Chromebooks are wonderful computers for light and medium computing. While Windows and OS X are superior for heavy lifting -- especially with legacy software -- Chrome OS is a dream for web surfing, email and writing. If either you or someone you know lives in the web browser, laptops running Google's Linux-based operating system could be perfect. By design, they are virtually malware free, and OS updates are a breeze.
Finding the perfect Chromebook is difficult, as everyone's needs may be different, but I only suggest models with at least 4GB of RAM regardless. I also demand a quality keyboard and display, and I think all consumers deserve this too. Toshiba's new Chromebook 2 (2015) meets all of my needs, while also being affordable. In other words, it will probably be a winner for you too. Here are my first impressions.
Chromebooks are amazing web surfing machines, offering great battery life, focused computing and affordable pricing. While they aren't for everyone, they are a smart choice for many. Do you know someone that spends all their time in the web browser? Chromebooks are designed for them.
Toshiba makes particularly great Chrome OS laptops, and its Chromebook 2 was quite a hit with fans of Google's web-focused operating system. Today, the company refreshes it with Broadwell processors and backlit keyboards.
Today, at IFA in Berlin, Acer unveiled its first convertible Chromebook and updated the Windows counterpart, which gets 6th-generation Intel Core processors and USB 3.1 Type-C port. The two computers join a surprising assortment of new gear, including gaming notebooks and tablets and smartphones.
The Chromebook R 11 Convertible comes in consumer and commercial models. Base specs: 11-6.-inch display (1366 x 768 resolution); 1.6GHz Intel N3150 or N3050 Celeron processor; 2GB or 4GB RAM, 16GB or 32GB SSD; Intel HD graphics; webcam; USB 3; WiFi N; and Chrome OS. Weighs 1.25kg (2.76 pounds). There are four modes of operation, depending on positioning: display, laptop, pad, and tent.
Chrome OS is a wonderful operating system for what it is. Guess what? You can be a fan of Windows or OS X and still embrace Google's browser-focused Chromebooks. Sometimes you will be doing all of your computing in the web browser, such as email, social media, and web surfing. For that, a Chromebook might be the best tool for the job.
Choosing a model can be difficult, however. Why do I say that? Well, there are more duds than winners. Too often manufacturers release chintzy Chromebooks with poor specs or terrible build quality. Lenovo is hoping to change that with the upcoming 11.6 inch Chromebook 100S.
I am not a fan of overly-large laptops, but if I were to buy one, Acer's 15.6-inch monster would be among my top choices. The Chromebook packs in lots of value, which first and foremost is 1080p resolution to match the large screen, a benefit that is atypical for the price and size class. Screen brightness is no match for the Toshiba Chromebook 2, but the matte finish compensates for dimness by dramatically reducing glare. Meanwhile, the IPS display gives great viewing angles.
The point: Acer doesn't just offer bigger, but better, among the overall Chromebook category, where dim TN screens are standard fare. That also can be said of competing Windows laptops, where with same size screen in the price range, or even more costly, resolution typically tops out at 1366 x 768. Chromebook 15 is 1920 x 1080. By more than size, the display is a big benefit.
The strangest, and largely overlooked news, coming out of the tech sector this week is Dell's Microsoft betrayal. This isn't the first time that the PC maker strayed. Linux joined the product stable long ago, and last year an educational Chromebook debuted. But this newer and larger model, which will be available September 17, raises question: WTF?
Dell's core PC market is business—small, large, and everything between. Windows, and that smattering of Linux, is core, and longstanding loyalty to Microsoft's application stack. But the Chromebook 13 announcement, as positioned by the OEM and Google, is all about the competing cloud app stack. Interestingly, selling prices rival Windows laptops, which is another head scratcher: $399 to $899, depending on configuration.
I'm a strong believer in using the right tool for a job. Yeah, you can probably drive a nail into a piece of wood with the handle of a screwdriver, but wouldn't you rather use a hammer? The same applies to technology in business. Many businesses should probably stick with Windows machines (coupled with Office 365), but others would be smart to choose a Mac or Chromebook instead -- it depends on needs.
Today, Dell announces the all-new touchscreen Chromebook 13. Designed for businesses the premium laptop can be configured with Intel Broadwell Core i5 processors and 8GB of RAM, making for a solid cloud-based workstation. The Chromebook for Work initiative is looking better every day.
When Google's Chromebooks came onto the retail scene, consumers were dubious, and rightfully so. After all, for the most part, the operating system appeared to be nothing more than a web browser. While Chrome OS is actually a full-fledged Linux distribution, the focus is on the web browser, so consumers aren't far off -- perception is everything.
