iPad vs Chromebook: Which is Better for Work?

A low-spec Windows PC is no longer your only budget option. Thanks to recent updates, Chromebooks and the current iPad 9 are equally powerful, if not better, computers. Both let you use multiple apps at the same time, offer 2-in-1 form factors, slow load times, and more. Their lighter operating systems take up fewer resources, which means they run smoothly and receive software updates for ages. But which one is best for work?

Chromebooks and iPads are powered by significantly different software, each with their own apps, multitasking tools, and accessory ecosystem. Deciding which one is right for you depends not only on its merits, but also on your workflow and needs. After testing a HP Chromebook x360 and the iPad 2021here’s everything you need to know to choose between them.


Chromebooks come with Google’s ChromeOS, which is best suited for people who spend most of their time on the internet. Focused on the Chrome browser, it has expanded its capabilities to support Android and Linux desktop apps. If you have an enterprise license, you can even Run Windows 11 on it in a window.

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3 Chromebook (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The 9th generation iPad, of course, has Apple’s iPadOS; a tablet-friendly offshoot of the iOS operating system on iPhones. iPadOS includes several special features that are optimized for a tablet’s screen, such as: B. a multi-pane layout for apps that shows, for example, your email list on one side and its contents on the other, a split-screen view for managing two apps side-by-side, and a retractable dock as you put it on have a Mac computer.

The main difference between these two operating systems is that Chrome OS was designed for both traditional computers and tablets. So if you’ve paired an external keyboard and mouse with a Chromebook, you’ll see the familiar desktop interface with free-flowing windows, a pinned taskbar, and the features. When you detach the screen of a 2-in-1, it switches to tablet mode with full-screen apps and touch gestures.

iPadOS, on the other hand, is designed exclusively for tablets. Even when you plug in peripherals, it doesn’t switch to a keyboard- and trackpad-friendly interface, and you still have to contend with mobile-like elements like full-screen apps and big, chunky buttons built for a finger.


The way iPadOS and ChromeOS are programmed has the biggest impact on the multitasking experience.

If you’ve ever used a Windows PC or Mac, multitasking on a Chromebook will be familiar. It supports all the usual keyboard shortcuts and gestures, and you’ll be flying through windows in no time. You can align windows to the sides with one click, create separate workspaces for different projects, open as many windows as you want, and switch between them with trackpad gestures. It also has a few exclusive shortcuts for multitasking in the Chrome browser, like the three-finger swipe on the trackpad, which lets you quickly switch between tabs. Chromebooks have a lot to offer in tablet mode too, including a split screen view and a picture-in-picture mode.

Apple iPad 2021 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Although the iPad is compatible with most standard shortcuts like Alt + Tab to switch apps and a three-finger trackpad swipe up to access the overview screen, there’s a bit of a learning curve for multitasking.

Since there are no free-floating windows, you can only operate two apps at a time, and for that you have to jump through numerous hurdles. While in an app, you need to pull up the dock first, then drag and drop the second app to either side. You can’t just press a key combination to activate this. Alternatively, you can tap the split screen button at the top, find and select the second app. What’s worse, since iPadOS wasn’t designed for trackpad input, you have to perform the drag-and-drop action while clicking on it. It doesn’t support the tap-to-hold gesture that you’ll find on most operating systems, including Chrome OS.

Therefore, one has to constantly resort to the touchscreen to perform such basic functions. It gets the job done, but it’s certainly not as fast as you’d like. This is particularly annoying, for example in virtual meetings where you often need to do other tasks quickly, e.g. B. Check your notes or check a piece of information. Apple offers a way to throw a third app into the mix called “Slide Over,” but it overlays your existing two apps, and you can’t use them all together.


iPadOS is a mobile operating system, as are its apps. It doesn’t have the usual array of full-fledged desktop programs that you might be used to on a Windows PC or a Mac. Although popular apps like Photoshop offer an iPad client, they don’t have the full suite of tools that their desktop counterparts have.

Apple iPad Pro 11 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

That leaves the iPad with an edge, though: the quality of iPadOS’s creative apps is far better than what you’ll find on any Chromebook. This is especially handy for professionals like illustrators who want to sketch on their device alongside other common computing stuff.

At the heart of Chromebooks is the Google Chrome browser. You can use the proper desktop version of it on Chrome OS, as opposed to the stripped-down mobile client you get on an iPad. Because of this, most Chromebook owners rely entirely on web apps to function. If you need programs, ChromeOS supports Android mobile apps and Linux desktop software. It’s by no means an ideal setup, as both Android and Linux apps can be unstable at times, but they come in handy for tasks you can’t do in a web browser.

It also helps that Chromebooks offer an app ecosystem that works comfortably with both touch input and a keyboard and mouse combo. On an iPad, you have to interact with mobile apps using a trackpad, which isn’t always a pleasant experience.

Acer Chromebook 715 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It boils down to what apps you need each day and whether they’re available on the Chromebook or the iPad.


Day-to-day performance is reasonable on the iPad 9 and most Chromebooks in a similar price range. Both can easily handle dozens of browser tabs and a few active apps. If your main purpose is to surf the web, the Chromebook might have a slight advantage as it’s optimized for just that purpose. Another commonality is that they are expected to receive software updates for several years.

connectivity and accessories

Most Chromebooks come with at least a handful of traditional ports like USB-C and USB-A, a micro or standard SD card slot, and if you’re willing to live with a bolder design, you can even have a standard HDMI slot. Connecting external peripherals such as a hard drive or monitor is not a problem.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 Chromebook (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The iPad – particularly the 9th generation model – is a different story. It only has a Lightning connector, meaning you’ll need an extra dongle to pair most accessories, and even then there’s a chance they’ll refuse to work. For working on an iPad, it’s best to invest in an iPad-specific keyboard case like Apple’s Smart Keyboard or Logitech’s Combo Touch.

As mentioned earlier, the iPad is a better choice for illustrators. Not only because of its superior selection of apps, but also because of its stylus support. The supported accessories like Apple Pencil and Logitech Crayon are much more precise and natural.

bottom line

The Chromebook is the more reliable option if you’re looking for an everyday work machine with standard ports, an integrated keyboard and trackpad, and desktop-class multitasking capabilities and a web browser. But for people whose workflow revolves around just a few apps, the iPad will do, especially creative professionals.

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