As we approach the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the first Apple iPad, we thought we’d weigh in on a popular topic of discussion – the Chromebook versus iPad debate. For a few years now, many school districts in particular have attempted to save a little money by purchasing a Chromebook for each student, rather than purchasing iPads. After all, aren’t they really the same? Doesn’t the lower cost make the Chromebook an obvious choice? Surely Google Docs and Pages do the same things, and surely Chrome OS and iOS (now iPad OS) aren’t that different, right?
In a time when engaging students is more important than ever, and in a time where every resource must be maximized to the hilt, it would seem important to settle this question once and for all, and that’s exactly what TTJ is going to do.
The Mystique of the ChromeBook
Before we dive in deeply to our rebuttal to all those advocating Chromebooks, it would seem reasonable to give credit where credit is due, or at the very least, to acknowledge the likely reasons why Chromebooks have become so popular, especially among educators. As much as I am a self-proclaimed Apple fanboy who would, in a heartbeat, run out and purchase Apple-branded toothpaste and bologna, if such products existed, I will admit that the Chromebook has done its part to climb to its current status. The major perceived benefit is the combination of price and features, and I am talking about very specific, very targeted features. When you think about education, you often think about students who might toss their devices into a book bag, accidentally drop them on the floor or spill drinks on them, and a general lack of concern over the wellbeing of such devices. Chromebooks tend to be designed with these very ideas in mind, because they are typically built with a rugged design, where the physical protection is built right in. Additionally, Chromebooks typically have built-in, mechanical keyboards, so this again fits the commonly held ideals regarding what students might want to do with their Chromebooks on a daily basis. Since Chromebooks often have lower starting price points than iPads, they already get some automatic kudos from school districts who have no choice but to be extremely budget-conscious. Then, combine this with the fact that Chromebooks will usually not require the purchase of additional cases, let alone keyboards, and you save even more up-front cost. Now, take that already attractive package, and couple it with the perfect, or seemingly perfect, combination of apps, like Google Docs, Google Slides, Chrome Browser, Hangouts, and a couple others, and you might think that the Chromebook has this one locked up – an obvious win.
The real truth however, is somewhat of a contrast from what at first seems to be a clear answer. As you read on, the ten reasons we’ve chosen should demonstrate clearly that the Chromebook is not even in the same league as the iPad. It is an astronomically weaker, sub-par attempt to rival something which has not gotten its status handed to it on a silver platter because of the Apple name as some might mistakingly believe, but which has rather earned its status through year after year of solid improvements, high performance, and consistently coming out on top. We will show in this post, that the Chromebook is really nothing more than the Netbooks of yesteryear which faded into oblivion by just cause, and that while Chrome OS is the single saving grace of the Chromebook over Netbooks, it should not mean much in the big picture.
The Debacle Called Netbooks
Here at TTJ, we’re not really sure why netbooks were ever invented. Perhaps it was an attempt to bring more affordable laptops to market. We don’t know. Whatever the reason, the netbook came into popular existence somewhere around 2008. Steve Jobs discussed netbooks at Apple’s introduction of the original iPad, telling the audience that the netbook, wasn’t better at anything, that it had low quality displays, subpar graphics and power, and ran, “clunky old PC software”. For these reasons, netbooks failed to impress in even the most charitable estimations, and as stated previously, they quickly became defunct.
As one begins to look at the specs of most Chromebooks, the mind is quickly brought back to those netbook days, and why? Because the specs look strikingly similar. Chromebooks tend to have low-end processors and minimal memory, which, even according to manufacturer descriptions, are designed for basic multi-tasking and lightweight graphics uses. Oh and speaking of graphics, Chromebook displays just aren’t that great. There’s no other way of saying it. The higher-end Chromebooks sometimes may have larger displays with slightly better specs, but they still fail to even come close to the display quality of even an entry-level iPad. And while some might attempt to make the argument that a Chromebook display is more than enough to suffice in an education setting where students are expected to remain on task doing homework and taking notes – not playing Fortnight or watching movies, even this reasoning is flawed, because numerous apps designed specifically for students and educators, will look vastly better on an iPad display than on a Chromebook display, but then again, the vast majority of such apps is not even available for most Chromebooks, – another bone of contention.
The single differentiating factor between todays Chromebooks and yesterdays netbooks, would seem to be the use of Chrome OS, which undoubtedly provides a better experience than using any version of Windows. In every area where Windows fails, Chrome OS succeeds by leaps and bounds. It’s more secure, it’s always up-to-date, virus protection is built right in, there are no driver compatibility issues, and it requires minimal maintenance. So if given the choice between using, say, Windows 10 and the latest version of Chrome OS, any reasonable person would instantly choose Chrome OS…or would they?
The problem with Chrome OS is that by nature, it is a browser-based, web operating system. It lacks numerous frameworks that would enable much-needed functionality and features. It works with its core set of apps, like the ones mentioned above, and a few others, but by and large, it falls short of packing any real punch when it comes to software. Unlike Apple, who seems to have an almost exclusive knack for creating systems that are so simple and yet so powerful, Google it seems, has succeeded with the simple, but at the tremendous cost of any real power or functionality.
