Dear Google: We need a midrange Chromebook. Please help

Google Chrome OS

Google, you've got some great stuff going on with Chrome OS these days. The platform's matured and evolved in exciting ways over the past couple years -- and with the advent of things like packaged apps, there's plenty more potential ahead.

Now the devices are slowly but surely starting to catch up and get exciting, too. You gave us the gorgeous Chromebook Pixel earlier this year -- and boy, is it a treat. From design to performance and that eye-spoiling display, it's some of the most impressive hardware we've ever seen on a laptop. And the experience of using it is simply unmatched.

Google Chromebooks

Of course, not everyone's gonna be able to justify dropping $1300 on a computer -- but you knew that. Sure, the Pixel was meant to be a high-end luxury option for cloud power-users, but it was also meant to be something else: a way of "pushing the experience forward," as you put it, and "inspiring the next generation of Chromebooks."

That inspiration is apparent in the new HP Chromebook 11, which you also helped create. It's an elegant and beautifully designed machine with a really nice display. Past Chromebooks have certainly had their strengths, but this is the first system besides the Pixel that's been a true delight to use.

The problem is that, like last year's entry-level devices, it's still pretty limited when it comes to performance. Don't get me wrong: It's fine for casual use. But for folks who need a little more oomph, its engine isn't quite up to snuff.

The new Acer C720 Chromebook provides that extra dose of horsepower, but -- as I discovered in my review this week -- it lacks many of the things that make the Chromebook 11 so special. Its build quality, keyboard, and display all leave something to be desired, and it just doesn't have that panache that makes the 11 pop.

What we need, Google, is a Chromebook that offers the exterior quality of the Chromebook 11 and the interior processing chops of the C720. In other words, we need a standout midrange Chromebook -- a device that delivers a solid all-around experience in terms of both form and performance.

Trust me: Lots of people are craving that kind of experience and would be willing to pay extra to get it. They might not pay $1300 for the top-of-the-line Pixel-level experience, but they'd pay $400 or $500 for something that's a step below the Pixel and a step above the entry-level lineup.

Google Chromebook Missing

So why, Google, in spite of Chrome OS's continued growth, does no such option exist? As things stand now, anyone who doesn't want to spend $1300 is forced to choose between outstanding build quality and display with limited performance or great performance with lackluster build quality and display. We need a middle ground, Google -- and we need you to help make it happen.

Give us a more expensive Chromebook 11 model with an upgraded interior. Work with HP -- or whomever -- to show them how it's done. Chrome OS is your ecosystem; it's up to you to push it forward, to move it past the binary world of "entry-level compromise" and "high-end splurge."

To their credit, the manufacturers are getting closer. HP has its Chromebook 14 on the horizon, which is as close to an appealing inbetween as we've seen -- but despite its respectable chipset and reasonable form, it lacks the higher-quality display and elevated design the Chromebook 11 enjoys. Plain and simple, it's still making tradeoffs to maintain that sub-$300 price tag. (It also sounds like the primary Wi-Fi model of the system will have only 2GB of RAM instead of 4, which will add another asterisk into the equation.)

Toshiba's upcoming Chromebook remains a distant ray of hope; we know that company is working on a Haswell-based Chromebook of some sort, and without much in the way of detail, maybe it'll be the midrange savior we so desperately need. (Asus is working on a Haswell-based Chrome OS device as well, but it's a Chromebox -- not a Chromebook.)

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One way or another, Google, it's time to fill in the gap and bring forth the missing piece of the puzzle. Entry-level systems have their place, as do high-end luxury models. Now give us an option for everyone else -- an affordable product that brings display and design together with performance.

It's time for the midrange Chromebook to be born.


The Chromebook buying guide: Which model should you get?

Acer Chromebook C720 vs. HP Chromebook 11: What's the deal?

Say what?! 3 major misconceptions about Google's Chrome OS

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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