Acer Ditches the Hard Disk with Its New $200 Chromebook

The cheapest Chromebook gets thinner, lighter and faster, with longer battery life.

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Acer

With its new $200 Chromebook, Acer finally gets what these browser-based laptops are all about.

Chromebooks are meant to get onto the web as quickly as possible, so it was puzzling that last year’s $200 Acer Chromebook shipped with a 320 GB hard disk drive. Solid-state storage is faster and more reliable, and as I wrote earlier this week, the fact that Chrome OS can fit on a 16 GB solid-state drive is one of its main advantages over cheap Windows laptops. Although a smaller solid-state drive won’t hold nearly as many photos or videos, that’s not much of a concern if you’re using a Chromebook as a secondary computer.

Acer’s new $200 Chromebook drops the hard disk drive for a 16 GB solid-state drive. It’s also much thinner and ligher than last year’s model, weighing 2.76 pounds and measuring 0.75 inches thick.

In fact, this new model is nearly identical to the $250 Chromebook that Acer launched last month, with an estimated 8.5 hours of battery life, an Intel Celeron processor, two USB ports, HDMI out and a full-sized SD card slot. Confusingly, they even share the same “C720″ model number.

The only difference between Acer’s $200 and $250 Chromebooks is RAM. The cheaper model has 2 GB, while the more expensive one has 4 GB, but you probably won’t notice unless you keep dozens of browser tabs open at a time. My experience with HP’s Chromebook 11 (which also has 2 GB of RAM) suggests that memory management in ChromeOS has gotten pretty good, even on weaker machines.

I still have a review unit of the Acer’s $250 Chromebook, and while I appreciate its speed and battery life, I was more impressed by the HP Chromebook 11’s lightness, solid keyboard and display quality. The Acer Chromebook feels like a much cheaper machine, with its whirring fans and washed out display.

But the $200 model is a different story. At an $80 advantage over HP’s Chromebook, Acer’s making a much more compelling argument for a “good enough” secondary computer. And that’s really what Chromebooks are best-suited for, as they rely solely on web-based applications and can’t install desktop programs like iTunes, Photoshop or Office.

If you actually liked the idea of a Chromebook with a roomy hard disk drive, odds are Acer won’t help you anytime soon. A spokeswoman told me the company has no plans to launch a C720 Chromebook with a hard disk inside. Your only option for now would be last year’s Acer C710, but keep in mind that it’s a thicker and heavier machine with inferior battery life, and it’s more expensive to boot.

Toshiba is also working on a Chromebook, but we don’t know what it’ll look like or when it’s coming. Asus also said this week that it will launch two Chromebooks early next year–an 11-inch model for $199, and a 13-incher for $249–but the specifics are still unclear.

8 comments
garden54
garden54

you suggest: "The only difference between Acer’s $200 and $250 Chromebooks is RAM. The cheaper model has 2 GB, while the more expensive one has 4 GB".....


I thought the $250 Acer Chromebook had more SSD...from 16 to 32...and the 2GB was standard on both models?  And what would 4GB do for the Chromebook that 2GB doesn't?



NadejdaLetat
NadejdaLetat

On enquiring about the features & specifications of all chromebooks, I was told that it is not possible to use skype as a means of communication.  Is this true?

KvinlonWeldon
KvinlonWeldon

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joshuakyte
joshuakyte

why not just put a bigger hard drive in it

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@joshuakyte Because hard drives are slower and less reliable than solid state. But solid state drives are much more expensive in larger capacities. Either way it's a trade off but solid state is a better fit for Chromebooks.

jonpbarron
jonpbarron

@newmanjb @joshuakyte The idea is also to save everything in the cloud with documents on Google Drive, music files in Google Music, photos on Google+ photos etc.

You can actually put whatever you like on Google Drive - so there isn't really any need for much local storage. 

marshall.staxx
marshall.staxx

@jonpbarron @newmanjb @joshuakyte 

True, that. 

I've been using my SSD-equipped Chromebook for some time now, and at present there is nothing stored on it locally. About the only times I do use it are for temporary storage when downloading or transferring files, and that's not often.