Thought Samsung's $249 Chromebook was cheap? You ain't seen nothin' yet. Google and Acer have jointly unwrapped a new, even more affordable Chromebook that costs only $199—and it's going to be available later today at Best Buy and on Google's Play store.
Just like the $249 Samsung system, Acer's C7 Chromebook has an 11.6", 1366x768 screen and is fairly portable. It weighs 3 lbs and measures 1" in thickness. Unlike its Samsung sibling, however, the C7 doesn't couple an ARM-based processor with anemic solid-state storage. Instead, Acer has outfitted the C7 with a dual-core Intel Celeron 847 processor (clocked at 1.1GHz), 2GB of DDR3-1333 RAM, and a 320GB mechanical hard drive—guts almost fit for a cheap ultrabook.
Otherwise, the Acer C7 Chromebook looks rather well outfitted. It's got 802.11n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0, and both HDMI and VGA display outputs. Google and Acer tout the "full-size" keyboard and "fully clickable" trackpad, not to mention the fact that the system boots in only 18 seconds. I'd chalk up that quick boot time more to the lightweight Chrome OS than to the mechanical hard drive, but nevertheless, this sounds like a relatively snappy little machine.
So what's the catch? Well, Google says battery life is only 3.5 hours, or three hours less than the Samsung Chromebook. I guess Acer had to cut corners somewhere. If you ask me, I don't really see the appeal of an ultraportable laptop with such restricted mobility, and I don't know if many prospective buyers will. I suppose you can't argue with the $199 price tag, however—or the fact that, thanks to the full-fledged Intel hardware inside, installing a more full-featured operating system than Chrome OS should be a piece of cake.