If you’re on a budget, your portable computing solutions have largely been restricted to cheaper tablets and netbooks; go for a full-size notebook, at a big name retail store at least, and you’re pushing $300. Now Google and Samsung are offering the latest model in their Chromebook range for $250.
The machine runs the Chrome operating system: effectively a souped up version of the Chrome browser, with most applications running on Google servers rather than the machine itself. The aim is to fit somewhere between the expense of installing Windows and the complexity and unfamiliarity of Linux-based systems for the mass market.
Hardware-wise, it’s basic but functional: a dual-core processor of the ARM variety (featured more often in tablets than laptops) with 2GB of RAM, full-size keyboard and an 11.6 inch monitor. The storage is only 16GB, though Google assumes you’ll be storing most files online: you get 100GB on Google Drive without charge for the first two years. A second model also added this week includes a built-in 3G modem and 100MB data use a month, bumping the price up to $329.
Google doesn’t seem entirely clear on its target audience. It’s pitched it as a computer that, thanks to the price, “is perfect for everyone,” but has also suggested its targeted as a secondary machine that will serve the same purpose as a tablet does in many homes, rather than being a main computer.
That might work: the relatively thin and light build of the new Chromebook along with its quick start-up mean it could work for people who want some of the benefits of a tablet but still either need to use a machine for the occasional piece of productive work or want the familiar feel of a keyboard. It’s a niche market, but within that market the price and the familiarity of the Google and Samsung brands might be a winner.