Chrome OS is largely an interesting experiment. For those unfamiliar, it’s basically Google’s desktop OS. The design is built entirely around the Internet: Online storage used as much as possible, apps stored and used on the web instead of the hard drive, and so on.
This does have the virtue of being very snappy on the front end: A Chromebook will boot and be ready to go in seconds. The downside is that if you take it literally anywhere with no WiFi connection, you’re screwed. Many try to make up for this by building in a 3G modem, but who wants a second cellular contract? Also, buy a Chromebook and you are committed to using Google for everything.
Chromebooks have done OK, mostly as oddities, but Acer is rolling out a new one, the C7 Chromebook, that actually addresses a lot of concerns and might actually be worth picking up.
First of all Acer’s Chromebook is dirt cheap: $199. For an eleven-inch laptop, that’s a good deal. Secondly, it comes with a 320GB hard drive on-board, making it possible to give this thing a dual boot capability. It’s got a full-sized keyboard and clickable trackpad as well, which frankly the Chromebooks have needed to not seem so toy-like. Portwise, it’s got the usual: HDMI, 3 USB ports, Ethernet.
That said, there are two trade-offs. First, you get a much slower boot speed of 18 seconds, although it does resume instantly, at least. True, bellyaching over 18 seconds seems weird, but if you’re the impatient type, it might annoy you. Secondly, it’s only got 3.5 hours of battery life. It’s also chunkier than other Chromebooks, due to that “useful hard drive” thing Acer seems all proud of, and there’s no USB 3.0 port like in the $250 Samsung Chromebook 550.
But if you need a smaller computer to have around the house or to slim down your trip gear, this seems to be an affordable deal, and worth looking into.