Shopping for a Chromebook

I ordered a Chromebook on Friday. Saturday, I canceled the order and went for a different model. My mistake was overlooking some features that might factor into your own buying decision.

For a long time I had my eye on the Samsung Chromebook that retails for $249 (model XE303C12-A01US) . As a rule, I like Samsung products and the Chromebook I had been using (an older model) was made by Samsung. When I found it on sale, I ordered it. 

While I was happy with the older Samsung model, my wife had a constant gripe: it has no Delete key. Beats me why, but the only way to delete text is with the Backspace key. Thus, you can delete characters to the left of the cursor but not to the right. For whatever reason, my wife frequently deletes characters to the right of the cursor. 

Images of the keyboard on the current model show that it too has no Delete key. If this prevented my wife from using the new Chromebook, it made no sense to buy it. But, I was halfway out the door anyway. 

One thing that's not discussed about Chromebooks is Ethernet. I liked that the older Samsung Chromebook included an Ethernet port. Granted, it was a strange one, in that you had to un-clamp it before using it, but not being fully dependent on Wi-Fi is good Defensive Computing. Compared to Wi-Fi, Ethernet is more secure, faster and more reliable. 

The newer Samsung Chromebook has no Ethernet port.  

Both problems were solved by the Acer C710-2833. Pictures show a Delete key right on top of the Backspace key. It also adds Page Up and Page Down, two of my favorite keys. And, it has an Ethernet port (only 100Mbps though). 

This Acer model however, has its own drawbacks.  

I expect to travel with the Chromebook and the Acer is larger (Samsung: 11.4" x 8.09" x 0.7" vs. Acer  11.22" x 7.95" x 0.82"-1.09") and heavier (3.05 pounds vs. 2.43) than the Samsung. While both screens are the same size (11.6 inches) and resolution (1366 x 768), the Samsung has an anti-glare coating that the Acer lacks.  

If you are willing to spend a bit more, Acer has a higher end model, the C710-2815, that doubles the RAM from 2GB to 4GB and includes a faster processor. It also doubles the battery capacity (from 2500 mAh to 5000 mAh). Still no anti-glare coating however. 

All the Chromebooks mentioned so far include 16GB Solid State hard drives. A few Chromebooks are available with mechanical spinning-platter hard disks. The mechanical drives offer about 20 times the storage space, but they add weight, heat, drain the battery, run slower and are more fragile. They would not be my first choice. 

The Chrome OS operating system takes up space on the 16GB SSD leaving only a few gigabytes for local file storage. If that is not sufficient, you can add more local storage with either an internal flash memory card (SD or MMC) or an external USB flash drive. 

The Chromebooks that use mechanical drives are the Acer C710-2055, the Acer C710-2487 and the HP Pavilion 14-c035us.

To end on a Defensive Computing note: if you are traveling, and have to leave a computer in a hotel room where it might get stolen, you want it to be a Chromebook.  

Since few people know what a Chromebook is, let alone want one, it is less likely to be stolen in the first place. Locally stored files are more secure on a Chromebook than on a Windows or Macintosh laptop. Plus, Chromebook users are more likely to have their files stored in the cloud rather than on their laptops. Then too, you probably paid less for the Chromebook.    

Note: I previously wrote about the security aspects of Chromebooks. See  Wake Up and smell the Chrome (August 2012) and Defensive Computing for online finances: Go with Chrome OS (July 2012). 


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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