Chromebooks: A Prospective Buyer's Guide

Laptops from Samsung and Acer sporting Google's Chrome OS will hit store shelves on June 15, with starting prices between $350 and $500. The devices, called Chromebooks, promise an 8-second boot time, no need for security software, background updates and access to a host of Web apps (most of which are also accessible from any other browser).

When Google first announced Chrome OS in 2009, the tech landscape was a very different place and netbooks with 10-inch screens were the popular new devices. Then in January 2010 tablets such as the iPad came along, and the new 11-inch MacBook Air featuring instant-on capabilities similar to Chromebooks appeared in late 2010.

Those devices might sport higher price tags than Chrome OS devices, but it's not clear whether the new Chromebooks will be able to woo you away from your desktop and into the cloud.

Regardless, if you're thinking about buying a Chromebook next month, here's a breakdown of everything you need to know.

What is Chrome OS?

Chrome OS is basically Google's Chrome browser sitting on top of a Linux kernel with a few tweaks to improve system performance and integrate with peripheral hardware such as external monitors and keyboards. Chrome OS also has a limited file manager so you can access cached data and files contained on storage devices such as USB sticks and SD cards.

When will Chromebooks be available?

Chromebooks go on sale on June 15 in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain. In the US, Acer is offering a Chromebook and Samsung's laptops will be called Samsung Chromebook Series 5.

Where can I buy a Chromebook?

Google says the devices will be available at many national retailers, but Amazon and Best Buy already have dedicated pages up for the new devices.

What are the specs for Samsung Series 5?

The Samsung Chromebooks feature a 12.1-inch WXGA display with 1280-by-800 resolution. Samsung claims the Series 5 display is 40 percent brighter than typical laptops. The Series 5 also sports an Intel Atom N570 1.66 GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB solid state drive (mSATA), 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G option with service from Verizon Wireless, a 1 MP webcam, two USB 2.0 ports, 4-in-1 memory card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC), mini-VGA port, full-sized Chrome keyboard and clickable trackpad. The Chromebook weighs 3.26 pounds and Samsung claims the device's 6-cell battery gives you 8.5 hours of battery life. The Samsung Chromebooks come in white or silver.

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