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Review: $279 Chromebook good as secondary computer

By Anick Jesdanun
Associated Press

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Hewlett-Packard’s new Chromebook 11 is a laptop at heart, but it’s light and portable enough to work well in places where you’d normally prefer a tablet.

I’m thinking cramped buses and airplanes, the waiting area of a doctor’s office or even the cushiony couch in your living room. The Chromebook is small enough to rest comfortably on your lap and easy to carry when you need to pick up and go.

The drawback is it relies heavily on the Internet to run various services, so you’ll need to plan ahead if you’re looking to write that great masterpiece without access to Wi-Fi. That’s because the Chromebook doesn’t run Windows or Mac OS, like the majority of laptops. Rather, it uses Google’s Chrome OS system, which needs a steady Internet connection.

Although it’s possible to use apps while offline, Chromebooks are really designed for online use. Many apps don’t work fully — or at all — without the Internet connection, or they need to be configured while you still have the connection to work offline. It’s not as simple as installing a program and expecting it to work wherever you are. In addition, Chromebooks have little storage on the devices; Google steers you toward its online storage service, Drive, for your documents, photos, music and movies.

Chromebooks aren’t meant for graphic designers who use sophisticated software, such as Adobe’s Photoshop, or business executives who rely on Microsoft’s PowerPoint slides. These notebooks are for people who primarily use Google’s online services, including search, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps and Google’s players for music and video. That includes schoolchildren who need a computer for homework and merchants who want something small next to a cash register.

As Google reasons, if you’re already using many of its services, why not use a device optimized for it? These devices can be fast because they get their sophistication from powerful servers located elsewhere. The Chromebook 11 takes just a few seconds to power up.

Chrome OS notebooks are cheap: The Chromebook 11 costs just $279. That price is in line with most other Chromebooks, including a $249 model from Samsung and a $199 model from Acer. But the new Chromebook has many high-end features inspired by a much pricier model, the $1,299 Chromebook Pixel designed and made by Google through contract factories in Asia.

The Chromebook 11 could pass for a tablet if it weren’t for the fact that it unfolds to reveal a physical keyboard. It also lacks a touch screen. You move the cursor on the screen the traditional way, using the laptop’s touchpad.

Overall, the days of one device per person, let alone per household, have long passed. I can see the Chromebook 11 being a great secondary computer for many people, especially for those with ready access to Wi-Fi.


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