Switching from Macbook to Chromebook for savings


I’d put money on the “fact” that 10 years from now, most everyone will be using a computer that operates mostly on the cloud.  So why not go ahead and make the switch now?

Using a cloud based computer like a Chromebook saves about $1,800 every 10 years versus using a baseline Macbook Pro.  Sure, there are a few little bumps for early adopters, but there are also some nice benefits too (not worrying about backups for example), and things will continue to get better.


My wife and I both recently traded in our 6 to 8 year old Apple computers (Macbook and iMac) for Chromebooks.  Both of our computers were in desperate need of a tune-up / upgrade, and instead of paying for the upgrade, we decided to try Chromebooks.

For anyone not familiar with Chromebooks, they are essentially a browser in a box, and they are much cheaper than normal laptops.  Some people compare them to phones with keyboards. Google entered the laptop market with Chromebooks because they figured that 99% of what most people need personal computers for can be done on the web through a browser, which is why they have very small local hard drives and a lot less software (and also why they cost a lot less money).  The big catch, however, is that they always need to be connected to wifi to work.

Being a true Apple loyalist, I wasn’t sure if the Chromebook would actually be a worthwhile investment, so like any good husband, I ordered one for my wife first.  This is sort of a joke because she really only needed the functionality of a Chromebook anyway, as long as we still had a more powerful machine around for the heavy-lifting.  Plus she really wanted to move to a laptop, regardless of horsepower.

So we sold her iMac for $200 on craigslist and bought an Acer C720 Chromebook for exactly the same price on Amazon.  This is actually the number 1 bestselling laptop computer on Amazon right now.  The crazy thing to me about this deal was that it felt like her iMac was essentially free because we were able to sell it for an equal, if not better, performing laptop after a full 8 years of use.

After two weeks of experimentation with the her Acer computer, I decided to do exactly the same thing with my 6-year-old Macbook.  I sold it on craigslist for $300 and bought a Samsung Chromebook 2 with the proceeds. Again, I felt sort of giddy about having 6 free years of Macbook use only to trade it in for a brand spankin’ new Chromebook.

So that is why I decided to write about the ROI of choosing Chromebooks versus Macbooks for a personal computer.  I’ll give a little more granular review of my experience so far after the numbers.

The numbers

  • 10-Year NPV: $1,776
  • 10-Year ROI: 128%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.2 years
roi chart - chromebook instead of macbook
finally an interesting chart

So according to a few key assumptions, I’m estimating that buying Chromebooks instead of Macbooks (Macbook Pro these days) will save the average person about $1,800 every ten years. Not a ton, but this is an easy budget item, and I personally think it comes with a lot of other benefits.  However, when you start talking about families, multiply that number by 3 or 4 and the savings seem a little bit more impressive.

How did I come up with these numbers?  For the Chromebook scenario, I assumed that it would need to get replaced every 3 years at a cost of $250 plus a $2.00 per month cloud storage fee starting in year 3 (it is free for two years with a new Chromebook).

I’m hoping mine lasts longer, but it is obviously not going to have the lifespan of my 2 previous Macbooks.  For the Macbook scenario, I used my personal history as a base case, assuming that replacements would be required about every 6 years for a cost of $1,200 plus some sort of cloud backup every year at an average of $24 per year.

The convenient thing about these assumptions is that it works out that at year 10, both scenarios will have been paid for in equal proportions.  In other words, the next schedule purchase for both the Chromebook and Macbook would be year 13, so we really are comparing apples to apples here from a timing perspective.

Basically a review of the Chromebook

I’m going to keep it simple and do pro’s and con’s…


  • Cheap
  • Light
  • No need to back data up as it is on the cloud
  • Automatic updates and virus protection (very little local data to “corrupt”)
  • Less worried about theft / damage (less financial liability)
  • Replacing more often is easier and maybe more beneficial on new technology front
  • Free 100GB cloud storage for 2 years


  • Slower than my old Macbook, just enough to be noticeable (seems like RAM or processor issue)
  • Not built as solidly
  • A few OS glitches such as messed up screenshots (have you noticed??)
  • Web apps not always as good as normal software (Spotify, for example)
  • File browser could be improved (no back arrow for example)


  • Keyboard takes some getting used to
  • Can’t handle as many file types (certain movie files for example)
  • Can still download torrents apparently
  • Need to be in range of wifi usually (I basically never used my old computer when wifi was down anyway).

So yeah, that’s a basic rundown of things.  I’m not too worried about the OS issues as this is still a pretty young technology and they’ll push updates out regularly as more people adopt it.  Same goes for web app availability and file type issues etc.  Plus, replacing more frequently means more opportunities for the technology to catch up even more.

I’m a really big fan of the decision overall and will likely always be a Chromebook owner, or at least for the next 10 years.  I think the cloud model is the way of the future and I like the simplicity of it all.  Am I a little worried / annoyed to have all my data and such under one corporate roof?  Sure, but it’s not a huge problem, and can actually be sort of convenient at times.  If it is a problem, I can always pay a little more for diversity with sites like dropbox.

The processor speed / ram issue is probably my main concern, but it really isn’t that bad.  It just means I can’t have a bunch of heavy websites open all at once.  No big deal.  And again, Google might figure a way to help streamline the browsing experience more.  They’ve already figured out how to build the best, fastest, and lightest browser in my opinion.

This also fits in well with the general theme of living on the trailing end of luxury.  The fact that we were able to buy completely new computers for the resale value of our old ones amazes me.  Technology gets cheaper, especially yesterday’s technology and with paradigm shifts such as netbooks / Chromebooks.  Being willing to deal with a little steeper learning curve, a few small glitches, or a slightly less shiny computer than most people means significantly less expensive tech purchases and more money for the things you love (family, travel, independence, etc.).

old light bulb
sometimes, last year’s technology even becomes trendy

So that’s how we live now on the digital front.  It’s not for everyone (thinking of musicians, programmers, quantitative academic types, anybody who uses software outside of a browser and media player), but it works for us!

For those considering the switch, I would definitely say the Acer is the better value of the two. The Samsung is a better computer, but not in enough ways to justify the extra $100.  There are others available on Amazon too, but I haven’t tested those.

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