But what, you might ask, about those touch screen Chromebooks that can also run Android apps? Well, here at TTJ, we don’t feel that Android is any match for Apple’s iPad OS software, and we also feel that Android software is extremely fragmented, being different for almost every manufacturer. Yet even if you disagree with us on those two points, what cannot be ignored is that Android support on Chromebooks is limited. Not all Android apps can even be installed on Chromebooks, even if they do claim to support Android apps, and often times, when Android apps are running on Chromebooks, they do not look proper, depending on the orientation of the Chromebook. So it is not at all untrue to say that the software features of Chromebooks are quite lackluster. Read on to see our specific list of iPad advantages and our conclusion. We will compare the current entry-level iPad Seventh Generation with common Chromebooks by Acer, Lenovo, HP, and more, with a particular emphasis on the Acer Spin 11 model.
Advantage One: Displays:
As we discussed above, display quality and graphics performance on iPads far exceed that of most Chromebooks. Let’s just look at the so-called entry-level iPad, the Seventh Generation iPad. It features a 10.2 inch display with a resolution of 2160 by 1620 at 264 Pixels Per Inch. This stunning display, though not the best one Apple makes, is good enough to earn it the title of Retina Display – a display in which the pixels are packed so densely that they are not even noticeable to the human eye. In contrast, the 11.6 inch display on the Acer Spin has a resolution of just 1366 by 768. This display does not even begin to compare to that of the iPad. As you move up through the iPad product line, you get even better displays. For example, the iPad Air adds a fully laminated, TrueTone display with an anti reflective coating. The iPad Pro has all these features, plus Promotion technology on a Liquid Retina Display – the closest an LED will likely ever get to being truly edge-to-edge. plus, these displays are 11 and 12.9 inch displays. Yet just take the entry iPad versus the Chromebook, and you can instantly see that the iPad’s display will far surpass that of the Chromebook. In contrast, even more expensive Chromebooks with larger displays still do not offer display quality that even comes close to the iPad, with the best we’ve seen being standard HD resolution of 1920 by 1080 on a 14 inch display.
Advantage Two: Processing Power:
Just as with the displays, the processors on the Seventh Gen iPad are far more impressive than those on Chromebooks. Again, the iPad Seventh Generation does not offer the very best processor available, with that honor being reserved for the iPad Pro, but still, the Seventh Gen iPad’s A10 Fusion processor provides truly desktop-class processing power. It’s capable of running professional design, video editing, and other intense apps, including Adobe Photoshop, graphics-rich games, and more. Apple takes very specific steps to ensure that their devices run well, maximizing every ounce of power they can with processors, storage, memory, and more, not to mention providing a separate Motion CoProcessor to further enhance performance. The Celeron processor on the Acer Spin 11, running at just 1.1GHZ, is not even a close second. Trust us when we say it, Celerons are low-end, bargain basement processors, while Apple is using top-of-the-line technology in its devices. Google it if you don’t believe us. You will find that even the reviewers who overall prefer Chromebooks, still cannot deny the vast difference between the processors on Chromebooks and those on iPads. It’s not even a close race.
Advantage Three: Integration:
Because Apple makes every aspect of its devices from start to finish, there is a deeper level of integration than will ever be seen on a Chromebook device. Hardware can be designed to enable special software features, while software can be tweaked to squeeze every ounce of power and efficiency out of the hardware. This interplay creates a sort of symbiotic relationship that can never be achieved on other platforms – one that affects every area of the user interface, battery life, graphics performance, and much, much more.
Advantage Four: Apps:
As previously stated, due to the impressive hardware in the iPad, the types of apps that can be installed and successfully used on the iPad are nothing less than astounding. And thanks to Apple’s App Store, you’ll find more than a million apps specifically designed to take advantage of everything the iPad has to offer, including its large, beautiful display. Contrast this with an extremely limited list of Chrome OS apps, and an underwhelming implementation of already fragmented Android apps that may or may not function due to the design of the Chrome hardware, and you’ll surely see how the iPad is once again a clear winner in this category. With Apple devices, you can certainly do all the basic things you might want to do, such as keeping track of appointments and reminders, notes and email, and much more, but you can also create and edit professional video and audio projects, perform advanced photo editing and graphic design, and much more. With iPad, there is virtually no limit as to what can be done, but it’s all provided to you in a secure environment, thanks to the App Store. You won’t have to worry about viruses, spyware, or other negative impacts of installing and using your favorite apps. Everything truly just works.
Advantage Five: Cameras:
The Chromebook offers a front-facing camera, which, according to the manufacturer description, is targeted for video chatting. It is not even clear to me, as of the writing of this article, exactly what the quality of that camera is. By contrast, the iPad features two cameras. The rear camera is an 8MP camera which is capable of taking Live Photo’s, Time Laps and Slow Mo videos, panoramic shots, 1080P HD videos, and more. Move up to the iPad Pro for even better cameras, but still, you’ll not have any issues trying to use the iPad’s rear cameras for serious education tasks. Even the front-facing camera on the iPad offers Retina Flash, along with many of the same features as the rear camera.
