iPad vs. Chromebook

Summary: iPad is still the king of creation tools. Chromebooks are great replacements for laptops due to cloud computing.

I just bought a Chromebook this week so I would know if it was a viable alternative for the iPad in my BYOD classroom. Here are my initial thoughts.

Chromebook Pros 

  1. Light weight: Weighs less than my Griffin encased iPad.
  2. Inexpensive: I paid $199 at Wal-Mart. iPad minis run $329 at time of posting.
  3. Simple to use: Open it up, connect to a wireless, sign in to your Google Account, and your off and running. No Windows OS to make things complicated. Nothing to set up.
  4. Quick on: open it up and it’s on!acer-c7-chromebook-pr
  5. Keyboard: feels right.
  6. Track pad: two finger scrolling, decent size
  7. No case needed: I may change my mind on this, but doesn’t seem as fragile as the iPad.
  8. External ports: 3 USB, Ethernet, and VGA for external monitor or projector. iPad has that dongle thing for connecting to projectors but it pops out super easily.
  9. Can create/edit using Google Apps. You may only work on Docs and Spreadsheets when using an iPad.
  10. A ton of free apps available through the Chrome Store.
  11. Can play Flash.

iPad Pros

  1. WAY more educational apps: Games, student response apps, utilities, etc. 
  2. Two Cameras: Front facing and back side. Chromebook only has the front facing.
  3. Creativity: Video, photography, stop motion, etc. The only way I can see to do this on Chromebook is to use the front facing camera, which would be super tricky.
  4. Drawing: Use a stylus and draw on the screen, or even use your finger. Chromebooks are track pad or mouse controlled, not touch screen. Drawing would be very hard.iPad
  5. Digital portfolios: I use Three Ring a lot. iPads are perfect for capturing student work samples using the camera and mic.
  6. Stronger speakers: As weak as the speaker is on an iPad, it’s better than a Chromebook. I can barely hear the speakers on the Chromebook.
  7. Display: Greater visibility.
  8. Parental Control: Parents can control a lot through the restriction settings. I don’t see a way to do this with the Chromebook.


I will be recommending devices to families in my BYOD class this next year in the following order of preference:

  1. Latest full-size iPad
  2. Latest mini iPad
  3. Android tablet
  4. Chromebook

If families can only afford a Chromebook, then it is definitely better than nothing. I do NOT see a Chromebook as a replacement for an iPad, but I do think it’s a great replacement for a laptop. I am using my Chromebook right now to write this post. It’s so simple for getting online and keyboard input. It’s not something I see as a creative tool for student projects, other than the fact that students can work on Google Presentations using a Chromebook. I love the fact that the computer is just ON right away, and for those who understand cloud computing, there’s really no reason these days to buy a full-blown computer with a large hard drive. I value your input so please leave a comment.


Published by

Tim Bedley

Tim Bedley has been teaching elementary school since 1988. He was recognized as the 2013 Riverside County Teacher of the year. Tim is also the founder of America's number one educational rock band, Rockin' the Standards. He also produces two podcast found on iTunes: The Bedley Bros. and The 5-Minute MishMash. Tim and his brother Scott are co-founders of Global School Play Day, a grassroots movement to promote unstructured play with today's youths.

18 thoughts on “iPad vs. Chromebook”

  1. Interesting thoughts! We are making the same considerations this summer. I wish the CB was touchscreen also. What grade do yo teach?

    1. Thanks Amy. I teach a 4/5 combo class. Definitely the touch screen. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

  2. Thank you for this post, I too have been working through the different ecosystems. I am considering a third option, the Surface RT as it matches up well with the iPad and Chromebook. RT has instant on and easy setup with a Microsoft account including Skydrive cloud access. I use google docs regularly but have not had experience with a Chromebook, is it workable with no Internet access?

    1. Tom,
      I would love to have a Surface tablet to compare. Unfortunately, the budget is very limited at this time. Blessings.

      1. I just got a Surface on Friday so I need more time to give it a fair shot. Once that is done I am planning a post on iPad vs. Mini vs. Chromebook vs. Surface (much more interesting option at $199 for schools). I will put a link here once I have compiled those thoughts.

  3. Did you develop a BYOD student/parent contract?

    Were there wireless connectivity issues at your school site?

    Did the students create their own google accts? LEUSD has student accts but I had trouble accessing them over the wifi, could only access it when using the Ethernet.

    1. Hi Shelley,
      In short, I am working closely with the district on addressing all of the items you mentioned. It would be great to connect and collaborate with you! Take care.

  4. So it is your belief that a tablet is better than a laptop for education, but a Chromebook is better than other “laptops” if one must go a non-tablet route.

    That is interesting and a perspective (at least the former pary) that is shared by many.

