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Chromebook vs Windows 10 S-mode: which laptop to buy on Prime Day?

Chromebook Vs. Windows 10 S-Mode Laptops: Which Is Right For You
(Image credit: CC Photo Labs | Wachiwit / Shutterstock)
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With Amazon Prime Day deals dropping on June 21 into June 22, we're going to see a lot of Prime Day laptop deals dropping that are going to be absolute must-grabs. But if you're in the market for one of these laptops, it might be hard to pick between a Chromebook and a Windows 10 S-mode laptop, or even to know which one is best for your needs.

There are some real differences between the two kinds of systems and each has its advantages and drawbacks. And while they will be going head to head on Amazon Prime Day, especially in terms of price, it's important to consider which is right for your specific needs rather than go for whichever is cheapest.

For many Windows users, a Windows 10 S-mode laptop probably sounds like a better fit than a Chromebook, which they might not have ever used before. But the "Windows 10" label could be misleading for some who might have been better off going with a Chromebook than a Windows 10 S-mode laptop that doesn't have the kinds of features and functionality that they might have been expecting.

Meanwhile, if you are new to Chromebooks - especially if you are coming from a Windows laptop or MacBook - you might find Chrome OS to be very underwhelming, and with most of it's functionality being reliant on a good internet connection, you might not find Chromebooks to be functional enough for your needs. 

So as you cull through all the deals on Amazon Prime Day, we're here to help break down the strength, weaknesses, and differences between the two so you can buy the best cheap laptop for your situation.

Asus Chromebook Flip C214

(Image credit: Asus)

Chromebooks are built from the ground up to be lightweight and affordable 

Both Chromebooks and Windows 10 S-mode laptops are generally lightweight, portable devices that you can throw in a bag and tote around with you during the day. And while both will get the job done when it comes to lightweight computing tasks, Chromebooks are built from the ground up specifically for this purpose.

While you can find some super premium Chromebooks out there running very powerful hardware, Chrome OS was designed to run on lower-end machines by streamlining its resource usage. Loading up on RAM might let you open a whole lot more Chrome tabs, but Chrome OS is already super efficient, so you end up getting the full experience even on the slimmest specs out there.

What's more, because Chrome OS was initially designed around low-end hardware, it has seamlessly expanded to include the entire Android app ecosystem through Google Play. There are still some growing pains there, since most Android apps are built around a mobile touchscreen UI rather than a traditional laptop. The Android marketplace is the largest in the world, though, so you're definitely not going to run out of apps to play with.

The other thing Chromebooks are designed around is a good internet connection. Chromebooks were meant to take advantage of cloud computing services like Google Docs, Sheets, and Stadia, rather than locally installed software. And while you can install plenty of software, these are overwhelmingly mobile apps, so you might not find them as feature-rich as you need.

Windows 10

(Image credit: Future)
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Acer Chromebook R 11 $299 $200 at Amazon
(opens in new tab)The Acer Chromebook R 11 isn't just packed with a respectable Intel Celeron chip, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC RAM, but it also flips inside out, so you can use it as a tablet. The kicker: you can save 33% on Amazon Prime Day. 


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Lenovo Chromebook S330 $289 $145 at Amazon
(opens in new tab)The Lenovo Chromebook S330 features fast hardware (for a Chromebook) and a beautiful chassis, all at a reasonable price. And, for Amazon Prime Day, that price is even more reasonable – you can score a whopping 50% off.


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Asus Chromebook C423NA $269 $245 on Amazon
(opens in new tab)In our mind, the best Chromebooks deliver reliable performance with an approachable price tag. And, on Amazon Prime Day, the Asus Chromebook C423NA delivers on all fronts with a cool 10% off. Stock is running out fast on this deal.


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Acer Chromebook 15 CB515 $399 $369 at Amazon
(opens in new tab)The Acer Chromebook 15 CB515 isn't the most powerful laptop on the market, but it doesn't need to be. It's powerful enough to get through pretty much everything the Chrome browser can do, which is all you need out of a Chromebook. And, that $50 discount helps. Stock is running out fast on this deal.


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Asus Chromebook Flip C101PA £349.99 £274.79 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Amazon Prime Day is always a great time to buy a Chromebook as this deal demonstrates. You get a fantastic £75 price cut that makes this an even more affordable 2-in-1 device that can be used as a tablet or laptop. It only has 16GB of storage space, though, so you'll need to make use of Google Drive.