Advantage Six: Drawing:
Most Chromebooks do not even come with any kind of drawing tool. Believe it or not, we actually chose a Chromebook that does come with a stylus, but it’s reviews are mixed at best. A basic stylus should definitely enhance the use of the Chromebook to some degree, but issues of lag and other problems don’t seem to be entirely uncommon with this device. The iPad supports the Apple Pencil and the Logitech Crayon. Both are high-functioning, powerful writing and drawing devices, which feature palm rejection, very low latency, and support for true handwriting as well as drawing. Once again, we’re in a whole different league here with the iPad. True, the Apple Pencil or Logitech Crayon must be purchased separately, but they also give you the best writing and drawing experience available.
Advantage Seven: Connectivity:
All Chromebooks do seem to include built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and the Acer Spin 11 is no exception. The comparable iPad model also includes the same. However, for a small additional fee, the iPad can be enhanced with Cellular capability and GPS hardware. This means that now, the iPad has the option, though not the requirement, of being connected to a cellular data plan, so the user can literally go anywhere and use the iPad online, even without Wi-Fi. Additionally, thanks to the embedded GPS chip, the iPad Wi-Fi Plus Cellular models can be used for voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions in Apple Maps and other mapping apps. Try doing that with a Chromebook.
Advantage Eight: Portability:
For all its cost-saving promise, which only happens if the retailer decides to discount it (it’s actually got an MSRP that’s a few bucks higher than our chosen iPad), the Chromebook weighs 3.09 LBS. The iPad? Just 1.07 LBS, or 1.09 with cellular capability. You don’t have to be a high-level mathematician to see that that’s a monumental difference.
Advantage Nine: Augmented Reality:
Thanks to the technology in the iPad, you can use numerous AR apps which can greatly enhance education. With the right apps installed, students can use their iPads to dissect a frog, launch a rocket, view wild life, take tours of museums, and much, much more. And let’s not underestimate personal and business uses for AR. This certainly is not limited to education by any means. Chromebooks offer nothing even close to this technology.
Advantage Ten: Keyboard Options:
Ok, we get it. Chromebooks have built-in keyboards. Some even have the ability to convert into tablets, like our chosen Spin 11. We know that no matter what we say, some folks will see this as a major, if not critical, advantage. We strongly disagree. First of all, the on-screen keyboards on iPads are full sized in Landscape mode, and truly are a pleasure to type on. But, we also recognize that there are some tasks that are best suited for more traditional, mechanical keyboards. Since iPads do not automatically come with built-in or included keyboards, we actually see this as an advantage – a chance to make your own decisions. For example, you could choose something like the Apple Smart Keyboard, which offers elegant protection, along with a spill-proof keyboard that requires no setup whatsoever and offers convenient viewing angles. You could choose a more rugged option like the Logitech Ruggid Combo or Slim Folio. You could also choose a simple case without a built-in or attached keyboard, then go with something like the Belkin Wired Keyboard, or any one of a number of Bluetooth options. Each keyboard option is going to offer its own unique typing feel and set of features. This gives you ultimate flexibility.
Above we have presented ten specific advantages to the iPad over the Chromebook. We could have gone farther. We could have talked about the fact that every iPad includes Siri, while Google Assistant may have to be installed manually. We could have discussed the wealth of accessibility features available in every Apple device, such as Voiceover, Zoom, Assistive Touch, and many others. We could have taken our app discussion far beyond what we did. We also could have described Apple’s iCloud features and services, as well as other services like Apple Music, Apple News Plus, AppleTV Plus, Apple Arcade, and more, which are far more pleasant to use and work with than their Google equivalents, where such equivalents exist or will function on a Chromebook. We could have gone into great detail about Apple Classroom features, interactive digital books, Smart Annotations in Pages documents, collaboration tools, and much more. And, we could have pointed out that even with all these added advantages, our chosen iPad actually has a lower MSRP than our selected Chromebook. Both units are often available with further discounts. Sure, you may need a couple of extra accessories with your iPad that are already included as part of the Chromebook, but we feel this is actually a positive, not a negative. We should also point out the obvious – that not all our readers are students or teachers, and that even among educators and students, circumstances may require some people to use their devices for non-educational tasks, even if they were initially purchased for that purpose. With the iPad, you are going to have far greater possibilities in this area. Whether you want to order a pizza and watch a movie, keep your grocery list, cook in the kitchen, run your business, become a DJ or blogger, or just about anything else, you’re going to have a far easier time doing it on an iPad, while you may not even be able to do it at all on a Chromebook.
Additionally, while both systems do include built-in security and virus protection tools, these are far more reliable on an iPad than on a Chromebook, and because of the far better processing power and graphics on the iPad, yes, you’ll have a much more pleasant experience trying to play Fortnight on an iPad, but it also means that your iPad should last for many years to come, through multiple iPad OS software updates. The, “It just works”, experience that is offered by the iPad is truly unmatched and unrivaled by any competitor, including the Chromebook. Try an iPad for yourself. Spend a little time with it. We don’t believe you’ll ever want to use anything else.