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February 08, 2014


Jesse M

Your recent posts suggest you have no idea what you want from a new computer. Box/Dropbox/Drive all work regardless of operating system or make of hardware. Limiting yourself to Google Drive's word processing will be great until you actually need to format anything (say... in MLA format) beyond choosing single or double spaced. Some chromebooks still have issues with things like Netflix, etc. and will require you to walk through your system settings. They're great, I want one too, but the first thing i'd do with it is install linux (or chrubuntu or whatever they're calling that distribution now) on it.

The chromebooks are really good for some things, and they're remarkably cheap so if it breaks it doesn't really matter (except for the Pixels which I think are pricey but supposedly really nice). The MacBook Pros are horribly overpowered for anything you're doing unless you've suddenly gotten into video editing or playing current generation video games. The MacBook Airs -- disclaimer, I have one -- are more than enough for me to do whatever I need to do (edit syllabi, grade papers, write computer code, crunch so-called "big data" numbers, and watch the occasional movie). It's also light enough that I can toss it in my bag and run to class without feeling like I'm getting a workout, and I can hook it up to any of the AV equipment in my classrooms without a problem.

If you want a small laptop to write on, and only write on, then your computer doesn't matter. Any cheap Windows/OS X will run MS Word or, if you don't need any serious editing, TextEdit / SublimeText / Scrivener / Notepad / whatever. The chromebook will be fine for that if you don't mind doing everything through google docs. If you're talking about watching movies, or syncing your ipod, or doing anything that you can't do on Google Drive (and you should check the disk limits on Google Drive, not the hard drive specs on the chromebook), then buy a real laptop and use it for writing as well as everything else you do.


Its just amazing to me that you can buy a piece of technology like this for $200. I remember when I bought my first new laptop ~1996, a Compaq Presario, for $1,500. At the time, the high-end Mac laptops were around $3K, I think.

Anyhow, you probably can't go wrong. If the main thing is writing, then you might want to take especial notice of the keyboard. I'm personally not a huge fan of Toshiba, but that doesn't mean anything (or Dell). I've owned a couple Samsungs and liked them, although the screen hinge of the last - my wife's current laptop - started breaking after only half a year. If I remember, both Acer and Asus have really solid builds.

If I were you I'd go into Best Buy and type a bit on a few of them, see how they feel. I've found that, with buying a dozen more laptops over the last 20 years, in the end the specifications aren't as important as the physical feel of it, how it feels to actually use it. Sort of like watches.


Jesse, I want to write fiction and nonfiction. I don't have MLA format needs. I also would like the freedom for Netflix, Amazon TV and movies, videos. I'm hoping a Chromebook will do since I'd rather spend under 300 than closer to a 1,000 for a MacBook Air.

A PC laptop with good specs is 700 but I hate the constant security updates and malware worries.


I had been looking at Chromebooks for a while. My main laptop is an HP running Windows 7 and I just wanted something a bit more portable and an operating system that was a bit "lighter" than Windows, if that makes sense.

I went with the Acer C720-2800 just a couple of weeks ago. Acer was selling them refurbished on eBay for $189. This model gives you 4GB of RAM vs. the typical 2GB. I have 16GB of storage space but I barely have anything stored on it.

So far, I'm very pleased. The kids use it for their homework since they already use Chromebooks at school. Battery life is fantastic - I'm getting 8 hours between charges with room to spare. Video playback is smooth. The speakers sound great.

The keyboard is very nice to type on. I prefer it over my HP. It's a draw between typing on it and the Dell Latitude E5530 I have at work which is backlit. I wish every keyboard I had was backlit and a backlit Chromebook seems to be a rarity!

I'm using it more than my HP laptop and even my Nexus 7 lately.

I use Office at work all day so I enjoy the break from that at home and have started using Google Drive to create and print personal documents. You do have to use Google Cloud Printing since there are no printer drivers in Chrome OS so make sure you have a compatible printer. Most wireless printers work, I think. I have found that it is sometimes quite slow to print. I waited five minutes one day before the job made it to the printer! But, sometimes it prints almost immediately. I believe the random delays might be network issues on my end or between me and Google.

The screen is also a bit of a downside - it's not as nice as the glossy screen on my HP. It seems to me that they cut costs using a cheaper display.

I wrote a bit about it and posted some pictures on my blog at http://upinthisbrain.blogspot.com/2014/01/review-acer-c720-2800-chromebook.html

I think you'll like it. Let us know what you end up with.


