasks.
Browsers and search engines
As you might expect, with proprietary systems like these, the choice of browsers and search engines is very limited. Windows 10 S leaves no option other than to use Microsoft’s Edge browser. The same goes for the Bing search engine. Fortunately, in recent years, Edge has become much more functional, especially since Microsoft has added support for a number of extensions, including ad blockers. Edge also integrates some very interesting functions, such as a reading list, voice search with Cortana, a simplified view to facilitate reading web pages and the integration of a pen to be able to annotate a web page with a stylus or the trackpad. .
Chrome OS takes a similar approach, offering the only browser, the Chrome browser. This is not a major drawback, however, as Chrome is now the most popular browser in the world. The Chrome platform is very mature, it has many useful extensions and ensures fast page rendering. Finally, Google’s browser is regularly updated to ensure the proper functioning of the system. Even though Chrome OS does not allow installing another browser, it does leave the user the option to choose another default search engine between Yahoo, Bing, Ask, or AOL. Some are wondering if Chrome’s sheer amount of functionality is starting to slow overall performance, and today Microsoft claims that Edge offers users 45% more battery life than a similar machine running Chrome.
Since the two operating systems only allow apps from their respective app stores, the choices available are slightly different. The Windows Store has some very popular apps, including access to streaming sites like Netflix, Now TV, BT Sport, and Spotify. Office online, Evernote, OneNote, Skype, Adobe Photoshop and Wunderlist (shutdown planned for 2020) constitute a satisfactory productivity offer. Windows 10 S also features a number of games and general lifestyle apps. There are also editing software like Adobe Lightroom. On the other hand, we should not hope for software like Première Pro again. Finally, Windows 10 S even contains an iTunes application, which will continue to be supported despite its discontinuation by Apple from MacOS Catalina. Windows 10 S certainly doesn’t provide access to the huge choice of software that the traditional Windows version has to offer, but for browsing, online shopping, and light tasks, the stripped-down OS offers plenty of options.
By comparison, Chrome OS has gradually built up a solid selection of apps on the Google Play Store, and many of the streaming and productivity apps mentioned above are also accessible in Chrome OS. Keep in mind, however, that Chromebooks are primarily designed to work online, and the need for local apps is less important. Because of this, Windows 10 S can also access many of the same web apps that are used in Chrome OS. A nice addition to Chrome OS is the ability to run Android apps locally on some newer machines, which opens up a number of possibilities.
In general, Chromebooks are inexpensive machines, averaging $ 150-500 in price, and they perform well. There are both very compact machines like the Asus Flip, and larger machines like the Acer Chromebook 14, with a large 14-inch screen and a large keyboard. We even find in the range of Pixelbooks from Google, a high-end i7 machine, the price of which exceeds 1000 euros … But, it seems difficult to justify such an expense for a Chromebook. Fortunately, there is also a more economical Pixelbook Go version. Because of their low cost and acceptable productivity, Chromebooks have found their way into schools, and have appealed to children and casual users alike. They are also excellent machines for browsing the Internet and for shopping online. In addition, they are ready for use and do not require any intervention on the part of the users.
Several machines also run with Windows 10 S, and first and foremost Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3. But if your budget is limited, there’s plenty to choose from: manufacturers HP, Acer and Lenovo all offer portable Windows 10 S machines for less than $ 300. In terms of price, therefore, they are in direct competition with mid-range Chromebooks.
The best solution ?
Probably the choice between the two systems will depend more on personal preference. The idea behind Windows 10 S is interesting: Microsoft has relied on the world’s most popular desktop operating system to deliver a limited, but even more secure and stable system. Certainly, in the long run, these limitations could annoy Windows fans. If Windows 10 S apps are enough for you, and you don’t mind using just Edge to browse the Internet, then the simple and enjoyable Windows 10 S OS might be enough for you.
In terms of advantages, Chrome OS is almost equivalent: Google’s OS is easy to use, it runs on inexpensive devices, and provides access to many applications. In addition, it is very well integrated with Google programs, which could represent a decisive advantage for some. Access to the Play Store is a good thing, except that, in reality, these mobile apps aren’t optimized for the big screen. Ultimately, if you want a lean operating system that can do basic tasks, shop online, and watch YouTube and loads of other internet content, then either view will do the trick. The main thing is perhaps to know which environment you prefer: that of Google or that of Microsoft?