So, full disclosure, I’m a Microsoft guy. I make far more money immersing myself into Windows development than I would in developing for any other platform. There’s good reason for this, but that’s a topic for a different article.
What are they?
Windows 10 is a general purpose operating system. You can do just about anything with it. Want to host a personal website? Done. Want to develop for your hobbies? Done. Want to do serious work? Done. Want to play games? Done. Windows 10 is the best iteration of Windows to date and the breadth and depth of usages for Windows 10 is beyond compare.
Android-x86 is an end-user operating system. You can do many things with it, mostly surrounding social interaction, casual gaming, and light business applications. It’s also a pretty good platform for general web activities as Chrome on Android is just as good as Chrome on Windows. What it’s not is a serious OS for developing software or hosting your favorite game server.
If they are so different, why the comparison?
I am limiting this comparison to end-user scenarios: Browsing, casual gaming, and social interaction. I’m also ignoring hardware specifically designed for Android or Windows 10. Instead, I’m using a neutral platform, a Dell Inspiron laptop.
All the formalities aside, let’s get started.
Chrome is available for both operating systems. The experience with Chrome is nearly identical. As far as performance, Chrome on Android seems faster than it does on Windows. This is probably because Chrome does all kinds of funky things on Windows to try to be an operating system inside an operating system. On Android everything is already an OS inside an OS, so Chrome is a lot lighter than it is on Windows. An Universal Windows App version of Chrome would be way better than the current desktop version and would probably trounce Chrome on Android in performance as UWP apps are typically written in C++ or CSharp, both of which are light-years ahead of Java in performance.
Now, I’m only going to compare apps, not websites. Some apps are not available on Windows 10 because their Website performance is so good (generally because the hardware for Windows 10 is 10x faster than Android products). This is a mistake from my perspective, because websites are much harder to develop (if you want to know why, leave a comment and I’ll explain).
The elephant in the room is the respective Facebook apps. Here, there’s no comparison. The Android Facebook app is quite possibly the best app on Android, period. It’s the most fully featured, usable and well thought out app anywhere.
In comparison, the Facebook UWP app absolutely sucks. It’s tempermental, lacks features and sometimes won’t do simple things like showing the notifications. I don’t know if this is intentional, but it sucks.
Facebook has published some interesting apps for managing your Facebook pages and advertising campaigns, but they are only available on Android (maybe iOS, but who cares?).
Next is Twitter. Unlike Facebook, Twitter seems to keep their Android and UWP apps pretty much synced up in both functionality and performance. I suspect they are using a common C++ code base which means it’s a lot easier for them to keep things in sync. It’s also nowhere near as fat as the Facebook app on either platform, but it doesn’t need to be as it’s a much simpler set of functionality.
The final app I’ll compare is IRC Cloud. Wait, I cannot. IRC Cloud doesn’t have a UWP app. Nevermind. This is another case where the Website is seen as the primary channel for usage and thus a stand-alone USP app is ignored.
When it comes to gaming, Windows 10 absolutely trounces Android. There’s simply no comparison. Even limiting yourself to UWP games, they are typically better, more fully featured, and perform better than any equivalent Android app. Just go to the Windows store. The highest rated apps are all games, and for good reason.
From a social perspective, the XBOX apps on Windows and Android echo the gaming experience overall. The XBOX app built into Windows 10 is phenomenal. Every little bit of social interaction available on XBOX is here. You can even broadcast your Windows 10 gaming sessions to your channel, just like you can on the XBOX One. The XBOX One app for Android is essentially a remote control with a few simple features that don’t do much.
Even when Android and Windows both have the same game, the Windows version is typically better. Remember that 10x more powerful hardware thing? That makes a big difference for publishers when deciding what type of games and how to code them. Many, many, many games on Android are built with Unity, and if you build a game with Unity, it’s a no brainer to target UWP, XBOX One, and Android in one fell swoop. Android x86 narrows the gap a bit, but Windows 10’s graphics drivers are so good, that you still get a better gaming experience on Windows 10.
It’s a tie. You really have to decide what your main usage for a computer is to decide which way to go. If browsing the web and reading email is your thing, then you can’t go wrong with either Android or Windows 10. If you want native apps for social media, then Android trounces Windows 10, unless you limit your social media experience to Twitter, at which point it’s a tie. Finally, Windows 10 owns gaming. There’s really nothing else to say about that.
Of course, there’s some philosophical differences when choosing between Windows 10 and Android x86. If you’re a Microsoft Guy, you cannot go wrong with Windows 10. There’s nothing about Android apps that either isn’t matched in a UWP app, or a website. If you have needs beyond those covered here, you’re probably going to be better off with Windows 10.
If you are an Open-Source, or anti-Microsoft Guy, then Android-x86 is for you. You’ll be more than satisfied with the apps available through the Google Play Store, and most really benefit from the faster hardware. If you’re a power user in this category you’ll probably dual boot Android and a more traditional GNU/Linux system such as an Ubuntu variant.
Android-x86 is what Chromebook should have been.