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TheStreet Open House

Google Fires Latest Laptop Missile Into Microsoft’s and Apple’s Hull

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When I started writing about Google's (GOOG) superior laptops in December 2010, almost everyone in the tech industry and press laughed at me.

They said that Google could never match Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) in the PC business, and that I was insane for predicting it.

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They're not laughing at me anymore. And not at Google, either. Now Chromebooks have been Amazon's (AMZN) top seller almost every week since November 2012, and with typically at least five out of the top 20 best-selling laptops running Google's operating system.

One by one, most of the large PC hardware makers such as Dell, Acer, Lenovo (LNVGY) , Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) , Samsung (SSNLF) and Toshiba (TOSBF)   have diversified away from exclusively focusing on Microsoft's Windows OS, offering laptops based on Chrome OS. Meanwhile, school district after school district are switching out their Microsoft and Apple products, getting their students hooked on Google at an early age.

The latest entry in Google's PC onslaught is Asus, which includes an 11.6- and a 13.3-inch laptop. I tested the 13.3-inch version, which sells for $230 on Amazon, making it the least expensive 13.3-inch Chromebook on the market.

The Asus Chromebook C300 weighs 3.1 pounds, but it somehow feels lighter. It is made out of ostensibly cheap black plastic. This black plastic has a practical advantage aside from feeling unusually light: It seems like it could survive all sorts of bumps and hits without absorbing dents or scratches.

The screen is a basic Chromebook's standard 768 x 1366 non-touch panel. That is par for the course in the ultra-budget laptop category. You would pay at least around $340 for the least expensive 1080 x 1920 screen Chromebook.

The problem with all screens in this price category is not so much the 768 x 1366 resolution, but the low level of brightness. Once you are used to something like the HP Chromebook 11 or the Chromebook Pixel, a lower level of brightness just doesn't measure up. That's par for the course for anything close to this $230 price.

The keyboard is excellent. Not as good as the HP Chromebook 11 or perhaps the much more expensive laptops in the market, but one of the better nonetheless. The track pad is acceptable -- clearly not among the best, but plenty good enough for most people.

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