There’s a mini Apple Store, a mini-Microsoft Store, and even a mini-Samsung Store. Sitting just feet away from Apple’s newly re-minted and re-priced $899 MacBook Air was a Samsung Chromebook for $249; a full $650 less. Who would buy such a cheap notebook and why?
Because Less Is More (maybe)
A Chromebook, whether made by Samsung or any other manufacturer, is a very limited device. But side-by-side (or, nearby) to a Mac, it looks and feels like a MacBook.
Visual differences and price tag aside, there are huge differences inside a Chromebook vs. inside a MacBook Air.
Screens, for example, are comparable in size; in this case both sporting 11.6-inch diagonally measured screens.
The MacBook Air screen looks better, with sharper color, and more visibility from the sides than the Samsung model.
The Chromebook comes with only 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of SSD storage, vs. the MacBook Air’s 4GB RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage. Chromebook users, out of necessity and design, will store files online (while Google searches through the files to learn about the user’s habits).
Both Chromebook and MacBook Air come with Wi-Fi, USB ports, integrated graphics, and weigh within ounces of the same. Even screen resolution is the same.
The Chromebook gets about six hours of battery life and the MacBook Air about nine hours.
Different Strokes, Different Folks
It’s easy then, to ask two very different questions. One, ‘Why would anyone buy a Chromebook?‘ And, two, ‘Why would you buy a Mac when a Chromebook is less than one third the price?‘
The answer is in the usage requirements and capabilities of each device. Chromebooks don’t run Windows or Windows apps. They run what are laughingly called web apps; essentially little apps that would run inside a web browser tab. No Photoshop. No Microsoft Office.
The MacBook Air, of course, runs everything. OS X Mavericks and all the apps made for a Mac. It even runs Windows and all the apps made for Windows PCs (as well as any flavor of Linux and most flavors of Unix).
The Samsung Chromebook I looked at also came with a wireless cellphone data connection, which isn’t available from Apple on the Mac lineup.
Based on my personal survey, Chromebooks are popping up all over, and most are priced from $200 to $600 (with a few outliers beyond that), still far below the price tag of a Mac. Most people probably don’t need all that a Windows PC notebook or a MacBook provides.
If all you require is email, web browser, music and video, and something to edit a few documents here and there, $249 starts to look pretty good. That’s half the price of an iPad Air but with more RAM.
‘How do PC manufacturers stay in business by selling devices with such low price tags?‘ Apple probably makes more in gross profit margin on an average MacBook than the entire retail price of these low end Chromebooks.
Since the MacBook Air is priced to start at $899, now do you know why Apple is the most profitable company on the planet?