NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- What was the biggest cost of owning that laptop or personal computer you've had for the last three years? Was it the price you paid ($500 or $2,000), the software you bought or was it that $299 warranty?

Most likely it was none of the above. It was time.

Let's add it all up, shall we?
  • 1. Updates and upgrades: How many times do you update or upgrade thesoftware on your PC? Once a month? Once a quarter? Most likely, youwill have some update at least once a month. How long did it take?
  • You have to figure out which updates to do versus which to decline.Then download them. Then install. Then reboot. You probably spendat least 15 minutes per week doing this. That's 13 hours per year.
  • 2. Rebooting: When you buy a new laptop, it often takes perhapsaround 30 seconds to reboot it -- the first day you use it. Once youhave installed everything, it always seems to slow down a lot. Idon't know many PC users where a full reboot -- until everything has"settled" -- takes less than two minutes. Often it's a lot more.
  • Let's say you reboot once a day. That's two minutes. 730 minutes peryear. Again, that's about 13 hours.
  • 3. Security issues: Sometimes, you click on a link in an email ordownload something that causes trouble. How often does this happenand how long time does it take to resolve? The swing factor here isobviously gigantic, but let's say that it happens twice a year andtakes three hours to resolve each time. That's six hours per year.
  • 4. General tech support and troubleshooting: Things just go wrongfor reasons unrelated to security breaches. Applications just don'twork. There is a blue screen. The computer freezes. Over the last20 years, how many times did I call Dell (DELL) for general tech support, andhow many hours did I spend over the phone for that?
  • On average, I may have had at least two such major tech support eventsper year, each taking at least three hours. That's six hours per year.

    Now let's add up the points shall we? That's 38 hours per year, 76hours over a two-year period, 114 hours over three years -- almost asmall European vacation.

    How much is your time worth? 114 hours, at$20 per hour, that's $2,280. At $100 per hour, $11,400. What thismeans is that for most people, by far the biggest cost of owning a PCover three years is the cost of time wasted on things such as techsupport.

    The Samsung Chromebook, based on Google's ( GOOG - Get Report) Chrome OS, saves you from all this.

    With a Chromebook, your laptop boots in less than 10 seconds, and younever spend any time on security issues, general troubleshooting orupdating the software. You pay $449 or $549 for the laptop up front,no software or warranties to buy. Just... work. No wasting thousandsof dollars in time and aggravation over the next two to three years dealingwith problems and lost time.

    The Actual Laptop: It's A Samsung!

    Let me turn to the actual hardware for a moment. One year ago,Samsung launched its first Chromebook. It had a good 12.1-inch screenand keyboard, and under the hood was a dual-core Intel ( INTC - Get Report) Atom central processing unit. Theonly serious problem with the device was that the CPU simply didn'thave the horsepower for audio/video processing beyond a certain -- toolow -- level.

    With this new Chromebook, this has been fixed. The new Intel Celerondual-core processor handles all audio/video processing I threw at it.The only downside is that it appears to have reduced the battery lifefrom 8.5 hours to 6 hours, which is too bad but not devastating.

    The fan is also not as extremely quiet as its predecessor, but then itspredecessor had the quietest fan I have heard to date. Finally, thescreen shares a key negative trait with Apple's ( AAPL - Get Report) MacBooks -- it doesn'tbend all the way forward, like a Lenovo ThinkPad does.

    The keyboard and trackpad are now at least on par with Apple's bestlaptops. I go forth and back numerous times every day, and I giveSamsung the slightest edge over Apple here, a first for any laptop todate. The screen is a matte 12.1 incher, which does its job superbly.Yes, an Apple MacBook will give you higher resolution, but the Applescreens have horrible reflections given the glass. Unlike the MacBookAir, the Chromebook has an Ethernet jack.

    This Is One Stellar Piece Of Hardware

    Of note is the new high-quality build of the actual laptop body. Theprevious Chromebook from a year ago was hardly a cage rattler, but itdid not feel as "tight" or "expensive" as an Apple MacBook. This newversion ups the ante and feels as bullet-proof as any laptop in themarket to date. As icing on the cake, it also looks great with asteel gray color and no cheap design gimmicks. It's a nice variant tocontrast with Lenovo's ThinkPads.

    There are two versions of this laptop, and the difference is similarto what it was with the previous model a year ago. $449 buys you theWiFi-only model, and $549 buys you one with a Qualcomm ( QCOM - Get Report) cellular datachip. The latter version includes 100 Mb per month for two years, onVerizon Wireless. You can "top off" with additional non-contracta-la-carte data as needed: 1 Gb, 3 Gb, 5 Gb, whatever. Do yourself afavor and get this version; the extra $100 will come in handy when youneed it the most. It is money extremely well spent.

