Apple debuted a flurry of new hardware this morning, and among all the shiny rose gold and beautiful screens, my jaw hit the floor looking not at the newest iPad Pros, but at the $300 Magic Keyboard that you can buy for them.
Three hundred dollars for just the keyboard. I sit here writing this on a $250 Lenovo Chromebook C330, which was the leader of our Best Chromebooks roundup most of last year because of its friendly-yet-durable look, steady performance and excellent price. On my desk sits a band new Acer Chromebook 715 that arrived yesterday for review, a 15-inch aluminum Chromebook with an eighth-gen Intel i3 processor and a $320 price tag at Walmart.
I suppose I shouldn't expect too much from a company that sold a single monitor stand for $1000, and four caster wheels for the Mac Pro that won't even lock in place for $400. Seriously, there has to be a limit to this ridiculousness, right?
But sure, I'm being the unreasonable one here saying that a Chromebook, accused of being a "fake laptop," can possibly compete with a iPad, let alone an iPad Pro. Yesterday, when I was unboxing the Acer 715, a coworker sarcastically commented "Oh, if only I didn't have a job that involved video and photo editing." Yes, if only.
Never mind that photo editing can be done everywhere, and that between Android apps and online editors, I've edited 95% of my article photos for the last two years on a Chromebook. Never mind that the only time I drag out full Photoshop on my borrowed Surface Pro 3 (thanks, Russell) is when I need to batch edit hundreds of photos in a short period of time, like during a phone launch. It's not powerful enough to run Premiere — never mind that Premiere sucks on any sub $700 Windows laptop and eats RAM and battery on a Mac like candy — so a Chromebook is just worthless, isn't it?
The iPad has a big, shiny Retina screen, and $300 Chromebooks don't. That I'll grant you. Do I wish that all 11.6-inch Chromebooks would upgrade to 1080p displays? Sure, but Reddit, Twitter and Google Docs don't care that my screen's resolution is 1366 x 768, and most days, neither do I. My touchscreen still scrolls through websites and taps through Microsoft Solitaire Collection like a champ, and my battery usually lasts dawn 'til dusk.
Unlike a delicate iPad, most Chromebooks are durable, dependable, and affordable, which is why they're trusted in schools more and more with each passing year. And unlike an iPad, where you'll need to buy a keyboard or be trapped using on-screen keys, Chromebooks come with a keyboard — unless you're Google, who I still haven't forgiven for selling the Pixel Slate without one — and these keyboards are designed to be easy to use for children and people who haven't used computers very often. The system-wide keyboard shortcuts are excellent and make split-screening and window management a breeze.
Even for casual activities like playing games in the cafe or watching Hulu in bed, you'll likely have a better experience on a Chromebook. iPads don't come with a built-in kickstand the way Microsoft Surface tablets do, and most Chromebooks are touchscreen 2-in-1s so you can just bend the keyboard back into a stand for touchscreen solitaire and binge-watching your childhood favorites on Disney+.
Perhaps most importantly, Chromebooks offer the most consistent long-term experience for a laptop under $500 and especially under $300. Even Macs slow down with time, and getting them serviced can be more expensive than a Chromebook, whereas most Chromebooks are designed to withstand years of abuse in classrooms and be easy for school IT departments to repair or replace parts.
So, please, skip the $300 Magic Keyboard. Buy a $300 Chromebook instead, and see what's possible without blowing $1000 on a 2-in-1 that needs hundreds of dollars more in accessories. I guarantee you, you'll be surprised how much you can get done.
Built to last
This Chromebook perfectly blends portability, performance, and price.
Yes, it's not as sexy as a new iPad Pro, but it's a quarter of the price for 85% of the functionality. It comes with a comfortable keyboard, all-day battery, a decent touchscreen, and a perfectly portable plastic body.
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.