Google Chromebooks: What You Need to Know

samsung-chromebook

Netbook sales are in decline for some, but that’s not stopping Google from launching a Chrome OS notebook that boots in eight seconds. Dubbed the Chromebook, Google today introduced an updated consumer version of the CR-48 netbook it previously sent to thousands of beta testers. Best Buy and Amazon have partnered with Google for sales of the Chromebooks, the first models of which are built by Samsung and Acer.

Samsung’s model will be priced at $429 for a Wi-Fi version, while $499 includes a 3G / World Mode radio for use on Verizon’s mobile broadband network; the carrier will provide 100 MB of monthly data use for two years at no change, with additional data available for purchase. Additional specifications include:

  • 12.1-inch display with 1280×800 resolution and 300 nit screen
  • Dual-core 1.66 GHz Intel Atom processor
  • 8.5 hours of continuous battery life
  • HD webcam, noise-canceling¬†microphone
  • 2 USB ports, 4-in1 memory card slot, mini-VGA port
  • Full-sized keyboard and clickable trackpad
  • 3.26 pounds
Acer’s model is slightly smaller and shares many similar specifications. Here are the key differences for its Chromebook, which starts at $349:
  • 11.6-inch HD Widescreen display
  • 2.95 pounds
  • 6.5 hours of continuous usage
  • World Mode 3G model will be available at a future announced price
 

Both devices launch on June 15 in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and Spain. Each also¬†runs on Google’s version of Chrome OS, a browser-based operating system that relies heavily on web apps. However, the platform includes an improved file manager, notification system, integration with Box.net for cloud storage and both Netflix and Hulu for entertainment. While the device is web-centric, Google plans offline versions of some of its apps this summer, including Gmail, Docs and Calendar.

Consumers aren’t the only audience Google is targeting with its Chromebook. Businesses can pay $28 monthly per user to get a Chromebook and software support, while students get the same for $20 each month. Google will manage the operating system updates and provide warranty service for new hardware in the case of an accident at these rates.

Potential buyers may balk at the full purchase price of Chromebooks, given that a Microsoft Windows netbook can be had for less money, while offering a wider range of popular third-party applications. On the surface, a traditional netbook may look as the more attractive deal. However, consumers that dig deeper may see the value provided by a cloud-based computer that self-updates: Data can be quickly regained in the event of a hardware failure or use of another device. Google’s web expertise has turned data synchronization into a core feature instead of a useful, but tricky to manage add-on.

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