    As for those who object toChromebook laptops, there are three arguments against them. Let me deal with them in turn:
  • 1. "Chromebooks can't run the apps that I use."
  • You got me there! It is true that some people need to run apps thatdon't operate on a Chromebook. Two examples that come to mind are Skypeand iTunes. That's just the way it is. Another example is Microsoft ( MSFT - Get Report) Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but for those there is a counter-argument -- many people are now fine automatically convertingthose into Google Docs. I have undergone that transition myself andit worked just fine. It may not be for everybody, but for some peopleit's actually an improvement.

    Google Chromebooks are mostly for those who live mostly inside theGoogle cloud, using Gmail and Google Docs. There are hundreds ofmillions of people who fall into this category. Yes, the world is alot larger than hundreds of millions of people, but that's still alarge market.
  • 2. "Why pay $449 for a laptop when I can pay $100 less for a Windows laptop?"
  • There are two counter-arguments to this charge:

    A) The simple hardware quality alone of this second-generationSamsung Chromebook is not on par with a $450 Windows laptop, let aloneone for $350. I just told you that the keyboard and trackpad is atleast on par with an Apple MacBook, which starts at $999 and goes allthe way up toward $2,000. Then consider battery life, weight and soforth and it's clear that strictly based on just the hardware, Ithink $449 is a bargain right there.

    B) The more important argument is the one outlined at the beginningof this article: Cost is about the time wasted on all sorts of things,not what you put on your credit card the first second of ownership. AChromebook will save you thousands of dollars over three years thatyou would have otherwise wasted fixing stuff, talking to tech supportand waiting for things to happen.
  • 3. "Why not just use the Chrome browser on any Mac or Windows machine?"
  • Now this is the most devious argument in this whole debate, againstwhich very few people know to argue. I do! Here it is: The factthat a Chromebook uses the Chrome browser (duh!) is irrelevant. Thecase for the Chromebook would be no different if the Chromebook ranFirefox or Internet Explorer.

    Yes! Contrary to what everyone seems to assume, it's not about thebrowser! What's the difference between this or that browser anyway?Nothing vital or relevant to the case for or against the Chromebook,as far as I can see.

    The key here is it's about the operating system, not about the browser. Google may even have made a mistake here, in calling the product a "Chromebook."Users are almost led to believe that they're buying a "more limited"PC because this laptop "only runs a browser, after all."

    It is the operating system, not the browser, that yields themanagement and security benefits of the Chromebook. That's whatgenerates the savings in aggravation and time.

    In other words, you don't buy a Chromebook in order to run the Chromebrowser. If it ran Firefox or Internet Explorer, it wouldn't havemade any difference. It's the operating system that makes thisproduct into a zero-maintenance, high-security, instant-boot computer.

    If you buy a Windows or Mac laptop, you don't get any of thesebenefits. Sure, you can of course use the Chrome browser, but sowhat? Can most people really tell the difference between the threemajor browsers anyway? My contention is that they cannot. But theycan tell the difference between a computer booting up in eight secondsinstead of two minutes, and whether they have to waste an hour or twoevery week on maintenance and troubleshooting, versus never having towaste a second on fixing it -- ever.

    Chromebook vs. iPad

    Some want to make a Chromebook into an iPad alternative. Thiscomparison is almost completely irrelevant, like comparing anymotorcycle against any car. A motorcycle and a car are both in thetransport business, but they can't really be compared fairly on anylevel. Likewise with Chromebook versus iPad.

    The iPad is the superior device for leisurely consumption and mobileapps. The Chromebook is a tool you use to get work done -- typing,working with productive documents. Web surfing on the Chromebook isvastly superior compared to an iPad.

    IPad and Chromebook are both outstanding devices in their own right.But in almost no way do they meaningfully compete. I carry both mostof the time.

    Chromebox: Chromebook as Desktop Computer

    For $329, you can buy a desktop version of the Chromebook. Therereally isn't much to say about the Chromebox because once youunderstand the laptop version -- the Chromebook -- the Chromeboxbecomes a self-evident proposition.

    Physically speaking, the Chromebox is as close to an identical copy ofthe Mac Mini as you will realistically get. It can be hooked up to acouple of large displays, keyboards, mice -- the usual stuff.Depending on your computing needs, this would be the ideal computerfor fixed work environments such as Wall Street trading desks oranyone else requiring much larger display area, for example, two 30inch displays with 1080x1920 resolution.

    Bottom Line: Most Highly Recommended

    If what you do is Gmail, Google Apps, Google Talk, Google Voice andeverything else inside a browser, the Chromebook and Chromebox are theright computers for you. Over two to three years, they may save you thousandsof dollars worth of time otherwise wasted on tech support and otheraggravating things such as simply waiting minutes for reboots.

    The most important recommendation I can give is the Chromebook isthe computer I give to relatives. I decided I never again wantedto spend another Thanksgiving being Mr. Tech Support or get thosecalls about something not working right. I give a Chromebook and Inever hear about computer trouble again. A Chromebook just works.Isn't that how it should be?

    The only question is: With Google having such a superb product on itshands, will it -- along with its partner Samsung -- bother marketingit?