Chromebook overload! A simple guide to all the new stuff ahead

Chromebook! Chromebook! Chromebook! With all the new Chrome OS devices on the horizon right now, trying to wrap your head around everything is enough to make you dizzy. (Trust me, I fell over four and a half times while attempting to write this story. No wonder they put a padded floor in my cell -- er, I mean, office.)

So let's simplify things a bit, shall we? Here's a quick 'n' simple guide to what's on the way and why each product matters:

1. Samsung Chromebook 2

Samsung Chromebook 2

What it is: The somewhat-tardy follow-up to 2012's $249 Samsung Chromebook.

What sets it apart: The new Chromebook 2 comes in a larger-than-usual 13.3-in. model that packs a 1920-x-1080 TN display -- a meaningful step up in resolution from the 1366-x-768 panels that grace most Chromebook devices. Beyond that, the device features the faux-leather look found on Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 (for better or for worse). And finally, it has 4GB of RAM instead of the more typical 2GB, but that being said, it also runs on an ARM-based processor instead of the newer Haswell-based chip type found in most current Chrome OS systems (or the Bay Trail chip type being used in other upcoming devices).

How much: The 13.3-in. model will run $400. Samsung will also sell a smaller 11.6-in. version with a more standard 1366-x-768 display for $320.

When: The Chromebook 2 was expected to launch last month but is now apparently slated to ship sometime in late May.

[UPDATE: Chromebook 2 review: Compelling -- but not without compromise]

2. Asus Chromebook

Asus Chromebook

What it is: A new Chromebook from Asus, which leapt into the land of Chrome OS with its $179 Chromebox earlier this year.

What sets it apart: At this point, it's honestly hard to say. Asus is selling two models of its Chromebook: an 11.6-in. version and a 13.3-in. version, both of which have 1366-x-768 displays and run Intel's N2830 Bay Trail processor along with 2GB of RAM. Asus says the systems will deliver "up to 10 hours" of use per charge, so that's something -- and the laptops are said to have "powerful high-quality stereo speakers" as well as unusually large touchpads (for whatever that's worth) -- but by and large, they look like pretty run of the mill entry-level systems, at least based on what we know so far.

How much: Unclear; as of now, Asus is saying only that the devices will "start at $249.99," which doesn't tell us a heck of a lot.

When: The systems are scheduled to start shipping at the end of June.

3. Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook

What it is: A Chromebook that also acts like a tablet.

What sets it apart: It's essentially a hybrid: The device's IPS display is touch-enabled and bends back 360 degrees to give you a flattened out, tablet-like experience in addition to the regular laptop setup.

How much: The ThinkPad Yoga 11e will go for $429.

When: Lenovo says it'll be available sometime next month.

4. Lenovo N20p Chromebook

Lenovo N20p Chromebook

What it is: A Chromebook like the Yoga but with a little less rotation.

What sets it apart: Lenovo's N20p Chromebook has a touch-enabled display that tilts back 300 degrees, allowing you to use the system as both a laptop and as a slate -- albeit one with a stand attached to its back.

How much: The N20p will cost $329.

When: August.

[UPDATE: Hands on: Lenovo's dual-mode Chromebook is decidedly different]

5. Lenovo N20 Chromebook

Lenovo N20 Chromebook

What it is: The same exact thing as the N20p Chromebook, only without the touch-enabled and tilting display.

What sets it apart: Not much; this one's pretty standard stuff, with an 11.6-in. 1366-x-768 screen, a N2830 Bay Trail processor with 2GB of RAM, and all the specs we've come to expect from an entry-level Chrome OS system.

How much: $279.

When: In July.

And then...

Beyond those devices, we've got a couple more desktop-based options on the way -- a Chromebox by HP, in June, and an all-in-one Chromebase by LG later this month -- as well as a couple refreshed versions of existing Chromebooks. Specifically, Acer and Dell are planning to launch new versions of their existing Chromebooks with speedier Core i3 processors, which should give them some nice extra punch. Both of those devices are scheduled to come out later this year, with Acer's costing $349 and no word yet on a price for Dell's.

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So, yeah: It's a busy season ahead in the cloudy, rowdy land of Chrome OS -- but I'll be here to help you navigate through it all. Stay tuned for lots of hands-on coverage and comparisons in the weeks and months to come.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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