Apple’s new student iPad vs. $300 Chromebooks and Windows rivals

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Apple's new student iPad vs. $300 Chromebooks and Windows rivals

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Apple’s new iPad is slated for students. Should they buy it or a Chromebook, PC rival?

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USA TODAY Tech reporter Ed Baig breaks down Apple’s new iPad, which was unveiled at Lane Tech High School in Chicago. USA TODAY

Apple’s new iPad is targeted to students, with a light computing device, a battery that will last all day, a fantastic camera and a price tag that may be a challenge for school administrators.

At $299 for students, how does the new 9.7-inch iPad compare to competing products in the $300 range? 

Windows laptops and hybrids and Google Chromebooks are the competition. These typically have more features, larger screens and are generally a better value.

With Apple’s new iPad for students, if you factor in the extra expense of adding a Bluetooth external keyboard and Apple’s accessory pencil, your outlay comes closer to $500. But there are trade-offs, such as familiarity. 

Apple’s new 9.7 inch iPad sells for $329 and has a 9.7 inch screen (Photo: Apple)

The Chicago presentation was Apple’s attempt to beef up its educational presence, which has long been ceded to Google, which introduced super low-cost Chromebook laptops several years ago. The Chromebooks sell for as little as $200, and school administrators and parents have responded to the lower-priced computer by buying them in bulk. In years past, they might have bought Apple computers. 

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—It works like an iPhone, so students are already familiar with it. 

—Beautiful, high-resolution, 9.7-inch LED screen, great for watching YouTube and Netflix videos.  

—Has built-in superior camera, the same one as in many iPhones, and it’s easier to shoot fellow students for videos than, say, holding up a laptop with a webcam. 

—Apple iOS software is not compatible with many that schools use for learning. 

—Has few ports to plug in, say, a projector via an HDMI port. 

There are many Google Chromebooks available in the $200-$300 range.

The pitch for the Chromebook is that you don’t need storage space, because everything on the computer is done online, using apps like Google Docs or whatever’s available in the Google Play store. The choices are fewer than apps that can be downloaded directly to the machine, but the gap has closed considerably. Apps that formerly weren’t available, like Adobe’s Creative Cloud, are now, but only in limited, mobile versions. 

Lenovo’s 2-in-1 N24 is a combo tablet/laptop with similar specs to the Apple iPad (Photo: Lenovo)

There are many available Windows laptops, tablets and desktops, at price points starting in the $250 range, all the way up to $1,000 plus. 

In a nutshell, the lower priced units will be slower, have less available storage and not be as rugged as the more expensive models. 

For comparison, the more expensive Surface laptop from Microsoft starts at $899, and comes with 128 GB of storage, a 13.5 inch screen, 14.5 hours of battery life and a faster processor. 

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