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The Google Laptop That Beat Apple and Microsoft

Stocks in this article: AAPL GOOG MSFT INTC HPQ AMZN HMC TM

In order for a touchscreen to be of any use on a Google Chrome OS laptop such as this Acer 720, two things need to happen:

1.  The screen needs to be removable, such as it is on so many Microsoft-based laptops these days. By removing the screen, it becomes a tablet. Alternatively, you need to be able to convert it in a way such as the Lenovo Yoga.

2.  The software needs to become touch-friendly; in other words, finger-optimized. This is simply not the case with a basic Web browser today.

I think we can safely say that Google is working on both -- in the former case together with several hardware partners such as Acer and Lenovo.  I would not be surprised to see this kind of product I envision become available later this year.  Judging from Microsoft's failure in making such a product successful, I suspect that Google will not do much better with this "convertible" or "2 in 1" concept.  Hey, they'll try anyway.

As such, I see no need today to spend $300 on the touchscreen version of the Acer 720 when the non-touchscreen versions are $250 and $200.  Buy one of those instead and you will be extremely happy.

How does the Acer 720 compare to the HP (HPQ) Chromebook 11, which sells for $279 in its WiFi-only version?  Here are the pros and cons:

The HP has a better screen (IPS), slightly better keyboard, is lighter, fanless and can charge with standard MicroUSB, as with every non-Apple smartphone.  These are all laudable advantages and could have made the HP the best laptop in the market.

But for one thing.

The HP Chromebook 11 has a CPU that's just too weak.  It's a Samsung ARM processor, and it's simply infuriating to use.  There are few new computing devices today that are too slow, but this is the one.  If the HP Chromebook 11 only had a much faster CPU/GPU, it would probably be better than the Acer 720.

Alas, it is not.

The Acer 720 has a dramatically much faster Intel CPU, similar to the kind used in many Microsoft laptops, and when mated with Google's Chrome OS, it flies.  As for the HP's other advantages, they are not decisive because on all of those points the Acer is plenty "good enough" to pale in comparison to the CPU difference.

Simply put, the Acer 720 is the laptop to get if two conditions apply:

1.  The 11.6-inch screen size is large enough.  If it isn't, go with another Chromebook instead such as the newly launched Toshiba 13-inch or the HP 14-inch model.

2.  You don't need integrated LTE.  If you need integrated LTE, buy the HP Chromebook 14 instead for $350.  It's got the same Intel (INTC) CPU/GPU as this Acer, unlike the smaller HP Chromebook 11 with its dramatically inferior processor.

Bottom line: There is no point in having your Chromebook with a touchscreen.  The Acer 720 is available without a touchscreen for $200.  There is a very good reason the Acer 720 has become the best-selling laptop on Amazon.  I give it my highest recommendation.  For $200, it's a steal.

At the time of publication the author was long AAPL.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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