Chromebook, iPad, MacBook and Surface offer solutions for students

While the tax-free back-to-school shopping holiday won’t be back this year, there are deals on the latest tech gear for students heading back to school in the fall.

What is the difference between a Chromebook and a MacBook Air?

Students looking for a traditional laptop can choose from a wide range of PC laptops, Google-powered Chromebooks and Apple’s MacBook line.

The Chromebook operating system makes it easy for students to connect to Google-powered apps and works with the Google mobile operating system for students with Android devices.

Chromebooks are often more budget-friendly, making them a good choice for students on a budget.

They work best for students who primarily use Google apps, email, and storage platforms. Batteries typically last the entire school day.

Depending on the model, the 2024 Chromebook edition weighs between 2.2 and 3.5 pounds, meaning students should have no trouble carrying it around.

Chromebooks are manufactured and sold by many computer manufacturers, including Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung.

Similarly, Apple’s MacBook Air runs on an operating system that works seamlessly with Apple devices and also includes built-in apps for email, web surfing, and document creation.

The MacBook Air weighs about two pounds, depending on the model, making it one of the most portable laptops on the market.

MacBooks are known for their build quality, durability, and design. They are great for students who already use iPhones or iPads, because things like iMessage, iCloud, and AirDrop are available on all devices.

MacBook batteries tend to last longer than laptops, but not as long as Chromebooks. MacBooks also don’t go out of date for longer than laptops, meaning students can continue using them long after they graduate.

What is the difference between Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface?

Students looking for a tablet that can also be used as a laptop typically choose between Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface.

Both the iPad and Surface can be used as a tablet, and each can be transformed into a laptop by connecting an external keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

The iPad operating system automatically connects to other Apple devices, while Microsoft’s Surface runs on Windows 10 or Windows 11. The choice may depend on the student’s personal workflow and whether they need better connectivity to specific Windows servers.

Windows laptops come in a variety of price ranges and work best with familiar programs like Excel, Outlook, and Word. They’re great for students who need a lot of computing power beyond basic homework and surfing the web.

Are there any computer sales to celebrate the start of the school year?

Apple is hosting a back-to-school sale in its Education Store, offering discounts on iPads and MacBook Air models. The entry-level MacBook Air is priced at $999.99 at the Apple Store, while the entry-level iPad starts at $349.

Dozens of manufacturers offer Chromebooks for under $500.

You can also snag great deals on Apple devices during Amazon Prime Day.

Dell offers discounts on computers and laptops on its education site, including Chromebooks and Dell Inspiron laptops.

Lenovo is currently running a back-to-school sale on Chromebooks and other laptops.

Microsoft is offering a 10% discount on Surface hardware and Microsoft 365 software. Base Surface models typically start at $999.99 in the Microsoft Store.

Damon C. Williams is a Philadelphia-based journalist who covers current affairs in the Mid-Atlantic region.