Saturday, December 1, 2012

Acer C7 Chromebook - Best Deal on the Internet?

Back in July I bought myself an Acer AO756. It's an awesome Netbook-class machine, and for $350 it was a steal compared to Ultrabook prices at the time. And would still be a relative steal today.

I just picked up an Acer C7 Chromebook for my wife for Christmas for $199. She doesn't know I have this blog, so this is cool. Anyway, the Acer C7 Chromebook is essentially the same as my Acer AO756, but with only 2GB RAM, and a slightly slower Celeron. I think that Acer has cleaned up a couple of details on the finish of the machine as well. I like the finish.

This is a 3 lb. machine with an 11.6" screen. Very portable.

The keyboard is roomy and comfortable. The solid built-in mousepad gestures mean you don't need a mouse most of the time. Two-finger scroll is amazingly good.

This machine is a little thicker than an Ultrabook, and Acer takes advantage of this to offer such niceties as a real VGA port and a real ethernet port. No adapters needed.

Although I am planning on leaving Chrome OS on the machine (it is perfect for my wife), it occurs to me that the Acer C7 Chromebook might just be the best deal going on a Linux-compatible laptop/netbook. And unlike the Samsung ARM-based Chromebooks, this one should just work. It's built around Celeron and Intel-integrated graphic acceleration, both well supported by various Linux distributions. And it is spec'd out well enough to run Linux well, not like the old Atom-based Netbooks.

Google must be selling this machine for a loss. But I have to say, as a consumer, I am loving this $199 price-point standard they are pushing. These are definitely priced for the masses.

As a follow up, with not quite the same rosy opinion, here is a more thorough breakdown from arstechnica. For what it is worth, I don't think the screen wash out is that bad, and the display is otherwise beautiful.

And I don't know if it applies to this machine, but here is a link to info on ChrUbuntu. The Acer C7 is not an ARM architecture, so it should be able to run standard Ubuntu, no special instructions, from a stick. But I haven't tried it.

I generally like ChromeOS. I like it right up to the point it doesn't do something stupidly simple, like playing MP3's from the Google Drive without having to "install" a 3rd party app. And having to find that app in a rather poorly organized sea of eye candy that looks like Windows Metro. Can we just bring back some reasonable white space and grid layouts, please? I don't like UIs that are designed to confuse my brain.

The paradigm used in the Ubuntu Software Center works a lot better when you have hundreds or thousands of applications. That's a hint, if anyone from Google happens to read this blog entry.

Historical Footnote: The ChromeBook was the best selling laptop during the 2012 Christmas season. While I don't think ChromeOS will necessarily displace heavyweight operating systems like Windows and OS-X in the near term, if it takes even a small percentage of the total market it could eat into the profit margins of the big boys. Interesting times.

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