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$249 Google Laptop vs. $499+ Windows 8: Fight!

Stocks in this article: GOOG MSFT INTC AMD NVDA QCOM AAPL

The size of the screen also has something to do with the size of the keyboard, but I'll get to that below. In the meantime, the verdict is resoundly in Google/Samsung's favor.

Round 3: Keyboard and Trackpad

The Google/Samsung hardware is as close as it's possible to get of being a copy of the Apple (AAPL) MacBook Air 11.6 inch, so the keyboard and trackpad are outstanding. Basically, as good as they get on any 11.6 inch laptop, bar none.

The Microsoft Surface RT represents Microsoft's vision of the convertible tablet/laptop format. Microsoft accomplishes this with a flexible rubber/gel-ish "cover" which snaps on with magnets. This seems very elegant at first.

However, once the conceptual novelty value of Microsoft's visually beautiful solution has worn off, a set of questions arise. I'm saying this with the disclaimer that the Surface RT hardware has not yet shipped (will do so in a week from now) and that the journalistic preview was very limited. I have not spent any quality time with it.

  • A. The rubber-ish keyboard looks like it needs a hard and flat surface to work in a reasonable way. If you have your laptop in your, well, lap -- it seems to be a non-starter. Want to type while you're waiting for your flight, or otherwise don't have a flat table? Too bad.
  • B. Related to (A) above, the keyboard doesn't support the screen, so the screen has a separate stand, in turn requiring mostly flat and additional tabletop real estate. It seems to make for a sensitive setup.
  • C. As for the Surface RT keyboard+trackpad itself, I obviously have not been given the opportunity to type on it yet, but it looks to be a very bad experience compared to even a mediocre "regular" keboard+trackpad, let alone Google/Samsung's outstanding hardware. If you see a review from someone else claiming otherwise, let me know!

Verdict: The Samsung/Google gets an A, and the Microsoft Surface RT has an inherent handicap that looks difficult to overcome.

Round 4: Software

There can be no clear "right or wrong" on this count. Neither OS is objectively better or worse than the other in this case. Both are excellent for what they are and seek to do. Instead, let me tell you about the misconception between the two.

The main objection to Google's Chrome OS is that "it's just a browser."

However, you can do almost everything in a browser. Some people want to run "Office" but don't realize that Google Docs/Drive is essentially a free and mostly compatible version with much of Microsoft's Office suite. I converted all of my user behavior away from Office in a jiffy, and I couldn't have been happier as result.

There are, of course, some things you can't do on a Chromebook. You can't run Photoshop, Skype or other specialty applications. For something such as Skype, Google has a perfect substitute, but perhaps not for something such as Photoshop.

People make these kinds of arguments in the automobile world as well. For every review of a small economy car, someone objects saying that it won't tow his boat or won't haul his 20 hogs on the truck bed. No one product fits all, okay? That heavy-duty Ford F-350 pickup truck also gets 15 MPG and loses against any car in terms of going to Safeway to pick up a pint of milk.

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