Chromebooks just became a lot more interesting ! Acer recently announced that it will be shipping the first Chromebook featuring an Intel Core i3 processor, and it will only cost about $350. As Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware both become more capable, the more Microsoft and Apple need to worry. Combined with Intel’s dogged support for Chromebooks, this latest shove by Acer shows that Chromebooks can be much more than just contemptible laptops for kids. As it stands, the Chromebook might just be Google’s most intriguing initiative to date.
Two new models of the C720 series were introduced, and the cost-to-horsepower ratio is outstanding. The C720-3871 sports a dual-core 1.7GHz Core i3-4005U CPU, 2GB of DDR3L RAM, a 32GB SSD, integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400, and a 1366×768 11.6-inch display for $350. On the other hand, the C720-3404 has almost exactly the same specs, but sees a boost to 4GB of DDR3L RAM for an additional $30. These certainly aren’t supercomputers, but those are some surprisingly solid internals for a laptop this cheap.
At its I/O conference last month, Google announced that Chrome OS will soon be able to run Android applications locally, and the increasing complexity of HTML5 applications means that you don’t want to be stuck using the underpowered CPUs found in most Chromebooks on the market. Unlike the other Chromebooks topping the sales charts on Amazon, I might actually invest in one of these. It’s not as compelling as the hefty Chromebook Pixel, but it’s less than a third of the asking price. On top of that, these new C720 models have 1.7 times the battery life of a Chromebook Pixel, so they’re much more viable for travelers.
While PCMag’s Sascha Segan would prefer Google to kill off Chrome OS in favor of Android, I think Chrome OS is an incredible idea. The vast majority of my work and entertainment is accomplished inside of a web browser, so the idea of a stripped down operating system focused on the browsing experience sounds marvelous to me. Google hasn’t quite lived up to the promise of the Chromebook just yet, but I’m hopeful that more powerful hardware and a stronger focus on snappy local apps will turn Chrome OS into a real contender.