Detachable Chromebooks are better mobile computers than any iPad – .

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Detachable Chromebooks are better mobile computers than any iPad – .


Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority

Some of you might read the title and scoff at the idea that Chromebooks rival any modern iPad. I’ve thought of that before too, before I got familiar with the Lenovo Duet – a Chromebook with a detachable keyboard / trackpad accessory included in the box.

About a week ago, I tried iPadOS 15 on the iPad Air 2020 for the first time. After using the Duet as my primary typewriter, I expected to be blown away. The iPad has a lot to offer on the hardware front, including a still undefeated SoC. And, of course, this particular iPad costs almost three times as much as the Duet once you factor in Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

Still, a few days later, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment. Performing singular tasks like watching a video or browsing social media worked decently on the iPad. However, the experience did not hold up as well in my daily workflow involving a mixture of research, writing and intense multitasking. While there’s no denying that the iPadOS has come a long way, it’s unfortunately still far too restrictive.

Read more: Chromebook Vs iPad – Which One Is Right For You?

On its own, this observation would probably not be very interesting. But considering how fervently Apple is marketing the iPad as the only computer you’ll ever need, it’s surprising that a $ 250 detachable Chromebook outperforms it in so many ways.

Apple will be quick to point out the iPad’s peak performance, its vast library of apps, and its tight overall integration into the ecosystem. But I would say that these metrics alone don’t guarantee a great user experience. Most of us don’t edit photos or manipulate graphics for a living. And in most traditional productivity scenarios, multitasking and versatility are often more important than raw performance. Detachable Chrome OS devices nail the first, even with much inferior hardware. Let me explain.

Why I think Chrome OS is the winner in portable productivity

Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority

Chrome OS: extended display, floating windows, DevTools, Linux applications, it’s all there

The difference between Chrome OS and iPadOS becomes immediately apparent when you plug in a keyboard and trackpad. While iPadOS will only bring up a lone mouse cursor, Chrome OS will go into full desktop mode. The latter allows you to resize individual apps and position them however you see fit. There’s even support for multiple desktops – something Apple actually launched with macOS X Leopard in 2006.
An iPad can run apps side by side, and a third can be inserted temporarily. You can even use the keyboard to navigate the user interface, much to my surprise. But two layouts just don’t offer as much multitasking flexibility as floating windows or multiple tiles, like in some Linux-based window managers. Even the Galaxy Z Fold 3 lets you open three apps at once when unfolded. However, there’s also no vertically split screen in iPadOS, which Chrome OS will allow in tablet mode.

IPadOS multitasking is limited and frustrating, even with the improvements in iOS 15.

Then there is the topic of RAM management. Back in the days when I was using the iPad Air, I found that it constantly refreshed background tasks if I stepped away from the device. Even with probably enough free memory, iPadOS chose to suspend apps and prioritize battery life on standby.
In contrast, Chromebooks go into low power mode at the operating system level, much like Windows or macOS. The downsides are that you can’t play media with the screen off like you can with an iPad – and waking up from that deeper sleep state is a bit slower. But at least it doesn’t disrupt your workflow by constantly flushing background tasks after a short while. Even after hours or days of sleep, Chrome OS restores all running apps, no reloading required.
I could go on and on about how my Chromebook turned out to be less frustrating to use in the span of a single week, but to save time, here’s a quick recap:

  • Multiple user profiles: Chrome OS has dedicated user profiles, similar to Android, Windows, macOS, and even Apple’s tvOS. But with the iPad, there is no such separation. If you share a device with family members, remember to sign out of your personal accounts in Safari and individual apps. The only alternative is that each individual buys their own iPad, which is not ideal.
  • External displays: Apple drew our attention to the Thunderbolt port on the iPad Pro, which has enough bandwidth for 6K resolution. However, you still can’t extend your iPad to an external monitor, just mirror what’s on the screen. Needless to say, Chrome OS doesn’t have such a limitation and can properly expand the desktop to as many screens as the port can handle. Unfortunately, the Duet’s USB port can only handle 1080p 30Hz displays, but newer detachable Chromebooks have a lot more bandwidth.
  • Niche use case: Despite all its power, the iPad is still constrained in many professional workflows. Take web development, for example. Chrome OS brings together the full Chrome browser, packed with DevTools. On top of that, you can install alternative browsers (yes, even Firefox) and developer tools like Visual Studio Code through Linux. With an iPad, you’ll either need a nearby macOS machine for debugging, or you’ll need to look for a third-party app.
  • Price and value: My benchmark Chromebook, the Lenovo Duet, costs just $ 250. Compare that with even the cheapest iPad and you’re already paying almost a hundred dollars more. You’ll also need a keyboard if you want to do some serious work, by the time you flirt with the $ 500 price tag. For less than that, you can get the updated Lenovo Duet 5 with a 13.3-inch OLED display. The HP X2 11 is another detachable Chromebook that just hit the market, although it’s a bit pricey at $ 599. Still, it’s considerably cheaper than the iPad setup I tested.

There were some things on iPadOS that worked well when I was using it. I was impressed with Safari, which not only provided a desktop-like web browsing experience, but also websites that often loaded faster than the Chromebook. The operating system also brought up a plethora of keyboard shortcuts, enough to satisfy most power users. Plus, everything the iPad is known for, it has done very well. Playing games and watching media on an iPad is a much better experience than most Chromebooks, thanks to the great hardware on offer and the App Store’s vast ecosystem of apps.

Chrome OS lets you resize windows, connect external displays, and create separate user profiles. Why can’t you do it all on the iPad?

As for the future of iPadOS, this isn’t the first time Apple has tried the slow, iterative approach to improving its operating system. Back when the first iPhone arrived, it was obviously lacking the ability to copy and paste text. Incidentally, this was a feature dear to BlackBerry users.
Yet, as we know today, Apple has managed to gain market share with the iPhone despite such glaring omissions. It even added a way to cut and paste two years later with iOS 3.0. Likewise, I’m sure iPadOS will become a viable laptop replacement. one day. Until then, detachable Chromebooks will serve me well.


Of course, this is only my opinion. Now I want to hear yours! If you don’t agree with me, head over to the comments section below, tell me why I’m wrong, and maybe you can change my mind. I will do my best to respond to as many comments as possible so that we can start a proper conversation. Also share your opinion if you agree with my point of view – I’d like to see how many people are on my side.

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