Absolutely love the 11.6" format, it's the just-right size that you can carry inconspicuously with other books and doesn't feel like putting a movie screen or toy computer in your lap. So long as all you need is to compose documents in the included bare-bones word processing program, it could work. Don't forget tablets at this price point - their word processing ability is on par with the Chromebook's, and they do it with a lot less mass and complexity.


Agree with StarHalo on the multiple virtues of the 11.6" format; plenty large enough for viewing movies when set it up on your lap 2 feet away and uber portable. It's scarcely harder than carrying around a footlong Subway.

I recently bought an Acer C720 for $199 and if it's not the perfect laptop for emailing, Web browsing, watching movies/videos, downloading and playing music, basic word processing (which is all that Jeff apparently intends to do with it), well, it's close enough.

No NetFlix issues on mine. I clicked on the NF icon that came pre-loaded and it was up and running in maybe 5 seconds. Watched a couple of Ricky Gervais "The Office" episodes, assorted bits from "The Right Stuff, couple of other things. Good color and contrast on the screen, audio was decent from the speakers, but obviously better via earbuds. I am also doing a lot of listening and free downloading on Spotify and Pandora; multiple playlists already.

The speed of this little thing is amazing. From sleep, it's instant on. Full boot up takes maybe 7 seconds. Pages load almost as fast as you click on the link. Even something as loaded as Spotify are up in 4 or 5 seconds. Build quality is quite good, overall aesthetic pleasing.

Other than photo editing, there is no computer task that I do on my iMag G5 that I can't do on the Acer. Plus you get 100GB of free storage on the Cloud for 2 years.

Moreover, the Chrome OS operating system is simple and intuitive.

Of the current 11.6" models, the Acer with the lightning fast Haswell processor is far and away the best overall package, both the Samsung and HP Chromebook II being sludge slow next to the Acer.

But the new Toshiba 13.3" chromebook also comes armed with the Haswell and is a solid larger screen alternative.


One thing to remember, I suppose, is that your "portable typewriter" doesn't have to be your only computer. You could get a Chromebook or a laptop and write a file in a basic format, .txt even. Then format it in a full word processor or desktop publisher when you're making the final version.

There's even something to be said for that, since .txt is a safe format for archiving. Just about anything, including many things that aren't for word processing or publishing, can open a .txt file.

The Chromebook interests me. I would really want one that could connect over the cellular telephone network, though, so that I could access things when I was in out of the way places. I get the feeling the 3G type Chromebooks aren't selling that well, and I fear that the cost of an extra data plan would be a good reason not to get one.

That said, are you really going to use it that much? I bought a very nice laptop myself but I end up not using it because the desktop screen and keyboard are so much better. I keep on buying spiffy portable electronics. The tablet computer I end up using, since it is great for web browsing and wonderful for email and other such light computer duties when travelling. I could even write stories on it, using a bluetooth keyboard, if I had to. But other than that I never seem to use the portable equipment a tenth as much as I think I will. The full size equipment is just that much more comfortable to use, if you're going to be pounding away on it for hours at a time.


Am I going to use it that much? Yes. Like every day for several hours since I got it a week ago. It had all but replaced my first gen iPad which has started crashing all the time, and I never liked the virtual, drop down keyboard.

And, no, most would probably not want a chromebook as their only computer, a point that even most of the positive chromebook reviews make. Photo and video editing, complex word processing/formatting, new video games, etc all require more horsepower and/or programs that the chromebook cannot use. But, as I said above, for about 90%, or more, of what most of us use a computer for, the chromebook is nearly flawless.


If typing is what you want to do, the best keyboards to type on are the Lenovo Thinkpads - IMO they have the best keyboards of any laptop on the market. I'm the Technology Support Specialist at our local school district and we just bought 190 laptops, including 4 different models.

If you're looking to spend around $300 - I highly recommend the Thinkpad T410s (the "s" is important because its the slim version). This was a 2010 model but usually comes with a 128 GB solid state hard drive (or what you might think of as a flash drive), the screen is very bright, and you can replace the DVD drive with a 2nd battery (its shaped just like the DVD drive but replace it, bringing total battery life up to about 6 hours). This was a $1500 model in 2010 but can be found on ebay in great shape in the $300 price range. It blows Chromebooks out of the water in terms of raw performance (almost 3x faster CPU and better onboard graphics). I love everything about this laptop.

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