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Acer Review: $250 Chromebook In; Microsoft Windows Out

This isn't just any Chromebook. It's the first Chromebook based on Intel's (INTC) latest Haswell CPU. It's also the first Chromebook with a relatively massive 8.5-hour rated battery life. Those metrics are typically found only on much more expensive laptops -- certainly not $250 ones.

If you were following the news last week, you are going to ask how this 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook compares to the $29 more expensive 11.6-inch Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report) Chromeboook I reviewed.

Let's compare the two, line by line:

1. Display: The HP is better. It's brighter and doesn't have the grainy coating of the Acer. It is possible that the relatively matte Acer display may behave a little better in sunlight, but overall the HP is the clear winner here.

2. Keyboard: The Acer keyboard is perfectly fine. It's one of the better in the market. However, the HP's keyboard may be the very best I have ever used.

3. Trackpad: It's a draw. Both are among the better but an Apple MacBook will beat them slightly.

4. Body/quality/design: The Acer is very conventional plastic. Some would say boring. However, the build quality appears very solid. The HP has a very unique design and feels great. I give a modest edge to HP. The Acer weighs 2.76 lbs vs the HP's radically light 2.3 lbs.

5. CPU: This is the Acer's major advantage by far. No contest here. The Acer smokes the HP's performance by a mile. The Acer's Intel Haswell processor eats the HP's Samsung CPU for breakfast. Now, the HP performs adequately for light usage, such as what most consumers (grandmas) do most of the time. However, the Acer operates much faster on complex Web sites and can handle more tabs before it croaks.

6. Battery life: My testing hasn't yet run its full course, but early indications are the Acer outperforms the HP: 8.5 hours vs. 6.0 hours in a best-case scenario. In my "real world" of always using 100% display brightness, I would shave at least 20% off both of those numbers.
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