Performance testing the latest Chromebooks: Price matters

Three Google Chromebooks

Hit up Google’s Chromebook site and you can now choose from a trio of Wi-Fi models, one of which is currently available with a 3G option. Prices widely range from a low of $199 up to $549 for the devices due to different hardware configurations, specifications and battery capacity. Yet all of these run the same Chrome OS: The Chrome browser on top of a Linux build without the ability to install anything beyond web browser extensions.

I’ve been using all three base models for some time now. I spent $449 for the Samsung Series 5 550 model in June and it has become my primary computing device for work purposes. Last month, Google introduced an updated Samsung model, simply called Chromebook, that is lighter, thinner and cheaper at $249. The device runs on Samsung’s latest chip for smartphones and tablets.

Acer C7 ChromebookAnd earlier this month, Acer introduced the $199 C7 Chromebook; a repurposed Windows laptop offers less battery life than the other two Chromebook choices. After the latest software update, the C7 is rated for 4 hours of run-time, while I routinely see between 6 and 7 hours on the Samsung models. But how does it perform?

I compared performance of the Samsung models last month, noting that the lower priced model runs a little slower in real world experience, with some benchmarks to validate what I’ve seen. After spending time with the latest model, I’m updating my becnchmark table as the $199 C7 has performed better than the $249 model in most cases, but is still not up to par with the $449 device:

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At this point, I plan to stick with my $449 purchase because it offers the best performance and can still run as long on a single charge as the $249 version. If I hadn’t already invested the money, I’d likely consider the lower priced Samsung model over the even less expensive Acer C7, mainly because of the 50 percent boost in battery life. Even with some minor compatibility issues that are the process of being addressed, for me, battery life trumps many features in a mobile device.

I’m also finding that Acer’s use of a hard drive instead of flash memory brings some unwanted noise to the experience and even some web page stutters after opening multiple tabs. Previously opened web pages appear blank every once in while, for example, and I’ve heard some streaming music pauses as the device loads additional web pages. For basic use, the Acer, or even the $249 Samsung model, will surely work fine, but for Chrome OS “power users” — if there is such a thing — paying a premium for the $449 model is money well spent.

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