Google’s big bet on web-only laptops has now been fully realized with the consumer availability of Chromebooks. There are two models—one from Acer and one from Samsung—each available either with a 3G cellular connection built-in or as lower-priced Wi-Fi-only versions.
The Acer AC700 starts at $350 for the Wi-Fi version, with the 3G version running $430. The larger-screened Samsung Series 5 starts at $430 for the Wi-Fi version and tops out at $500 for the 3G version. All models are available through Amazon.com; Best Buy also sells the Samsungs.
Who Needs These Things?
A million years ago, I ran my own Geek Squad-style computer support company in Minneapolis. I’d say that 95% of the calls I went on involved a frazzled family trying to figure out why their computer was running so slowly and, invariably, these families all had middle school- and high school-aged kids in the house who used the family computer to download cruft from Kazaa and surf sites that kids their age shouldn’t have been surfing.
(PHOTOS: A Brief History of the Computer)
These computers were always riddled with spyware and viruses and, when I’d explain to the parents why their computers had been running so slowly, many of them would ask: “Is there a computer that JUST surfs the web and doesn’t download anything? That’s all we really need anyway.”
That was back about 5-8 years ago. Fast-forward to 2011, and the computer they all wanted is finally here.
The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook
I’ve been using the $500 Samsung Series 5 with the 3G connection for a while and, like just about any tech product, it has its pluses and minuses.
The biggest selling points, in my mind, are the long battery life (I averaged 7-8 hours between charges), near-instant boot times and instant resume times, and 100 megabytes of free Verizon 3G data to use every month for two years. The free 3G data is THE biggest selling point, as far as I’m concerned.
The machine sports a 12.1-inch screen with a 1280×800 resolution, it measures just shy of an inch thick, and it weighs around 3.3 pounds.
That’s pretty good but it doesn’t do as much to justify its $500 price tag as it would if Samsung had been able to knock another half-pound off the body weight and slim down the thickness a smidge more. As it stands, it still feels like a standard notebook. I didn’t find myself compelled to use it as much as I’d originally anticipated.