My wife is looking to get a cheap laptop meaning sub $500 that will allow her to use Microsoft Word for work purposes. We have a Mac Mini at home now but she uses a PC at work so I kind of wanted to get her a cheap laptop just to be able to use the same version of Word when she occasionally works from home. I have never owned a PC and don't know much about them and what is needed to run word and browse the web without being a slug.
Can a Chromebook run Microsoft Word? Or are there better alternative for a sub $500 price that can do the few things mentioned?
I've bolded the significant requirement in your post.
Chromebooks are not viable for the purpose of using the same version of MS Word that she uses at work. The online version of MS Office is a nice alternative to Google Docs but it is nowhere near viable for the purpose you stated. Custom/private fonts cannot be installed on a Chromebook so any documents with non-Chromebook fonts will not display correctly. Font substitution works fairly well (using a different font that IS available to use for display) but not always 100% accurate.
Modifying those files on a chromebook is possible. MS Office online preserves formatting very well, but attempting to do anything beyond simple text entry will be quite cumbersome, if not impossible with that version of Word.
Most sub-$500 Windows notebooks are pretty much indentical in quality and functionality. A few things to consider....
- No less than 4GB RAM.
- No less than 64GB storage. I've owned a few notebooks with 32GB and 16GB storage and they are pretty much worthless for anything other than web browsing. After formatting, recovery partition, and Windows itself, a 32GB system will have around 14GB free. After the various system updates are completed, that number drops below 10GB. Add more space for swap and things are very, very tight.
- Screen size. One thing to consider with screen size is where and how will she use this device? If portability is a requirement, then a 12-13" notebook should be ok. I have 11.6" macbook Air, Acer R11 chromebook, and a Dell 11.6" Inspiron windows. They're VERY portable and work fine, but can sometimes feel cramped with working on documents. For a general purpose notebook, I'd recommend a 14".
- Trackpad. For windows notebooks, a trackpad can make or break the experience, IMO.
Whatever the device you are considering, try to see it in person and get even a few minutes to kick the tires on the keyboard, trackpad, and performance.