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Samsung's Newest Chromebook: Perfect Extra Machine?

Google's latest Chromebook from Samsung dials down the specs and the size to make a practical $249 machine that could serve as a spare at the office or home.
10 Best Apps For the Samsung Galaxy Note
10 Best Apps For the Samsung Galaxy Note
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The latest Google Chromebook offers an interesting mix of features for its bargain price of $249. Made by Samsung, this smaller, less powerful Chromebook weighs just 2.5 pounds and measures 0.8 inches thick. It does make a number of tradeoffs, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor, the Samsung Chromebook 550.

Chromebooks are for people, businesses, or governments that have "gone Google." Since the operating system is based on Google's Chrome browser, Google's Web-based tools are the only real "apps" available. You have to be heavily invested in the Google-verse to get any real use out of a Chromebook.

This particular bit of kit is clearly targeting those who want a small, light, and portable computing machine. The clean lines and metallic-looking surfaces give it a modern look.

[ Google CEO says Android-Apple is the defining fight in the industry. Read more at Schmidt Dishes On Google-Apple Battle Royale. ]

The screen measures 11.6 inches across the diagonal and has a resolution of 1366 x 768, the same as the $999 entry-level MacBook Air. The new Chromebook is powered by Samsung's Exynos 5 dual-core processor at 1.7 GHz per core. Samsung's Exynos chips also power its smartphones, including the Galaxy Note II. The processor is paired with 2GB of RAM. The device comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, but offers 100 GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for two years.

It accesses the Internet via Wi-Fi only, using dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n. There is no Ethernet port. There is also a version that includes 3G data. It costs $330 and the wireless data fees are included (1 GB of data per month) for two years. Google says this third-generation Chromebook will deliver more than 6.5 hours of battery life, though that depends on usage.

The new Chromebook drops a number of features that are available on the Chromebook 550. For example, it loses the HD webcam in favor of a VGA webcam. It also loses the DisplayPort and memory card slot. Instead of two USB 2.0 ports as on the 550, the new Chromebook has one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port. It also offers an HDMI port.

Google is pitching the Samsung Chromebook as the perfect on-the-go computing machine for people who hate hassles. Since it runs Chrome, users won't ever need to update it; updates occur automatically and don't require annoying reboots. The device can be used by multiple people with separate accounts. Since the device accesses all the services on the Web, nothing is stored locally; it's all in the cloud. Google says the laptop is small enough to fit into a purse.

The $249 price point is hard to beat. That's half the price of an iPad and one-quarter the price of a MacBook Air. You could argue that these other devices offer more oomph for their price points, and they do. This Chromebook is all about being easy, and the price is low enough that the Chromebook could make for a perfect extra machine for the office or home.

It will be available from Google and other retailers starting October 22.

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