Chromebooks: A Prospective Buyer's Guide

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What are the specs for the Acer Chromebooks?

The Acer Chromebook features an 11.6-inch LED backlit LCD display with 1366-by-768 resolution, Intel Atom N570 1.66 GHz processor, 2GB DDR3 RAM, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 1350, 16GB SSD (mSATA), 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G option, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI port, 4-in-1 media card reader, 1.3 MP webcam, fully clickable trackpad and full-sized Chrome keyboard. Acer Chromebooks weigh about 3 pounds and the company is claiming eight hours battery life from the device's 6-cell battery.

What is a Chrome keyboard?

Google has tweaked the traditional QWERTY keyboard for a Chrome OS world. The function buttons at the top of the keyboard have been replaced by browser-centric buttons such as refresh, switch to next tab, back, full-screen mode and so on. A search key has also replaced the Caps Lock key.

How much do Chromebooks cost?

Despite the hope that Chromebooks would be super cheap, the lowest-priced device is expected to be the Wi-Fi only version of Acer's Chromebook at $350. Pricing for Acer's 3G model was not announced. Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks will cost $430 for the Wi-Fi only version and $500 for the Wi-Fi + 3G model.

Isn't that price a little high for a browser in a box?

I think so. Right now, for example, Amazon is selling an Asus Eee PC with a 12.1-inch display with 1366-by-768 resolution, 500GB hard drive, 1.8GHz Intel Atom processor and Windows 7 Home Premium for $485. There are many other similar devices for prices ranging from $485 to $550. The best part is you get the browser for free.

Is a Chromebook a rip off?

Well, let's not get carried away. There are some definite advantages to a Chromebook over a traditional budget laptop. If the Chromebooks work as promised, they should be faster in overall performance and have a faster boot time (around 8 seconds supposedly) thanks to its lightweight operating system. It's also handy that Chrome OS will update in the background just as the Chrome browser does. And the idea of using Web apps only is probably doable for many regular users who don't need professional grade software such as video editing suites. But it's not clear whether people will be lining up in droves to get their hands on a Chrome OS device.

If you want to see a Chromebook in action, check out Google's video tour below. Also be sure to read Melissa J. Perenson's critique during her hands on with a Samsung Chromebook.

Chromebook Guided Tour:

Connect with Ian Paul ( @ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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