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Bill Bennett


Ask Bill: Which Chromebook?

Kelvin Yong writes about the Chromebook:

Earlier the year, you reviewed a few Chromebooks and I’ve followed them. However I’m a bit confused which is a good one to get for. Seeing that on today’s news Google and Intel are working together to bring out new Chromebook with i3 processor, I’d imagine that won’t be for a few months before it will reach the market.

Anyhow, what’s your take of the current range – Toshiba, Samsung, HP Chromebook 11 (Exynos 5) and HP Chromebook 14 – or wait for i3 Chromebook?

I’ve only spent serious time with two Chromebooks: the HP Chromebook 14 and the Acer C720. I’m still hoping to get my hands on a Samsung Chromebook.

I’ve seen a few other, but only for a short period.

Chromebooks are inexpensive computers. They come with zero bundled software and most have basic specifications. Normally they come with relatively feeble processors, not much Ram, little in the way of specialist graphics hardware and hardly any local storage.

That’s OK because hardware makers optimise Chromebooks for simpler computing. You wouldn’t run Photoshop on one of these.

While first Chromebooks were effectively a reboot of the netbook, cheap almost throwaway computers, the latest batch is more elegant.

Paying more for a Chromebook

Of the current crop, your choice comes down to a simple matter of whether you want to pay a little extra for, let’s say, HP’s lightweight magnesium alloy frame, glossy white plastic exterior and the bright IPS panel display. The Acer C720 is nice because it is thin and light. Both are well made and look better than you’d expect given the low price.

I found all the Chromebooks were responsive enough – you get more of a performance boost from moving to a better broadband connection than you would from a faster processor.

Without doing benchmarks I can’t say for certain where you would or wouldn’t notice the extra grunt from an Intel i3, the issue is that once you start worrying about moving up to a more powerful system, you might want to think about moving out of the Chromebook class – for roughly the same money you could buy a Windows system that can run the Chrome browser most of the time AND run Windows apps.

The other issue to consider is what the i3 processor does for battery life. My understanding is Intel designed the chip more for performance than for battery life, so you may be trading work time for extra grunt you can’t use.



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