If you’ve been watching TV lately, you may have noticed the Chromebook: For Everyone commercial, advertising the new “$250 laptop from Google.” To groovyReaders, this may have been confusing, since the Chromebook has been available for rent and for sale for quite some time. But the new hot item that Google is pushing is the latest Samsung model, a sleeker, faster and much cheaper version of its Chromebook 550. Also hitting shelves this holiday shopping season is the Acer C7, which costs even less than the $250 Samsung Chromebook.
But which of these Chrome OS laptops is the best? Read on to find out.
The song from the commercial, by the way, is The Death Set – Negative Thinking.
|Samsung Chromebook 550
|Acer C7 Chromebook
|Google Drive Cloud Storage||100 GB Cloud Storage (2 years for free)||100 GB Cloud Storage (2 years for free)||100 GB Cloud Storage (2 years for free)|
|Display||12.1 in. / 1280×800||11.6 in. / 1366×768||11.6 in. / 1366×768|
|Weight||3.2 lb.||2.42 lb.||3 lb.|
|Thickness||0.83 in.||0.69 in.||1.08 in.|
|Dimensions||11.50 x 8.50 x 0.83 in.||11.40 x 8.09 x 0.69 in.||11.2 x 8 x 1 in.|
|6 hours||6.5 hours||4 hours|
|Processor||1.3 GHz Dual-core Intel Celeron 867 processor||1.7 GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Processor||1.1GHz Dual-core Intel Celeron 847 processor|
|USB Ports||2x USB 2.0||1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
|3x USB 2.0|
|Video Ports||DisplayPort++ Output
(HDMI, DVI, VGA compatible—requires dongle)
|Memory Card Slot||4-in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC)||3-in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC)||2-in-1 (SD, MMC) (Likely the same as 4-in-1)|
|Storage (Local)||16 GB Solid State Drive||16 GB Solid State Drive||320 GB Hard Disk Drive (5400 RPM)|
|RAM||4 GB||2 GB||2 GB|
|Network Adapters||WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
|WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n||WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2×2
|Price||$449 (WiFi) / $549 (3G)
Buy it from Amazon or TigerDirect
Buy it from Amazon or Best Buy
Buy it from TigerDirect or Amazon
*For clarity’s sake, let’s call the $250 Samsung Chromebook the Samsung Chromebook 303, though no one else does officially.
What’s the Same?
Among all these devices, the common thread, of course, is that they are all Chromebooks. They all are webcentric devices that are designed primarily for browsing the web and accessing web-based applications, especially Google Drive, Google Docs, Gmail, etc. They all run Chrome OS, rather than Windows or Mac OS X, so you will run into problems if you rely on certain desktop-based applications (Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Outlook). But if you are just looking for an on-the-go device that’s well-suited for browsing the web, hopping on Facebook, word processing, emailing and anything else that is now possible from a web browser, a Chromebook might be just what you’re looking for.
For a more thorough discussion on that, read Austin’s article on Is a Google Chromebook for You?
The other commonality across these devices is that they all come 100 GB worth of free Google Drive cloud storage for 2 years. And at around 3 pounds and 1 inch thick each, these devices are all fairly portable.
So, if you’re trying to decide among the three flagship Chromebooks from Google, there are a few key differences that will influence your decision. I’ll start with the first and foremost:
Price – Winner(s): Samsung Chromebook 303 and Acer C7 Chromebook
The Samsung Chromebook 550 is the priciest of the bunch, ringing up at $449, a full $200 more than the Samsung Chromebook 303. In my opinion, that pretty much rules out the Samsung Chromebook 550 from consideration. The 3G Chromebook 550 is even more expensive, at $549. Considering you can add a USB 3G dongle to any computer, that’s not much of a selling point. I think that $449 is simply too much to spend on a device that only runs Chrome OS.
After taking the 550 off the table, you are left with the Acer C7 ($199) and Samsung 303 ($249). Again, here’s my opinion: at just a $50 differential, I think you shouldn’t make your decision based on price. Instead, look at the features, and if the more expensive model has the ones you are looking for, suck it up and pay the extra $50.
