chrome bookIf you're in the market for a new laptop it might be worth looking into some of the new Chromebooks on the market. These ultra-thin - and ultra-cheap - systems run Google's own browser-based Chrome OS. While these things won't run Microsoft Word or the latest games, you can browse the Internet, read email, and even edit text documents and spreadsheets.

 

The best thing? These laptops start at $199 for the Acer C7 and, for about $100 more, you can upgrade to the truly unique HP Chromebook 11. Acer just launched the C720 with HD video camera and an SD card slot.

All of these laptops are characterized by what's missing. You're not getting a fancy graphics card or lots of ports. You do get a front-facing video camera for video chats and an SD card slot (sometimes.) But you're also missing the huge batteries used by heavier laptops - these things last over eight hours on a charge because their processors sip power - and you're missing the huge price tag.

Sure you can splurge and grab the $1,000 Chromebook Pixel, a high-resolution machine with touchscreen that looks like the futurisitic cousin of Apple's MacBook Pro. However, the Pixel's real draw comes in its intrinsic power and hackability. Users have figured out clever ways to install other operating systems on this monster, allowing it to act more like a laptop than a tablet with a screen.

So what can you do with Chromebooks? I like to think of them as "third" laptops - you have a laptop that you use for work or school and that runs Windows or OSX. However, because the Chromebook is tied into your email and Google Docs, it makes for a great way to mess around with files and websites without having to power up or boot your other machines. It's also great for guests and, since there's not much to break, kids.

We use Chromebooks around the house like tablets - the lady wife and browse Pinterest and the like and the kids can play Club Penguin. Because you're using it to visit websites you're not encouraged to fill up the hard drive with games or photos. 

Is the Chromebook for you? Sure. If you're on a budget a Chromebook makes perfect sense and if you need something for surfing on the couch it's a great little machine. It's no gaming machine and won't run Photoshop but it still does almost everything you need it to do.

Would you ever want a computer that only has these functions?

 

Image via Newegg