Google’s newest Chromebook, designed by Hewlett-Packard and released Tuesday, has plenty of features to boast about. But the biggest innovation may be the laptop’s charger: It uses the same micro-USB charger used by most (non-Apple) smartphones.
It’s a small but sneakily brilliant idea, since it should cheer anyone who has ever had to deal with leaving their much-needed laptop charger at home. The Chromebook 11 has a six-hour battery life, about the length of a cross-country flight. For those debating whether to choose a laptop, ultrabook or tablet for mobile computing, that may be a drawback, but the $279 price may make up for a lot of shortcomings in consumers’ eyes.
Apart from the charger, the two-pound laptop has some other interesting design features, including speakers under the keyboard that eliminate the risk that you’ll muffle your computer’s sound with your lap. The Chromebook also has a fanless design, aiming to make the whole laptop look as sleek as possible. The laptop, which like other Chromebooks eschews the desktop and runs apps only for Chrome, also has a Web cam and two full-sized USB 2.0 ports. It also comes with 100 GB of Google Drive storage, free, for two years and a 60-day free trial to Google Play Music All Access. Aimed at travelers, the laptop also comes with 12 free sessions of GoGo Inflight Internet.
As for styling, the mostly white, 11.6-inch Chromebook also comes in four different accent colors — blue, red, yellow and green — that should look familiar to anyone who’s ever seen the Google logo. Users can also pick up the laptop in black.
HP, which manufactures the Chromebook 11, says it is also offering optional 4G connectivity on Verizon’s network for an as-yet-unnamed additional fee. The cellular connectivity would make the cloud-based laptop much more useful, particularly on the go.
Google has been looking to diversify its Chromebook offerings — the Chromebook Pixel retails for $1,300 and up — and the HP Chromebook 11 sits comfortably in the middle of the lineup’s price points.
While industry watchers met Google’s original stripped-down, cloud-focused laptop with a “wait-and-see” attitude, the company has seen strong growth with the Chromebook line, even as the rest of the laptop and netbook market has experienced slides. An NPD Group report cited by Bloomberg said the Chromebook has between 20 and 25 percent of the U.S. market for laptops under $300 — making it the fastest-growing part of the PC industry, the report said.