Storage – Winner: Acer C7 Chromebook
When Google introduced the Chromebooks, they heavily pushed the idea that you shouldn’t need local storage. After all, you can store everything in the cloud, especially since they are giving you 100 GB of Google Drive cloud storage for free. But with the introduction of the Acer C7 Chromebook, it seems like they are slightly walking back that bold statement.
While the Samsung Chromebooks have 16 GB solid state drives (about as much storage space as you’d see on a smartphone), the Acer C7 Chromebook has a 320 GB hard disk drive. There are some pros to having such a large amount of local storage. Burt there are cons, too (we’ll get to those later).
At any rate, now that Chrome OS has a file manager, internal and external (e.g. USB, SD cards) storage devices are a bit more useful. While still very cloud-centric, Chromebooks do let you work with locally-stored data.
Battery Life – Winner: Samsung Chromebook 303
Above, I said that there were disadvantages to a hard disk drive vs. a solid state drive. Battery life is one of them. Although it’s not the only factor, the Samsung Chromebook 550 and Samsung Chromebook 303’s SSDs help them reach battery lives of 6 hours and 6.5 hours, respectively. This in spite of the Chromebook 303 having a 2-cell battery, whereas the other contenders have 4-cell batteries.
The secret to the Chromebook 303’s success? I would say that the 1.7 GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Processor, a processor designed for mobile devices, plays a big part in that. Compare that to the Acer C7, which gets just 4 hours out of its 4-cell battery, and it’s clear that the Chromebook 303 is sucking down less power than any other Chromebook.
Portability – Winner: Samsung Chromebook 303
The numbers speak for themselves. The Chromebook 303 is the thinnest and over half a pound lighter than the Acer C7 (again, thanks to the SSD and the smaller battery).
Notably, the Chromebook 550 is ever so slightly larger, on account of its 12.1 inch display. That’s a half inch more space of screen real estate without sacrificing anything in heft or breadth.
Speed – Winner(s): Samsung Chromebook 550 and Samsung Chromebook 303
From a GHz standpoint, the Samsung Chromebooks have faster processors. Plus, the Chromebook 550 has 4 GB of RAM, compared to the 2 GB of RAM on the other devices. But the big thing here is the SSD vs. HDD storage devices. The biggest difference an SSD will make is with boot up times, since it doesn’t have to spin up like a mechanical HDD does. Combine that with the slower processor on the Acer C7, and it’s no contest: the C7 is slowest.
How the Chromebook 550 and Chromebook 303 match up in terms of speed is hard to tell from the numbers, since they have radically different processors. Benchmarks done by lilputing.com found one to be faster than the other in some cases and the other way round in others.
Aside from the big items above, there are a handful of differences that might be important to you:
- The Acer C7 and Chromebook 550 have HD cameras; the Chromebook 303 has a VGA resolution camera.
- The Samsung Chromebook 303 is the only one with a USB 3.0 port. If you invest in a USB 3.0 external hard disk drive, this pretty much obviates the need for the Acer C7’s built-in 320 GB HDD.
- The Chromebook 303 does not support MMC cards. You can buy a USB MMC card reader, if that’s important to you. Most devices use SD form factor cards, though.
- The Chromebook 303 lacks a VGA port, which shouldn’t be particularly limiting, since most projectors, TVs and monitors use HDMI. And when they don’t, there are adapters.
Conclusion – I’d buy the Samsung Chromebook 303
Each of these Chromebooks has its own strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day, I’d put my money toward a Samsung Chromebook 303. At only $50 more than the Acer C7 Chromebook, you’re getting a more state-of-the-art machine, thanks to the Exynos 5 mobile processor, solid-state drive and USB 3.0 port. It’s also considerably smaller and lighter than the C7 and has a much better battery life. Those factors, at the end of the day, are what matter for a web-oriented laptop.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!
[Product images from Google.com]