If Chromebook really is 'for everyone', is it for me?

Suddenly, I don't feel so special. But that's okay. For some time, I belonged to a small, elite group of Chromebook users. But new, lower-cost models and Google's aggressive "for everyone" marketing campaign moves the cloud computer into the mainstream market. On October 18, I started using the $249 model announced the same day. The question: Is 'for everyone' for me -- or even you?

I already had adopted the $449 Chromebook as my only PC. The question: Could the ARM model satisfy? Except for 40 hours back on the costlier Intel, for performance comparison, I've used the smaller Chromebook full time for more than a month. In trying to answer the question, I hoped to perhaps get one for people tempted by the newer model's lower price or that of the (gasp) $199 Acer. Samsung makes the other two.

For anyone considering any of them, quick specs:

$199 Chromebook: 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847 dual-core processor; 11.6-inch glossy display, 1366 x 768 resolution, 200-nit brightness; 2GB RAM; 320GB hard drive; webcam; three USB 2.0 ports; WiFi A/N; HDMI port; VGA port; Chrome OS. Weighs 3 pounds (1.1 kg) and is an inch thick.

$249 Chromebook: 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos 5250 dual-core processor (ARM); 11.6-inch matte display, 1366 x 768 resolution, 200-nit brightness; 2GB RAM; 16GB SSD; SD-card slot; Webcam; USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports (one each); WiFi A/N; Bluetooth 3.0 compatible (dongle required); HDMI port; Chrome OS. Weighs 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) and is 0.8 inches thick.

$449 Chromebook: 1.3GHz Intel Celeron 867 dual-core processor (x86); 12.1-inch matte display, 1280 x 800 resolution, 300-nit brightness; 4GB SDRAM; 16GB SSD; Intel HD graphics; webcam; two USB ports; Bluetooth 3.0 compatible (dongle required); DisplayPort; WiFi A/N; Gigabit Ethernet; 4-in-1 media card slot; and Chrome OS.

I can say from experience that the Intel model is speedier than the smaller Samsung and easily replaces the MacBook Air used before the switch. With the ARM Chromebook, however, there are trade-offs. Performance is sometimes spotty, which I attribute mostly to Flash. That leads to the wicked Catch 22: I would disable Flash, but most web apps demand it.

The screen is still a little too dim for my tastes, but again manageable.

The ergonomics are excellent, and the keyboard terrific. Overall, it's a great computer for the price.

Google markets the hell out of this thing, what with the Times Square advertising pulling from the "for everyone" website. There's something quite clever about the marketing, which has a club-like, fanboy appeal. People share photos of why Chromebook is for them. They join the group, become one of the special people. Google benefits by expanding marketing material showing the device really is "for everyone".

I'm committed to Chromebook. Weeks before Google announced the ARM model, I proclaimed that "Chromebook changed my life".

But I'll say this: I'm in some ways more committed to Android and may soon adopt Nexus 10 as my primary PC. It's an experiment to start, but that's how I got hooked on Chromebook, temporarily making it my primary PC.

Photo Credit: Joe Wilcox

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