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Review: Google's $199 Laptop Is a Champ

Stocks in this article: GOOG INTC AAPL MSFT

4. Google Talk, Google Voice: For communications.

I don't know about you, but this is pretty much 99% or 100% of what I do on a laptop. For my portable entertainment needs, I have an Apple iPad, among other things. The Apple iPad and the Google Chromebook complement each other like a latte and a croissant -- except one is a lot less expensive than the other, in this case.

Obviously, you also get the other advantages of every Chrome OS PC: Security, automatic backup, automatic updates, multi-user ease of use, fast boot-up and shutdown.

This is the kind of PC you can hand to your 2-year-old or 102-year-old family member and be relieved that you don't have to make "tech support specialist" into your second job.

The Chromebook is for everyone.

But I think you get the message here: The Chromebook -- whether this $199 variant, or the $249 or the $449 versions -- is for work. It is not your optimal gaming machine. It is not a toy. It is not a science lab supercomputer either. It's a work tool that is reliable and works all the time, requiring zero maintenance in its life. I'm typing this article on it -- which I would never do on an iPad, and for which a Windows or Mac would be total overkill.

Hardware: Mostly Very Good

The body: This is one sturdy laptop. It's a lot sturdier than the Samsung $249 Chromebook, which exhibits a lot of flex. It's also some 20% heavier. Sure doesn't feel like $199. More like $499.

Keyboard: For some reason, I don't think it matches the $249 version. The keys are smaller, although their feel is more than decent.

Screen: Not as matte as the $249 version, but it's brighter and with more intense colors. Overall, barely good enough.

Battery: The obvious bad news is that it's rated at only 3.5 hours. The good news is twofold: (1) So far, my particular unit looks to be outperforming the 3.5 hour rating. (2) It's a REMOVABLE battery, so in theory you could buy a second one (and a third, and...).

CPU: This one is Intel (INTC), instead of a Samsung ARM (Cortex A-15) in the $249 version. This should mean it's more powerful, but it's hard to notice any difference in regular use.

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