    Here are three “observations” about your post:

    1. Why is it iPad vs Chromebook when it seems you are arguing tablet vs laptop? With that argument, I wonder how student smart phones (% of ownership increases all the time) play into this. In other words, what if your students had a mini tablet already in the form of their phone.

    2. What are your students’ opinion? I’m always concern when the recommendation doesn’t appear to take into account students.

    3. Looking at your list, I can have the latest number 3 & 4 for cheaper than the latest number 1. How does that fit into your thinking and recommendations to families?

    Bonus: it was odd reading your creation criticism of the Chromebook. If I took out the word Chromebook from your post and replaced it with iPad, the post would sound like a tech article when the iPad first came out. The same arguments and thoughts were levied against it. Those arguments sound uninformed today.

    Best of luck!

    1. Ryan,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post in such a thorough manner.
      First, I agree with you on many of your conclusions about my article. The purpose of my writing is not so much to offer a thorough technical analysis of the Chromebook vs. iPad debate. As I mentioned in my introduction, I just purchased my CB a few days ago. I’ve had people asking me about it, so I thought I’d share some initial reactions. The phone option isn’t such a viable route for me since I teach 4th and 5th graders. As far as student input, yes, my article gives nothing from their perspective, but that’s only because I’m on vacation from teaching at the moment. Also, with my age student, most have so little experience with this type of computing, particularly with the students I serve. The article is totally from my perspective as a teacher trying to figure out how to best run my BYOD program with very young kids. With regard to numbers 3 and 4, I am simply giving my conclusion as to how i will address my parents, most of whom own very little technology. I plan to inform them the best I can and then obviously the choice will be theirs. Again, thank you so much for your input.

  5. Interesting summary! We had the same consideration at the school I previously taught at. In the end, for us, we determined that iPads were most appropriate for our elementary level learners, and we ended up going Chromebooks for secondary level learners. I definitely think you bring up some excellent observations, and they were very similar to what we concluded. I’d love to know your thoughts on public schools going with Macbooks (Pros, Air, any) – many times their reasoning is how low-maintenance they are, that in the end, you pay for what you get. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Michael,
      I’ve been a huge Mac fan for about 8 years now and have refused to buy anything else. That being said, I just don’t see the need for machines with large hard drives any longer unless you are doing some major photo editing or video editing. There’s not much you can’t do with cloud computing these days, so I think the simpleness of the Chromebook is sufficient, and at a far lower price. I’m still very open to hearing other ideas though.

  6. Hi Tony,
    Interesting idea. I’ve had a little bit of disappointment buying refurbs in the past (not Apple products) so I guess I’m reluctant to go that route. Probably just an illogical hangup on my part though. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  7. Chromebooks are a good option for 1:1 and other school computing initiatives, as they are easy to manage and use. The fast boot-up time is especially important in a classroom environment, as students don’t waste time waiting for their devices to finish starting up.

    But what about schools that use Windows applications? Or that access applications that require support for Java?

    This can be addressed with third-party solutions such as Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP solution that enables Chromebook users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run Windows applications or desktops in a browser tab. That means that you can open up an Internet Explorer session inside a Chrome browser tab, and then connect to the applications that require Java and run them on the Chromebook. It’s also possible to run other Windows-based testing or educational applications.

    For more information about AccessNow for Chromebooks in Education, visit:

    Please note that I work for Ericom

  8. For those requesting touch screen, there is always the Chromebook Pixel. Best of both worlds, however a tad pricey. The interesting part about it though is that I find myself not even using the touchscreen component of it.
    Also, when comparing iPad apps verses CB apps, it’s worth noting that when you have the entire web at your fingers with no drawbacks, specific apps become less important.
    Thanks Tim, it’s been a while and I hope you’re doing well!

  9. I would like to get your thoughts on what you are hearing in terms of devices for secondary students. I have been involved in a couple of think tanks recently discussing preparing students for life beyond high school (primarily regarding Common Core standards). However, it got me thinking about devices for students at the seconday level….since the majority of colleges and employers are now expecting students and/or new hires to be fluent in the use of Windows-based applications like ppt, Word and excel. I am also wondering how many college students are using their tablets to write papers. What are you hearing in education circles on this? Do you have any advice for where I could go to get additional insight on this?

    1. Hi Traci,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am no expert on this topic, but it seems that the type of device you learn will not effect your future a whole lot because things will be so different in just a few short years. Think back a few years. How many people used tablets? With regard to Microsoft apps, I feel the same as I mentioned above. Also, it seems that most of education is moving over to Google Apps and away from Microsoft products, although I hear that Microsoft is coming out with some cloud-based software that will blow away Google’s apps. Things just change so rapidly, don’t they? My main concern is to motivate my students and teach them character. Strong character like persistence, independence, problem-solving skills, kindness, manners, etc. will outlast any change in devices or software.

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