iPad vs. Chromebooks vs. Windows-based Netbooks

Posted by jun auza On 7/15/2011
Apple, with the launch of the universally coveted iPad, started a new trend in secondary computing devices. These gadgets, also known as post-PC devices, don't necessarily replace the desktop but they do a good job at complimenting it.

Netbooks, both Windows-based and Linux-based ones were already major players in this market before being overtaken by iPad and Android tablet computers. Venturing late into this domain came Google's highly anticipated Chromebooks, making the secondary device market even more competitive.

Today, let's compare three of the biggest players (excluding Android tablets) of this secondary computing device market --which are iPads, Windows-based netbooks and Chromebooks – and see how they stack up against each other:


Features:

The iPad comes with many features like video calling, full touch-screen interface, HD playback and more. These features are the USP of these little devices giving them an edge over standard desktops and laptops. This, however, doesn't mean that tablets outsmart the netbooks or even Chromebooks. Netbooks too have a lot of great features they can boast of. The presence of a physical keyboard is one big plus point. Furthermore, the ability to install any Operating System gives users a lot of choice. Let's take a look at a few features these three devices offer and compare them head-to-head:


Based on the table above, we can see that netbooks, be it Windows-based or Linux-based easily outsmart the iPad when it comes to features. There are some areas where the iPad wins, but it still fails to meet the requirements of a regular desktop user. This is simply due to the locked-down approach Apple has been taking towards its product design.


Usability:

It cannot be argued that in terms of usability, having a physical keyboard is a huge advantage over a touch-screen UI. However, the iPad makes up for this deficiency thanks to its intuitive and easy-to-use UI. The icons and the applications are well laid-out as compared to the clunky interface Windows-based netbooks provide.

Windows XP and Windows 7 are operating systems designed specially for the desktop and using them on the tiny netbook's screen makes many applications look out of place. On the iPad, applications are specially designed for the device. Hence, they look and behave as they should, giving a huge edge in terms of usability.

Chromebooks on the other hand have the standard browser interface, which works great if you have a working connection, but as soon as you are offline, things kind of fall apart. Nevertheless, Chromebook's User interface is extremely simple especially for new users as it is devoid of any kind of unnecessary settings and options.

It's hard to decide who's the winner in this domain, but I'll have to give this one to the iPad simply for a User Interface that fits like a glove.


Applications:

Apple's app store can boast of a huge number of quality applications, which users can download for a price or for free. Netbooks on the other hand don't have an app store, but are capable of running almost all of the 'essential' software applications that are out there. A Windows-based netbook or even a Linux-based one can help a user complete almost any task, that is, from creating a spreadsheet to finishing a quick drawing, without any compatibility issue whatsoever.


Performance:

iPad's battery life is around 10 hours, netbooks on the other hand have different battery lives ranging anywhere from 3 hours to 13 hours. Chromebooks give around 8 hour of battery life, which is quite good but not as good as what iPad offers. The winner here, however, are netbooks, as a high quality netbook can give mind-blowing performance especially when coupled with netbook-specific Operating System.


Conclusion:

To be honest, there is no real winner here. All the three devices satisfy the needs of different types of users. Even though it is a tie, netbooks slightly edge out both its competitors but their falling popularity may work against them in the future. So, we leave it for you to decide who wins this battle for the best secondary computing device.


Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.


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