Review: Google's $199 Laptop Is a Champ

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This is the kind of PC you can hand to your 2-year-old or 102-year-old family member and be relieved that you don't have to make "tech support specialist" into your second job.

The Chromebook is for everyone .

But I think you get the message here: The Chromebook -- whether this $199 variant, or the $249 or the $449 versions -- is for work. It is not your optimal gaming machine. It is not a toy. It is not a science lab supercomputer either. It's a work tool that is reliable and works all the time, requiring zero maintenance in its life. I'm typing this article on it -- which I would never do on an iPad, and for which a Windows or Mac would be total overkill.

Hardware: Mostly Very Good

The body : This is one sturdy laptop. It's a lot sturdier than the Samsung $249 Chromebook, which exhibits a lot of flex. It's also some 20% heavier. Sure doesn't feel like $199. More like $499.

Keyboard: For some reason, I don't think it matches the $249 version. The keys are smaller, although their feel is more than decent.

Screen: Not as matte as the $249 version, but it's brighter and with more intense colors. Overall, barely good enough.

Battery: The obvious bad news is that it's rated at only 3.5 hours. The good news is twofold: (1) So far, my particular unit looks to be outperforming the 3.5 hour rating. (2) It's a REMOVABLE battery, so in theory you could buy a second one (and a third, and...).

CPU: This one is Intel (INTC) , instead of a Samsung ARM (Cortex A-15) in the $249 version. This should mean it's more powerful, but it's hard to notice any difference in regular use.

Fan/noise/heat: The $249 version runs cold as a fish and has no fan. This one has a fan and generates heat like all other typical laptops. This also means that there's a moving part that can fail, unlike the $249 version.

Ports: The $199 Acer version improves on the $249 Samsung by adding native Ethernet, one extra USB (three instead of two) and analog video output. What it misses is an SD card slot and cellular/GSM SIM card slot/modem.

Storage: The $199 Acer is the first Chromebook to have a spinning hard disk, 320 gig in this instance. All other Chromebooks have a 16 gig SSD. Given the nature of Google Docs, I don't see any need for anything other than 16 gig, and SSD obviously beats HDD in terms of speed and reliability. Why anyone would need 320 gig or anything remotely close to it in this cloud-centric architecture is beyond me. Must have been a cost issue.

Verdict: The $199 Laptop Is a Breakthrough