Tablet or Chromebook?
May 27, 2021 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I've always been a Windows PC person but things are changing, and I'd like to increase my arsenal, but I'm not sure how apples-to-oranges comparing an Android Tablet to a Chromebook is, and would like advice on what to look for or get.

I have a budget of about $250-$300, which could get me a Samsung Tab A7, which is similar to the 7 year old Tab A my wife has which still runs great, so that's my benchmark for what to expect using a tablet with bluetooth keyboard.

I don't really sit at my computer any more, and I end up doing things on my phone with its tiny screen and onscreen keyboard, so I can see advantage to having a larger tablet, to use as a tablet, but also having a keyboard and mouse when I need to do some heavy lifting. I'm not as married to Windows as I used to be, and if I need Windows I can remote into my regular PC (I actually like the Android RDP app). So, my main goal is flexibility -- I can watch a video in bed, or sit at the table and type up a long email, or remote into a server and do admin stuff.

So, that seems to leave me with a tablet like the A7 with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, or a Chromebook of some flavor. But, I don't know anything about Chromebooks, and there's a bunch in that same pricerange, but it doesn't look like many cheap chromebooks are touchscreen or 'convertible' to tablet.

So, those of you who know anything about Chromebooks: how do they compare to a tablet like Samsung Tab tablets with a bluetooth keyboard? What sort of 'metrics' are there for judging power and functionality of a Chromebook, versus a tablet in the same price range? Or are there other tablets in the pricerange which would suffice as a low-end portable-and-flexible desktop replacement?
posted by AzraelBrown to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd lean towards Chromebook. ChromeOS is still very much a 'lite' version of a laptop (that's reflected in the average price), but there are ongoing improvements in functionality (such as being able to run Android and native linux apps).
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you like the tablet form factor, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a popular recommendation among Chromebook enthusiasts. It can be the best of both worlds in regards to tablets and Chromebooks. The keyboard is included in the ~ $260 price and can be detached to make the tablet experience more enjoyable. It should continue to receive security updates until June 2028.

The track record of security updates for Android tablets is a little spotty, but Samsung claims they will be providing security updates for 4 years on devices released 2019 and later. This Samsung website is a little hard to decipher, but it appears the Samsung A7 tablet will only be receiving quarterly rather than monthly security updates.
posted by mundo at 12:04 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

It looks to me like your main uses will be either typing and mousing or video watching. I don't think you will miss the touchscreen too much in either of those cases. I have had a Chromebook to use during tax season for two years now and I like the weight to screen size ratio. My only annoyance with them is the keyboard, which doesn't have a dedicated caps lock or home or end key. You can map other keys to those functions (I think), but most of that is muscle memory for me on a regular keyboard. Switching back and forth between keyboards in the same day was a minor annoyance. Watching videos in bed means you have to prop up the tablet, but the Chromebook will stay up by itself. However, you'll need room for the keyboard if you go with the Chromebook.
posted by soelo at 12:05 PM on May 27, 2021

Best answer: The Lenovo Chromebook Duet might be what you're looking for.

I own a convertible Chromebook (Samsung Chromebook Pro), a Chromebook tablet (Pixel Slate with companion folio keyboard), and an Android tablet (Asus something or other) and an iPad Pro.

If you don't need Android apps, any of those styles might be usable for you. While many apps do work on ChromeOS, the user experience may not be great and some things may not work (from what I understand, I don't use many Android apps on ChromeOS, so this may have gotten better).

If you want to do a lot of typing, the convertible experience is superior to the folio keyboard attachments. I prefer the ability to angle the screen however I want and the keyboards tend to be superior to the soft touch ones they squeeze into the folio. The downside is that it's quite clunky to use as a tablet, even though it's slim as far as laptops go. And it's kind of funky having keys on the backside rather than a smooth surface when you're holding it. That said, I like it as a traveling device when I only want to bring one laptop sized thing with me because it's good for if I have to remote into work or do serious writing but also nice for finding a hammock and reading in.

If you really just want a phone but larger, the tablets are way better for that. They're smaller and lighter. The folio is better than trying to do extensive typing on the onscreen keyboard but not great. My typo rate goes way up. But if you don't want a keyboard built into the carrying case, you can just get a full sized bluetooth keyboard and a tablet stand and use it at your desk or whatever quite easily. If you do this, I would recommend getting one of the keyboards with an integrated touchpad or also a mouse, as I find it rather unergonomic to do things like dragging and dropping things on a tablet in a stand. A Chromebook tablet will support this but IIRC an Android one won't, unless Samsung has added a mouse driver.
posted by Candleman at 12:18 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding, what Candleman says. I have a Chromebook Duet as well. At the pricepoint it's nearly unbeatable. I mostly use apple products which provides me with one of the few downsides, it won't sync with my phone & computers, and while the apps that I use on both are supposed to be agnostic, it seems they don't always like to play nice. Still, it's the only reason I can think of not to get one. Good luck.
posted by evilDoug at 12:32 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd go with a Chromebook, and as luck would have it, the best Chromebook of last year is on a ridiculously good sale right now at Best Buy. I bought one of these back in February and it's fantastic. It's got a touchscreen and can be used as a tablet (although I will say that using it in tablet mode is a bit awkward).

The only downside to it in the several months I've been using it: the sound from the speakers (which are on the underside of the chassis and thus fire downward) - it's truly awful. But if you listen through headphones or a Bluetooth external speaker, it won't be a problem. Otherwise, it's a fantastic machine.
posted by pdb at 4:15 PM on May 27, 2021

Response by poster: I already had a bunch of tabs open for the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, and all the recommendations here only encouraged me to get one -- and I'm responding on my brand new Duet right now!

first impressions are it should meet my requirements -- if I want to use it like a tablet, boom, unhook it from the keyboard, but for typing the keyboard works well, I'm typing pretty fast, with only problems hitting the little dash, semicolon, period, etc keys that aren't quite where my fingers expect them to be. Also had to figure out all the two-finger trackpad functions (two finger drag = scroll, two finger tap = right-click).

So thanks all for your input, I think this will work out!
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:03 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

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