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Asus Chromebook C223NA £199 £129.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This is another brilliant Amazon Prime Day deal on a Chromebook. With 32GB storage, 4GB of RAM and an Intel Celeron processor, this is a well-specced Chromebook that will run Chrome OS and its apps smoothly. The 11.6-inch HD screen is also a delight to work on.


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Dell Chromebook 11 3000 £199 £149.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Amazon Prime Day continues to bring the goods when it comes to Chromebook deals, and Dell's 11.6-inch model is one of the best. With £50 off, you're getting a lovely-designed Chrome OS machine with decent specs (though the 16GB storage is a bit on the slim side).


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HP Chromebook 11-v001na £187.81 £139.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This slimline Chromebook offers 12.45 hours of battery life, along with a stylish design that proves that Chromebooks can be just as attractive as other laptops. Its 11.6-inch screen is large enough to work on without making it too large to carry around.


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Asus Chromebook C223NA £229.99 £129.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Prime Day is one of the best days outside of Black Friday (opens in new tab) to grab a Chromebook, and Asus' excellent device is now even more affordable thanks to a £100 price cut. With an Intel Celeron N3350 CPU and 4GB or RAM powering Chrome OS, this is a great laptop for students.


Windows 10 S-mode brings a familiar experience while staying affordable

It isn't entirely fair to say that Windows 10 S-mode is a stripped down version of Windows 10, but in practice, this is essentially what a user is going to find. 

In terms of the UI, Windows 10 S-mode laptops look and feel a lot like more powerful, full-feature Windows 10 laptops that cost a whole lot more money. The Start Menu, desktop, notification center, taskbar, and more are essentially unchanged in Windows 10 S-mode, which for many users is going to be a major selling point. Learning a whole new operating system, even if it's as intuitive as Chrome OS, might be a real stumbling block.

To find the real difference between Windows 10 S-mode and Windows 10, you'll have to dig a bit deeper than the UI. There are a lot of Windows apps that won't work in S-mode, including some of the more popular ones like Steam, Adobe Photoshop, and Google Chrome. 

The only apps you can run in S-mode are the ones downloadable from the Windows Store, and while there aren't exactly digital tumbleweeds rolling through it, the Windows Store isn't nearly as popular as the Google or Apple marketplaces.

Windows 10 S-mode is also a reduced version of Windows 10, so while this makes it familiar for many, it also means it wasn't really designed from the beginning to run on low-end hardware the way Chrome OS was. Windows 10 S-mode still runs just fine on that hardware, it just doesn't run as well as Chrome OS does.

Chromebook

(Image credit: Konstantin Savusia / Shutterstock)

Chromebooks vs Windows 10 S-mode laptops: which one should you buy?

If you're choosing between a Chromebook and a Windows 10 S-mode laptop this Prime Day and aren't sure which one is the better fit, the best thing to do is consider how you plan on using it and how comfortable you are with computers generally.

If you plan to spend most of your time online, either web browsing, video streaming, or working with cloud apps, then a Chromebook is definitely something you should consider. If you've never used one before, but are comfortable with learning a new operating system and interface, then you really can't go wrong here. Chromebooks are built for exactly this kind of computing so you're generally going to see better performance in your day to day use.

If you don't plan on spending a lot of time online though - or you're just more comfortable with a Windows environment - then a Windows 10 S-mode laptop can give you a more traditional laptop experience than a Chromebook, including more traditional, full-feature software through the Windows Store. 

That said, since Windows 10 S-mode wasn't built around lower-end hardware - it's more that Windows 10 was modified to run on it - your experience is going to be a lot more dependent on the quality of the hardware than it would be with a Chromebook, and you still might find the overall performance somewhat lacking.

Either way, whether you go with a Chromebook or a Windows 10 S-mode laptop on Amazon Prime Day, you're sure to find plenty of great deals no matter which one you choose.

TechRadar is rounding up all the top deals over the Prime Day sales period, and we’ve put all the best Prime Day deals in an easy-to-navigate article to help you find the bargains you’re looking for.

John Loeffler
Computing Editor

John (He/Him) is the US Computing Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 


Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.


You can find him online on Twitter at @thisdotjohn


Currently playing: The Last Stand: Aftermath, Cartel Tycoon