NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I'm typing this product review on what may be the best value for the dollar of any computing equipment in the market today. Now that you may have to pay higher income tax, higher Obamacare tax, higher capital gains tax, higher dividend tax, higher gift tax, higher death tax and higher state sales tax come Jan. 1, it may also be the only new laptop you will be able to afford.The days of the $999 or $2,799 MacBook Air/Pro are soooo 2012. In the interest of "fairness" and "a balanced approach", the government will now claim tens of thousands of your hard-earned dollars, cutting into your discretionary income. Your trips to the Apple ( AAPL) store and the Microsoft ( MSFT) store will soon be as much a memory as Tsar Nicholas II's trips to the St. Petersburg Winter Palace after Lenin's 1917 power grab. But do not despair! There's still a small plot of a private garden that can keep you alive even after the government takeover of the rest of your private property. In the laptop world, this is called the Acer Chromebook C7, aka the $199 Google ( GOOG) laptop, which went on sale earlier this week.
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.
Fan/noise/heat: The $249 version runs cold as a fish and has no fan. This one has a fan and generates heat like all other typical laptops. This also means that there's a moving part that can fail, unlike the $249 version. Ports: The $199 Acer version improves on the $249 Samsung by adding native Ethernet, one extra USB (three instead of two) and analog video output. What it misses is an SD card slot and cellular/GSM SIM card slot/modem. Storage: The $199 Acer is the first Chromebook to have a spinning hard disk, 320 gig in this instance. All other Chromebooks have a 16 gig SSD. Given the nature of Google Docs, I don't see any need for anything other than 16 gig, and SSD obviously beats HDD in terms of speed and reliability. Why anyone would need 320 gig or anything remotely close to it in this cloud-centric architecture is beyond me. Must have been a cost issue.
2012 HOLIDAY GUIDE: How to Survive (and Enjoy) the 2012 Holiday Season