My, oh my -- Google's gettin' busy. The company's cloud-centric Chrome OS is feeling frisky this fall and multiplying, with numerous new models conceived and making their way into the world.
(Yeah, that's right: I just started a laptop story with a sex analogy. That's how I roll.)
The first new-generation Chromebook arrived this week, and boy, is it a beaut. The fresh-faced HP Chromebook 11 is available now for $279; my full review went live this morning, if you want a detailed look at what the device is like to use.
The Chromebook 11 caught many an eye when Google and HP announced it earlier this week, but then something strange happened: Acer announced its own new Chromebook -- one with more horsepower and a lower price.
While HP's Chromebook 11 sticks with the ARM-based Exynos 5250 processor used in last year's Samsung Chromebook, Acer's Chromebook C720 utilizes the newer Haswell chip system, which promises longer battery life and better performance. The Acer system also packs an extra 2GB of RAM and has a native HDMI out-port (no adapter required), USB 3.0, and a microSD card reader.
So the obvious question that comes to mind: What gives? What does HP's system have going for it that makes it worth buying?
Based on my time with the HP device, here are some areas where I'd say it's likely to stand out:
The HP Chromebook has an IPS LCD panel that's a huge step up from what we've seen in lower-priced Chromebooks thus far. When you look at it next to a system with the TN-based display technology Chromebooks have traditionally used, it really is a night and day difference.
(Acer hasn't gone into detail about its display yet, but based on its description of it being a "matte anti-glare display," it certainly sounds more like the material we've seen in the past than the higher-quality IPS technology.)
Design and style
The HP Chromebook 11 was designed in collaboration with Google -- in fact, with the same Google team that designed the high-end Chromebook Pixel. While it isn't on the same level as a $1300 system like the Pixel, it's very apparent how much thought went into its clean and modern design -- from the branding-, screw-, and vent-free exterior to the Pixel-esque light bar on the lid.
As I mention in my review, the laptop actually feels more like a Google device built by HP than a regular HP product -- kind of like what tends to happen with Nexus devices in the Android realm.
The Chromebook 11 boasts the same below-the-keyboard speaker system present in the Pixel, which delivers two benefits: (1) You don't see any speaker grilles, and (2) the sound quality is outstanding and seems like it's coming from everywhere.
A fan-free ARM-based chip system means the HP Chromebook runs quiet as a mouse, with the steady hum of a regular computer nowhere to be heard.
Especially for Android fans, the move to go with a standard micro-USB charging port on the HP Chromebook is a pretty big plus. One charger to rule 'em all -- can't complain about that.
All considered, the HP and Acer Chromebooks really just offer different benefits that'll appeal to different types of users. The Acer system should hold some significant advantages for folks who need pure computing power (as would the Pixel -- but not everyone's gonna want to drop $1300). The HP model, on the other hand, may appeal more to casual users who aren't worried about horsepower and would enjoy the non-performance-related perks that device has to offer.
Different strokes for different folks, right? No matter how you look at it, it's pretty mind-blowing to see how far Chrome OS has come and how many options we now have in front of us. Remember, too, that there are a few more models still expected to launch in the months ahead.
I'll be taking a closer look at Acer's new Chromebook soon to go beyond the spec sheets and see what it's like to use in the real world. Stay tuned for more hands-on thoughts and comparisons.