While Chromebooks can be a great option for people with limited computing needs, Windows 10 offers so many more possibilities. Despite limitations, what kept Chromebooks semi-popular, was the low cost. Unfortunately for Google, that benefit is short-lived. Today, Acer announces its Aspire One Cloudbook line. With super-low prices and Windows 10 Home, these are sure to be wildly popular; consumers may forget about Chromebooks altogether.
Skype is one of the most recognizable communication services in the world. Unfortunately, Microsoft has not yet perfected it; there is plenty of room for improvement. The company is arguably mishandling Skype, by killing the much maligned Modern UI version rather than fixing it.
Not all news about Skype is bad, however; last week, Microsoft announced that it was opening the web beta to all in the US and UK -- awesome news. Today, the company makes this announcement even better, by expanding it globally, including Linux distributions and Chrome OS (which is technically a Linux distro) for instant messaging.
Nine years ago, a NPR interviewer asked me about Google and other U.S. companies censoring search results in China. The question was one of morality -- to which I gave answer she didn't expect. That response, or my recollection of it, is appropriate for rather ridiculous and self-serving statements that Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly made two days ago.
"We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy", Cook said, Matthew Panzarino reports for TechCrunch. "The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it". Oh? What is moral? The answer I gave NPR in 2006 applies: There is no moral high ground in business. The high ground is quagmire, because all public companies -- Apple surely among them -- share a single, moral objective: Make profits for stockholders. Plain, pure, and simple.
With PC shipments continuing on a downward slope, manufacturers are finding new ways to attract consumers. In the high-end segment, it is all about specs: high-resolution screens, lots of battery life, powerful processors and so on. But, at the other end of the spectrum, the focus is on value for money -- to a certain extent, it is about cramming as many nice things as possible into a package that does not break the bank.
Chromebooks are probably the offerings that best cater to this audience's needs, assuming folks can live without Windows on their new machines. If that is not the case, there are a couple of interesting options on the PC side, one of which is Lenovo's new ideapad 100 line.
At an ongoing event in New Delhi, Google launches two new Chromebook models from Xolo and Nexian. Aimed at the education sector, both the Chromebooks are priced at Rs 12,999 ($200), and go on sale starting today.
The Xolo Chromebook sports an 11.6-inch display of 1366x768 pixels resolution packed in a glossy plastic body. It is powered by a quad-core Rockchip Cortex A17 processor coupled with 2GB RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. The notebook flaunts a decent enough keyboard with tactile feedback.
Late yesterday I posted my review of Chromebook Pixel LS, which Google released in early March. The write-up is purposely rah-rah to impose the importance of embracing contextual cloud computing and to shakeup preconceptions about Macs being the tools of the creative elite. I also call "dumb" developers who may receive free Pixels during Google I/O later this month only to then sell them online.
One reader comment, from SmallSherm caught my attention, for accusing me of calling him (or her) stupid and for insulting other readers. After writing my response, I wondered how few people would ever see the interaction, which I regard as being quite valuable. So in the interest of fostering further discussion, I present our two comments for your Tuesday thought train.
Mark the date with an alarm. Around May 28, 2015, sellers likely will fill eBay and Craigslist with spanking new Chromebook Pixels, available for bargain prices—if anything less than $999 or $1,299 could be considered a deal. Google's developer conference commences that day, when I expect many attendees will receive and quickly dispatch shiny, new laptops. Big G gave away the pricey Pixel two years ago, and it's good guess will do so again. Smart developers will keep the machines; many will not. Dumb move, but who am I to judge, eh? Pixel rests at the precipice of future computing, for those open-minded enough to welcome it. They are few.
If you are among those who get the Chromebook concept, who thinks about purchasing the laptop, but waffles indecision, watch for short-term selling prices that could meet what your sensibilities and spending budget can tolerate. It's good background for me to finally review the higher-end of the two costliest Chromebook configurations. My primer can help you decide whether or not to bother, either for full price now or for the chance of less later. Why wait? I wouldn't and didn't. I received my Pixel in March, on Friday the 13th, ordered two days earlier from Google. I use no other computer. It's more than my primary PC and could be yours, too.
What if you manufactured a low-cost, underpowered laptop -- and the configuration suddenly turned into a massive marketing advantage? That may well be the opportunity ahead for Google and its Chromebook OEM partners; if they seize the opportunity.
As we reported Wednesday, Gartner predicts that currency devaluation will compel major computer manufacturers to raise prices by as much as 10 percent, particularly across Europe and in Japan. Higher prices mean more customers will do with leaner configurations, and choose sub-$500 systems. Meanwhile, PC makers will give purchasers less for more money, cutting back features to preserve margins while shifting sales priorities to markets where currencies are more buoyant. What is Chromebook already? A lean, low-cost PC in that price category but better optimized for hardware.