Most of us over the age of 30 have this false belief that the ideal laptop is powerful, with lots of ports and runs Windows. The reality is that most of what we do (except running powerful games) no longer requires that type of expensive machine.
The new generation of computer users want to watch online streaming movies (Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Vimeo, etc), perform basic photo editing (you can use sites like PicMonkey.com), write basic documents (with Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online) and have a sleek light device with all day battery life and minimal maintenance. Enter the Google Chromebook.
Chromebooks are Google's response to this new computing paradigm where most tasks are performed through a browser anyway. Go to my previous article (link) that explains why ChromeOS (the operating system powering the Chromebooks) is a respectable choice. In summary it is a fast, low cost, no maintenance device.
I still like the Dell machine written in my article but it isn't always available so here is my new choice, : Acer C720P Chromebook.
Why the C720P?
The Acer C720P seems to provide the best combination of features, reliability and cheap price. It has a faster (than most) Intel processor which makes a world of difference when opening multiple tabs or running process intensive web apps.
It has a nice touch screen which is a cool feature for some touch optimized web apps.
It has a respectable keyboard and a fairly good trackpad. It comes with one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port, which is great to add external peripherals. It has an SD Card slot to upload your photos to your cloud service of choice. It has a 32GB solid state drive which makes it shock resistant, power efficient and extremely fast (many other Chromebooks still use cheaper but slower mechanical hard drives).
Like the Dell I had originally recommended, you buy a Chromebook for functionality not looks. This isn't an Apple-like product but what do you expect for $360.
The other advantage of a Chromebook is the fact that you won't spend hundreds of dollars on additional software. Since this is built to leverage web based services, you won't be forking over money for Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or other similar apps.
The minute a ChromeOS update is available, it will automatically be downloaded and installed the next time you reboot.
No antivirus, no disk defragmentation or any other device management activities. If your child manages to somehow "screw up" the Chromebook (which is really really hard), you activate a feature called PowerWash which brings the device back to its original shipped state. Since everything is in the cloud (Google gives you 100GB of Google Drive storage free for 2 years), you never have to worry about losing your information.
Overall this is a great device for kids in elementary school or as a second device in a house.
Amazon seems to be the best place to pick one of these up in the USA (link)