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12/5/2013
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Acer Touchscreen Chromebook Aims Low

Acer's C270P touch-equipped Chromebook checks in at a mass market price.

Google has lowered the cost of entry for touch-equipped Chromebooks with the Acer C270P, a new offering that costs $1,000 less than the powerful Pixel.

Touchscreens have pervaded our everyday computing lives. All smartphones and tablets are equipped with displays that react to taps, swipes, slides, and pinches. Moving from a tablet to a laptop can be frustrating, especially when the laptop requires users to navigate the screen with a trackpad rather than with their fingers. That's why Google introduced the Pixel Chromebook earlier this year. The uber-Chromebook strongly resembles Apple's popular MacBook Air line of portables, and includes a high-resolution touch display. It's a premium machine. The cost, however, is astronomical at $1,299. As good as the Pixel is, the cost outweighs the benefit of the touchscreen device.

Enter the Acer C270P. It is built on the same chassis as the C270, but ups the ante across the board. This low-cost Chromebook includes an 11.6-inch LED backlit display that supports 10-finger touch for tapping and swiping. The screen has 1366 x 768 pixels, which qualifies it as a high-definition screen, though it trails the Pixel's 2560 x 1700 display by a significant margin. The screen uses Intel HD Graphics with 128 MB of dedicated system memory. It offers moderate viewing angles at 145 degrees.

The C270P is powered by the Intel Celeron 2955U processor, based on the Haswell architecture, which runs at 1.4 GHz. It comes with 2 MB of L3 cache, 2 GB of DDR3L SDRAM, and 32 GB of built-in storage. It supports SD memory cards for expanded storage and offers native integration with Google's cloud-based Google Drive.

One of the Pixel's main selling points, aside from the high-resolution touchscreen, is that it comes with 1 TB of online storage. The Acer C270P does not. Instead, it offers only 100 GB of Google Drive storage.

[Can Chromebooks appeal to people dismissing Windows? PC Slump: No Recovery in Sight.]

Connectivity options include 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. There is no LTE model available. The C270P has one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI port, and a standard stereo headphone/microphone jack. There's a built-in 720p HD webcam that doubles as a VGA camera and stereo speakers. The C270P includes a full-sized Acer FineTip keyboard and a multi-gesture touchpad. The C270P has a three-cell lithium-polymer battery that Google says provides up to 7.5 hours of battery life. The laptop measures 0.78 inches thick and weighs 2.98 pounds.

The Acer C270P is available for preorder on Amazon.com. The device costs $299 and will ship in mid-December. The Amazon product page says there will be limited quantities.

If the Pixel appealed to you due to the touchscreen, the C270P offers that key feature at a much more reasonable cost. The C270P loses the Pixel's great industrial design and massive online storage, but the tradeoffs might be worth it.

The use of cloud technology is booming, often offering the only way to meet customers', employees' and partners' rapidly rising requirements. But IT pros are rightly nervous about a lack of visibility into the security of data in the cloud. This Dark Reading report, Integrating Vulnerability Management Into The Application Development Process, puts the risk in context and offers recommendations for products and practices that can increase insight -- and enterprise security. (Free registration required.)

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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/5/2013 | 11:56:59 AM
Interesting but ...
I could see something like this working for my middle school kids -- they want a keyboard for writing, but they need a touchscreen for some of the apps (7th grader was studying Spanish last night using a touchscreen matching game of Spanish to English terms.) They don't need high powered computing or a glam screen, and the abuse it'll take frankly you want a disposable price. I'm less convinced for business computing needs. Anyone see it working in their environments?
kmarko
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kmarko,
User Rank: Strategist
12/5/2013 | 1:25:23 PM
Re: Interesting but ...
I'm not a big enterprise, but anyone who's read my columns over the past year might know that my primary work environment is Chrome OS (for writing and research) and iOS and Android for communication. The need for a conventional PC is vastly overrated, particularly by the older generation weened on them. Forget the PC sales figures, just look at mobile device usage among youth (teens, 20's). They are fueling the tablet sales boom this holiday season and use a smartphone as their primary information appliance. 

As to "real", read enterprise use of Chrome, it's already happening, with case studies here for Chrome OS and here for Google Apps (the gateway drug to a Chrome-centric environment). What people still have trouble wrapping their heads around is the compute power issue. In a cloud-centric model, even today's low-end device has plenty of power to manage this UI and graphics as evidenced by the SoCs used in smartphones and tablets. All the heavy lifting is done in the cloud. Doing some sophisticated image transformations with a Aviary? You don't actually think those filters are happening on your Chromebook do you? No, they're done on an EC2 or GCE instance, i.e. virtual Xeon with multi-GB of RAM. This performance asymmetry will only grow as cloud compute instances get more powerful and cheaper (see Google's recent GCE pricing and spec announcement).

 
lynn daugherty
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lynn daugherty,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/6/2013 | 10:02:55 AM
Re: Interesting but ...
I am not an IT professional, but a heavy user and fan.  Without a tool to connect to physical or virtual MS machines on a work network remotely through Terminal Gateway, I don't see businesses using these.  I would much rather save my money in a BYOD environment and buy a chromebook, but if I cannot connect to my work server to do work, it does me no good. I recently had to replace my 10 yearold MacBook with n ASUS Windows * machine to be able to work remotely.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 10:39:15 AM
Re: Interesting but ...
This article makes a good point about the storage difference between the Pixel and the new Acer. I wonder if storage will be more important than speed/power. Kurt notes that people increasingly use a smartphone as their main appliance, but a lot of these gadgets soak up huge amounts of storage for images and other media. 
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