Google is following up last month’s Samsung Chromebooks with a new, lower-priced one developed by Acer.
Retailing for $199, the 11.6-inch Acer C7 Chromebook features an Intel Celeron 847 processor, 2GB of DDR3 memory, a 320GB hard drive, three USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI port for various cords and auxiliary devices. It’s designed for portability, weighing 3.05 pounds and measuring an inch thick. Boot time is reportedly less than 18 seconds.
Chromebooks rely on Google’s Chrome OS, a cloud-dependent operating system for laptops and desktops. Chrome OS features Google services such as Gmail, as well as access to the Chrome Web Store, which includes a variety of apps. There is some offline functionality, such as document editing via Google Docs, but the device is really meant for a perpetual Internet connection.
If the new Chromebook has a weakness, it’s the advertised 3.5 hours of battery life. That’s less than the MacBook Air (which features anywhere from 5-7 hours’ battery life, depending on specs) and many of the Windows-backed Ultrabooks, some of which claim up to 11 hours of battery life depending on usage. It’s also far less than the posted battery life for tablets such as Apple’s iPad and Google’s Nexus 7, which are widely viewed as the most prominent competition to laptops in the extra-portable category.
The price of the Acer Chromebook, which goes on sale Nov. 13, undercuts even that of the new Samsung Chromebook, which retails for $249. For that extra bit of change, the Samsung offering weighs a bit less (2.5 pounds) and packs a bit more advertised battery life (6.5 hours), although it boasts the same screen size as its Acer sibling. Samsung chose to give its Chromebook an ARM-based 1.75GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Processor, which Google claims gives the device a boot time of under 10 seconds.
Chrome OS finds itself in a somewhat odd spot with regard to the larger market. It must battle Windows PCs and Macs, which can claim more robust hardware in exchange for a slightly higher price, while pushing back against tablets running iOS and Android that offer flexibility and connectivity for a relatively low sticker price. Google and its hardware partners have lowered the price of Chromebooks by a few hundred dollars, making the devices more competitive—but their success nonetheless depends on audiences being comfortable with the idea of a laptop with apps and features almost entirely dependent on the cloud.