Chromebook Specs, Reviews: Google, Samsung Device Bestselling Notebook Ever on Amazon; Price Competitive with Apple, Say Analysts
While Microsoft is betting everything it has on the company's first ever tablet device, the Surface, Chromebook is Google and Samsung's bet that there's a sizable, untouched market out there for cloud-based computing.
The third generation laptop is already a hit for Google and Samsung, scoring the No. 1 spot on Amazon's bestseller list, and is now the best notebook seller of all time on Amazon, according to PC-Tablet.com
"It's not perfect, but it's very good, even excellent compared to what else you can get for $249," said Information Week in its review.
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"For workers who can operate independently without the management console and support, the US$250 price is very competitive compared to netbooks and laptops," Mark Levitt, director of enterprise software and communications at Strategy Analytics said.
Instead of having to purchase and install office productivity software such as Microsoft Office on the device, office users can tap Google's Web-based productivity app suite, Google Docs, to create and edit documents. They can also install other apps from the Chrome Web Store.
Called "Docs," "Sheets," and "Slides," Google transforms productivity software into apps which offer word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation tools as self-contained software for download at the Chrome Web Store.
In a regular Chrome browser, the apps act more like bookmarks. But in the Chrome OS, these same bookmarks can be made to appear as buttons in the bottom left of the Chromebook start-up screen, mimicking the experience of using a traditional computer.
"For folks living entirely in the cloud, the Chromebook is now a primary computer", Chrome OS Senoir Vice President Sundar Pichai said, implying that most users were not yet ready for the new machines. "Many people use the Chromebook today as the perfect additional computer for their home,"
Outside of that niche, Levitt said the Chromebook targets companies, especially small and midsize businesses that have embraced SaaS apps such as Google Docs.
Andrew Brown, director of enterprise research at Strategy Analytics, said the Chromebook can find opportunities particularly in developing Asian markets where budgets are tight.
"In an era when IT is being squeezed, [the pricepoint] makes the CIO and CFO happy", he said, adding that compared to other devices in the market, the Chromebook is much cheaper.
Brown noted that Chromebook is half the price of the Apple iPad and Microsoft Surface RT. It is also 50 to 70 percent cheaper than Windows 8 convertible tablets, and 70 to 75 percent cheaper than the price of Windows 8 ultrabooks, he said.
He said the strength of Google's brand and "smart design" of the notebook are other attractive points for businesses in emerging markets of Asia.
Levitt noted that one of the challenges for Chromebook is addressing real and perceived concerns about its offline use, especially for mobile workers in areas with spotty connectivity.
Senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS Craig Stice, also noted the laptop's limited local storage of 16GB might be a problem for business workers.
Business users may want to have the ability to store files locally for instant access and edit capabilities, without needing to worry about logging on or converting from and to a Google Doc format, Stice said.
He added that he is "skeptical" the new Chromebook is ready to meet the everyday needs of corporate users. Many Web apps are not suitable for the rigor of business use which will make the Chromebook a non-starter, he said.
Stice also questioned the Chromebook's ability to handle enterprise usage, where the typical user would have multiple windows, applications, spreadsheets, presentations and e-mail open at the same time.
"All that being said, we are not trying to say the Chromebook will fail."
There may be some market segments where its price and style fit, but for now it will be difficult for Chromebook to appeal beyond those niche markets, he said.
Google, Samsung Chromebook Specs
1366x768 resolution; 200nit brightness
2.43 lbs (1.1.kg)
Less than 0.8 inches thick (17.5 mm)
Over 6.5 hours
Samsung Exynos 5250
16GB SSD (Google is including 100GB free online storage)
1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, combo headphone/mic jack, secure digital memory slot, HDMI Port
Bluetooth 3.0TM Compatible
1.5W speaker X 2
Full-size Chrome keyboard
802.11 abg/n 2x2
$249 USD / 229 GBP