Acer C7 Chromebook Locks Up the Low End at $199

Chromebooks are like netbooks that are better at managing people's expectations. In that spirit, Acer's new $199 C7 Chromebook may be worth a closer look.

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Chromebooks are the new netbooks. I realize netbooks are still being sold, but where netbooks tend to overpromise (They run Windows!) and underdeliver (Windows runs slowly!), Chromebooks have been better at managing expectations (You can pretty much just surf the web!) in the face of low price points.

Back when netbooks were starting to heat up, Acer came out swinging with its cheaply-priced Aspire One line. I had one of the early 9-inch models that ran Linux, which I then managed to load Windows XP onto before the thing unceremoniously kicked the bucket shortly after the warranty had expired. That’s what $200 got you back in 2008.

But $200 nowadays will get you an entry-level Chromebook from Acer – the C7. The pitch: “Get the basics done, hassle-free. Fast, simple and easy to share.”

Without having actually used this particular machine (it was just announced), I can tell you that statement is almost entirely true, with the exception of the “fast” part. Chromebooks boot and resume from standby wonderfully quickly, but they’re not known for their horsepower as far as actually using them is concerned.

If you’re not familiar with Chromebooks, they’re relatively inexpensive laptops that boot directly into Google’s Chrome web browser. You don’t install software programs on them, which means they’re somewhat limited but relatively easy to use (and pretty “safe” as far as viruses are concerned). They’re a decent option for young kids, old-timers or anyone who’s not all that comfortable with computers.

Simple though they may be, there’s a Chromebook within arm’s reach of my coffee table at all times and it’s horse-powery enough that I use it whenever I need to do more than I can do with a tablet, but don’t want to get up and walk all the way across the house to use my big boy computer. That should be the pitch for Chromebooks in general: “More than a tablet. Closer than a big boy computer.”

The 11.6-inch Acer C7 beats Samsung’s 11.6-inch Chromebook by $50, though the Samsung version is thinner (0.7 inches versus an inch), lighter (2.42 pounds versus 3 pounds) and claims 6.5 hours of battery life to Acer’s 3.5 hours. Acer’s Chromebook, however, gives you a 320-gigabyte hard drive (versus Samsung’s 16-gigabyte solid state drive) and an Intel processor (versus Samsung’s own mobile processor). See Jared’s review of the $250 Samsung Chromebook for more info. If you’re looking for a higher-end Chromebook, check out Jared’s review of the Samsung Series 5 550 instead.

The C7 is available directly from Google and will be available at Best Buy as well.