NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm typing this review on a radical new $279 laptop that, if it had an Apple(AAPL) - Get Report logo and were sold in Apple stores, would sell 50 million units in the first month alone. It's the best-spent $279 technology you can buy in the market today. I give it my highest recommendation ever.
Sadly, we live in an unfair world where ignorant consumers tend to buy products based on brand perceptions that often lag reality by a decade or more. As a result, this
laptop will probably only sell in decent quantities, but not anywhere near the 50 million units had it worn an Apple label.
So what is this radical new $279 laptop and what's so special about it?
First, let's cover the bases: This is an 11.6-inch screen that's housed in a plastic package that weighs just over 2 pounds -- basically similar to Apple's 11.6 inch MacBook Air, which starts at $999. This plastic looks and feels similar to the old MacBooks from a half-dozen years ago -- of for that matter the brand new iPhone 5c.
Yet, this laptop is positively feather-weight compared to those MacBooks of yore, ca 2005. It feels more like a blown-up iPhone 5c -- but with a superb keyboard.
This plastic housing doesn't have any sharp edges, but at the same time feels very sturdy. The quality impression continues to the keyboard, which is the best I have ever used -- at any price. The trackpad is as good as many much more expensive laptops.
There are several things other than copying the very best of Apple's physical appearances that set this laptop apart from the rest:
1. It charges using your regular cell phone charger.
This must have been one of the most blessed developments since the women of the world were liberated by the washing machine. Until now, almost every new laptop has meant a new charger. And none of them were the same as a cell phone charger.
The $279 HP Chromebook comes with the same kind of MicroUSB charger with which you can also charge every smartphone -- and many tablets -- on the market, except for Apple. I have been on my knees in front of all laptop makers, begging for this since at least 1991. Finally, my prayers have been answered.
Standardizing on chargers also means environmental benefits. No longer do you need to throw out the charger when you decommission your old laptop. Let's hope the rest of the laptop industry copies this long-overdue brilliant move by HP.
2. It doesn't have a fan, and it's cool.
Unlike almost all existing laptops, this $279 HP doesn't have a fan. Therefore, there is no noise, nothing blowing hot air into your lap and no spinning part that eventually fails.
Yet, this laptop runs cool as a cucumber. It's like holding cold fusion in your hand! No more burning your skin when you use it in bed or on your lap.
3. It uses a Samsung CPU.
In the past, HP's PCs have tended to use CPUs from
, sometimes paired with GPUs from
. Not this one. This is one reason this device runs so cool that it doesn't require a fan -- and can be charged by a cell phone charger.
This one marks a trend from being dependent on Intel, AMD and Nvidia. It's got a
CPU. This is probably not a good sign for Intel and AMD.
Other than that: It's a Chromebook, ok?
There really isn't much to say about the software and its performance. Essentially all current Chromebooks run the same software, and they tend to be set up with similar memory/storage hardware -- even if the CPUs differ. If you've used one, you've used 'em all.
As with most of the other Chromebooks, the 16-gig local storage is augmented with whatever you have in
cloud, and you get another 100 gig for 2 years as part of your $279 purchase. You also get a dozen in-flight WiFi passes, which at $12 apiece is a $144 value.
On the software side, Chrome OS is for those who are not in need to run significant local apps, including iTunes, photo editing software and advanced games. It's best for general web surfing, email, calendar, address book and running basic business productivity services such as Google Docs in particular.
In other words, what most people tend to do most or all of the time.
Not everyone. But a large chunk of the population.
The benefits of Chrome OS include ease of use and security. Google takes care of all updates automatically, and many of the old-fashioned PC security risks have been eliminated or otherwise mitigated or moved to other pain points. The bottom line for the average user is that Chrome OS is a zero-maintenance machine, and it's ideal for having many people share it in a household, business or school.
On the wish list for additional versions HP should offer to this $279 configuration are these two:
1. Larger screens:
11.6 inches is fine for some people, and for others to use a couple of hours a day. However, many others would prefer 12, 13, 14, 15 inches and ever larger laptop screens for full-time productivity. HP will surely offer those additional versions in the relatively near future.
2. Embedded cellular data (LTE):
Some people prefer to use LTE instead of WiFi, just because they need to get their laptop up and running immediately and securely.
In summary, I've been typing this article on this wonderful Apple design-lookalike, $279 HP laptop, and all aspects of the design are simply superb -- from the keyboard to the trackpad to the rounded sturdy plastic body. Then combine it with the 100% silent fanless design and the cell phone charger, and you pretty much have the dream laptop for almost any price.
It is products like this that make you wonder how companies such as
and Apple could possibly survive. Google is taking its competition to the cleaners, in this case with HP's help.
I test almost all the best smartphones, tablets and laptops constantly, and at this point this $279 HP Chromebook gets my highest recommendation. I can't find a weak spot on this product, and therefore I can't think of a better mobile computing purchase you can make for $279.
The $279, 11.6-inch HP Chromebook gets an unqualified 10 out of 10.
At the time of publication the author is long GOOG and AAPL.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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