Here come the Chromebooks

In three weeks, we'll see the first Chromebooks, the Samsung Series 5 and the Acer Wi-Fi Chromebook. Here's what to expect.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

In about three weeks, we can stop talking about how Chromebooks-light-weight laptops running Google's Chrome OS-might, or might not, work in the real world because we'll get our hands on the first two models: the Samsung Series 5 and the Acer Wi-Fi Chromebook. Here's what we know now about them.

First things first. The Chromebooks you're going to see in mid-June are not going to be those dreadful beta CR-48 netbooks with some lipstick on. These are real netbook-sized laptops from Acer and Samsung: companies that know a thing or two about design.

Next, none of these laptops are powerhouses. For processors they use the 1.66GHz dual-core Intel Atom Processor N570 and they come with 2-gigabytes of RAM. On the other hand, they're not trying to run Windows 7 or even Ubuntu Unity. They're running Chrome OS, which is little more than the latest Chrome Web browser with a bare-bones Linux foundation. You don't need much to run that.

Each one also comes with a 16GB Solid State Drive (SSD). I've already heard people talking about how little that is. They're right. It's not much room at all. But, if you're focusing on that, you're missing the point. You're not installing software on these drives. Heck, if you use Google Docs for your documents and the still beta Google Music for your music library, you may not have much of anything to put on that SSD. The idea is to have just enough storage for anything you feel you must have in hand and for everything else to be on the cloud.

All that said, here's what coming down the road:

Acer Wi-Fi Chromebook

11.6" HD Widescreen LED-backlit LCD: (1366 x 768) resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio Intel Atom Dual-Core Processor(1.66GHz, 1MB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB) 2GB DDR3 Memory Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150 16GB Solid State Drive Two Built-in Speakers 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi Two USB 2.0 Ports, 4-in-1 memory card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC) One HDMI Port Touchpad 6-cell Lithium-Ion Battery-Up to 8-hours battery life Webcam: 1.3-Megapixel

So far, Acer is the low-cost leader. The company will sell its Chromebook for $349. The unit will first be available from Amazon and Best Buy. It's also showing up on some sites, but it can't be pre-ordered and it's only available in the U.S.

Samsung Series 5 with 3G

12.1" (WXGA) LED (1280x800)Resolution Intel Atom Dual-Core Processor(1.66GHz, 1MB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB) 2 GB DDR Memory NM10 Graphics Chipset 16 GB solid-state drive (SSD) Two Built-in Speakers 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, integrated 3G (via optional Verizon Wireless subscription) Two USB 2.0 Ports, 4-in-1 memory card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC) VGA (via optional dongle)Port Touchpad Audio: Built-in stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack Battery: 6-cell battery for up to 8.5 hours of use Webcam: 1.3-Megapixel

The 3G model will sell for $499, while the Wi-Fi version will run for $429. The big difference, at this point, is the somewhat larger display. Like the Acer, these will be first available from Amazon and Best Buy.

Will they be worth it? Can you actually use them as a replacement for your laptop? Stay tuned and we'll see. I plan on putting one or the other of them to the test as soon as I can my hands on one.

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