Samsung and Google recently announced the Chromebook, a $249 computer with an 11.6-inch screen and around 6.5 hours of battery life in a slim 2.5 lb, 0.8-inch-thick shell. It’s a very simple approach to the concept of a Chrome-powered notebook. But is it any good?

Chrome OS is very minimal. It’s essentially a portable web browser, with features added that make it possible to access local files and work more easily offline. Hardware for an OS like that doesn’t need to be overly complicated or powerful; it just needs focus. And that’s exactly what Samsung and Google have delivered with this very affordable notebook.

Pros:

  • Price, obviously. This is the main selling point of this computer.
  • Chrome OS is essentially Chrome with a splash of Android. It should be easy for anyone to pick up.
  • It’s a very portable device, and it’s built well enough to endure a little rough handling.

Cons:

  • Chrome OS is very focused, but that means it also lacks many of the features of WIndows, OS X, or Linux.
  • The quality of the display and other build materials reflect the low asking price.

Conclusion

At $400 or $500, the Chromebook struck me as a crazy idea; after all, who would want to pay as much as you might for a low-level Windows machine for something far narrower and less capable? But at $249, the Samsung Chromebook makes sense: it’s a cheap, effective portable web browser with a full keyboard and long battery life. If you have more than the asking price, buy a Mac or a PC. But if a Mac or PC is overkill for your needs, you won’t regret picking up a new Chromebook.