Friday, October 19, 2012

$250 Laptop

There was another presidential debate this week, and it was clearly evident that no matter how different the views were on most issues there was one issue that both candidates could agree on. Our economy has gone through some rough times in recent years. While most people are willing to spend an ever-growing percentage of their budget on technology, the fact is that most people simply don't have a lot of money to spend on anything right now. In light of this fact, Samsung and Google have collaborated and announced Thursday that their new $250 laptop will begin shipping on Halloween.

The first question that comes to mind is “How good can this thing be for $250?” The answer may surprise you. While the new Chromebook is admittedly not going to replace your desktop computer anytime in the near future, it is surprisingly capable of handling most day to day tasks for the average user. As the name implies, the Chromebook is loaded with Google's Chrome OS. As one would expect from a Google product, this platform is geared towards web usage. However, it also comes with a variation of most of the applications that you'd expect to find on any other laptop. Web browsing is handled by the popular Google Chrome browser. Google Docs handles the text editing and spreadsheet functions. It also comes preloaded with calendar, notepad and media player applications. It has a webcam for video chatting and is available with WiFi and 3G chips installed for Internet connectivity.

The hardware is not what you'd find on a $1,200 MacBook Pro, but with Google's light weight applications it performs admirably at 17% of the price. Samsung used an ARM processor in place of an Intel chip. What this means is that the computer runs extremely efficiently allowing for 6.5 hours of battery life and does not need a fan. With no moving parts the computer is absolutely silent. While there is no optical drives for CDs or DVDs there are two USB ports to allow for external peripherals.

Of course there are always trade-offs. Otherwise every laptop would only cost $250. With the Chromebook you have the processing power to play 1080p high definition movies, but you can forget about playing the latest and greatest video games. Being a Linux based system, you also can't install most software that is made for Windows. However, you can download and install software from Google Play, the same app store that is used on Android devices.

While this new laptop isn't going to replace your desktop workhorse, if you are one of the 90% of people that spend 90% of their time online or on email this might be a great fit for you. At $250, it is also an option for families that want to get a second computer for their kids but don't have the income to spend on a Windows-based system. It could also be useful for people that aren't technologically inclined as the Chrome OS is wonderfully simple to use, and isn't vulnerable to malware and viruses that plague Windows and Apple products. Another group that could find value in this system would be students. At 2.5 lbs. and 8” across, the Chromebook will easily slide into a backpack for easy travel. Whether or not you fit into any of these categories, the Chromebook might be worth a look for you.

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