Acer Chromebook whole lot of laptop for $399
IMAGINE having a super-cheap laptop that could do only one thing - access your internet browser.
That's what Google has done with its Chromebook series of laptops and the result has been surprisingly useful.
It turns out you can do almost anything through your browser these days. Games, documents, spreadsheets, videos, social media - all can be done with just one program.
Acer's C720 Chromebook easily lets you tackle Google Music, YouTube and Google+ hangouts (video conferencing) with little to no performance drop.
But why the limited operating system? Why not put a full Linux or Windows system on it?
Once you've seen how staggeringly fast the C720 boots, you'll never ask again.
This Chromebook will go from off to playing within six seconds. In under 40 seconds you can completely wipe the whole thing and have it back up and running.
The 11.6-inch display is a clear and precise viewport that runs natively at 1366x768 pixels. While this isn't 1080p, you do get a massive performance boost out of not needing to push quite so many pixels through the pipe all the time. This was most noticeable during Facebook games and video.
Another major speed boost comes from the use of USB 3.0. If you've not seen the file transfer speed difference, you're in for a treat.
On paper, USB 3.0 transfers data 10 times faster than the older USB does, though the hands-on experience here was closer to six to eight times faster on average.
The one thing that might be a problem for newcomers to Chromebooks is the need to be online almost all of the time.
While you can edit Google Documents offline, most functionality is reliant on being connected to the internet.
Fortunately the C720 has a notably quick and reliable network card that vacuums up whatever Wi-Fi signal or dongle you throw at it.
The build quality might also put some off, as the plastic-y finish might mislead some people into thinking the C720 is less sturdy than it actually is.
This machine is a workhorse, no doubt about it, and the ergonomics are top quality as well.
Using this Chromebook is somewhat easier than using most other laptops - even, to an extent, HP's Chromebook offering.
Compared to last year's C7 from Acer, this unit is faster, sleeker, and less terrible in general, mainly due to the newer technologies that have come out in the year since the older laptop came out.
For only $399, you're getting a lot of laptop for not a whole lot of money.
You can get cheaper - but they're unlikely to be using the cutting-edge techs like USB 3.0 or 802.11 N Wi-Fi with all the bells and whistles.