Sign In

The True Cost Behind a Google Chromebook

Published
By Louis Ramirez, dealnews senior feature writer

The long-awaited Google laptops are finally here. Manufactured by Samsung and Acer, the new Chromebooks will run Google's cloud-based Chrome operating system. Both Web-centric laptops will be available in 11" and 12" configurations and will feature instant boot-up times, all-day battery life, dual-core Atom processors and 16GB SSD drives. Starting at $349, these laptops are priced well under the cheapest mainstream tablet, but how much value are they really offering the average consumer?

Samsung Series 5 WiFi Chromebook
Acer WiFi Chromebook
Price
$429
$349
Display
12.1" LED-backlit (1280x800)
11.6" LED-backlit (1366x768)
Processor
Intel Atom Processor N570 1.66GHz
Intel Atom Processor N570 1.66GHz
Memory
2GB (RAM)
16GB SSD
2GB (RAM)
16GB SSD
Extras
1MP webcam, 4-in-1 card reader, 2 USB ports, multi-gesture support, VGA, headphone/mic jack, 8.5-hour battery
1.3MP webcam, 4-in-1 card reader, 2 USB ports, HDMI, 6-hour battery
Weight
3.26 lbs.
3.19 lbs.
Rental Pricing
$28/mo. (business)
$20/mo. (schools)
$28/mo. (business)
$20/mo. (schools)

The Details
Google describes its Chromebook as an always-on, always-connected laptop. Starting June 15, Samsung will release its Series 5 Chromebook for $429. (A $499 3G version is expected at a later date.) Alongside the Series 5 will be the Acer WiFi Chromebook, starting at $349. Both laptops will be sold via Best Buy and Amazon.com, but in a market that's overrun by sub $500 notebooks, are these new Chromebooks worth your cash?

Chromebook vs. Budget Laptop
Take a quick glance at our laptop deals and chances are you'll notice more than a few budget-minded models in the same price range as the Chromebooks. For instance, this week we listed the Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5133 AMD E 1.5GHz 15.6" LED-Backlit Widescreen Notebook for $329.99. At roughly $330, this laptop is more affordable than the least expensive Chromebook, and with a 250GB hard drive, it offers more storage space than both Chromebooks combined. If you need better processor performance and more RAM, the Acer Aspire AS5253-BZ480 AMD Dual-Core 1.6GHz 15.6" LED-Backlit Widescreen Notebook (pictured above) costs $379.98 and features 4GB of RAM and AMD's E-350 APU, which PC Magazine says packs more punch than your typical Atom-powered netbook. In both instances, the laptop is offering better value than the Chromebook.
Winner: Laptop

Chromebook vs. Netbook
Netbook sales may be on the decline, but that doesn't mean the deals have disappeared. Just this week we listed the ASUS Eee PC Intel Atom 1.66GHz 10.1" LED-Backlit Widescreen Netbook for $259.99. At $89 under the least-expensive Chromebook, this ASUS netbook is as Web-ready as it gets, and like the Chromebooks, it's built to last, packing an older, but energy-efficient Atom N450 processor.
Winner: Netbook

Rentals vs. purchases
Along with its Chromebook unveiling, Google also announced enterprise and school pricing on its machines. For $28/month and $20/month, respectively, businesses and schools will be able to rent Chromebooks. However, this pricing requires a 3-year contract, which means the full price of the Chromebook will come out to a minimum of $720, a hefty amount for such a bare-bones system.
Winner: Purchases

Conclusion
Although we're fans of cloud computing, we think the Chromebook is overpriced for what it offers. The cloud is prone to failure and with a measly 16GB of storage space, Chromebooks simply don't offer a viable backup option. (Unless you spend additional money on external storage.) In addition, Google is infamous for killing off programs it doesn't deem successful (i.e. Wave, Dodgeball, Google Nexus One). If Chromebooks fail to take off, what will happen to your investment and the Chromebook platform?

Ultimately, your $349 can be better spent on a budget laptop, which lets you use all the cloud-based apps you desire, and features the added benefit of letting you back up files locally.



An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter — @LouisRamirez. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
You might also like
6 comments
darkurthe
 I will argue it is about price point.  Were this a hundred dollars cheaper (or perhaps 50) it would be a lot of bang for the buck rather than a flash in the pan.
darkurthe
I love the idea of the Cromebook however its price point doesn't like consumers.  At a price point of  329 and up who is this stripped down laptop for? If it started at, say, 229, it might be noteworthy... as of now it is only for elite technologists who want to pay a premium for a mediocre product.
hischan
The Chromebook isn't for the average consumer, or at least it isn't in its current iteration. The intended target for the device is enterprise and government, hence the subscription fees, web-based management, customer support, virtualization software, etc. For the average consumer, an Android device like the the Asus EeePC Transformer would probably be more useful.
toooskies
You miss the entire selling point of a Chromebook.  The hardware is only the access point for the larger platform.  Just as Apple's selling points for their iOS devices isn't just what Apple provides in terms of hardware, but also everything else; the Chromebook's selling point is the software. You eliminate the need for users to worry about drivers, advanced configurations, whether internal services are running... It even destroys the threat of viruses, as a cure is simply a clean system restore away (which, unlike Windows, isn't a huge pain in the butt because the Cloud is the only worrisome point).  

In other words, the value is that the hardware releases you from Windows.  If a Chromebook delivers as a more user-friendly experience than Windows/Linux, then Google wins.  
This device is all about the software, not the hardware. 
easton21
Good story, I especially like the comparison; clearly the budget laptop blows it away.  However, I would just like to point out that Dodgeball became Google Latitude (which I think is awesome on an Android phone), which is still being updated with new features / fixes.  Also, the Nexus One had a very acceptable run of seven months (Jan '10 - July) as a top-of-the-line phone.  In comparison, T-Mobile stopped gushing about the G2 in favor of the MyTouch 4G after just two months.
I think that using those two as examples of how Google kills off programs is pretty misleading.
cs85b03
I'm so glad you put this together.  The chromebook has created such a hype and I've heard too much good news about them.  The fact of the matter is that you are getting a cheap machine for a mediocre to poor price at the expense of running a proprietary operating system.

Also, I hate that Google is marketing this as a functional business machine.  It shouldn't even be considered in this market.
Leave a comment! or Register