Friday, February 25, 2011

Chrome Notebook vs. iPad 2

I was thinking about this earlier, which would I rather have: a Chrome Notebook, which I'm currently evaluating or the upcoming iPad (let's call it version 2)?

Let's forget that I received the Chrome Notebook for free and that it contains 2 years of free but limited wireless data access through Verizon Wireless. Let's also forget the iPad v.2 isn't available yet and the specifications are pure speculation. Having said that which would I rather have?

The Chrome Notebook is super fast for booting, has 16GB of SSD storage (which you can't directly use), front facing camera, has wireless (WiFi and 3G) access, redesigned physical keyboard, good battery life at about 5-6 hours fully charged and is super fast for browsing web pages. On the downside it crashes a lot when playing FLASH videos and the "Chrome Apps" are really just glorified / customized web pages.

The iPad will likely be super fast (new and improved A4 processor - think Playbook processing power) from sleep and a semi-quick from cold boot, at least 16GB of SSD storage, front and rear facing cameras, wireless (both WiFi and 3G) access, digital keyboard, good to great battery life (version 1 is 8 hours) and is super fast browsing web pages. It also offers rich applications, allows netflix, doesn't support FLASH and most likely sports a slimmer and lighter design. On the downside you are locked into Apple's ever more restrictive "environment" although I'm already an iPhone 4 user and you are stuck using Safari to browse the web.

The Decision:
So that's that verdict? Well if eBay resales are any indication, people value the Chrome Notebook at about $400. If Google does license the Chrome OS and it comes on netbooks or tablets in the $400 range and a comparable iPad with 3G is about $650 then Google Chrome Notebook wins. (The pricing may differ as 3G cards + netbooks are usually an extra $100 or so.) Assuming a $400 Chrome OS netbook or Google Chrome Notebook versus a $500 iPad - the iPad wins.

The iPad offers a much richer multimedia experience while still giving you all of the functionality of a cloud-only OS. Ultimately where Chrome OS falls short is you can't do everything, yet, via web-based applications - at least I can't. The iPad is also a more finished product. Not to knock the still in beta Chrome OS Notebook but the device itself with an Intel Atom processor is very underpowered even for most YouTube videos. Try running one full screen and see what happens!

The Bottom Line:
Ignoring the conditions I set forth in the beginning the Chrome Notebook is an excellent device because it was free and offers limited free-data services. A comparable iPad with 3G service is likely to be an expensive initial investment but it does offer a better no-contract $20/month data plan. Is it worth buying? It depends on the price. At a few hundred dollars, yes. At four hundred dollars, no go for the iPad.

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