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Google debuts $250 laptop – the Chromebook

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(CNN) — Google laid out the next step of its Chromebook effort last week by introducing a thin, light, Samsung-built laptop attached to a killer number — $250.

“It’s the best laptop that’s ever been designed at this price,” said Sundar Pichai, who oversees Google’s Chrome browser, OS and product teams. “We assume that you have a Windows machine in your home, or maybe a Mac. This isn’t built to replace those machines but instead be an additional computer.” The same way a tablet or smartphone are for many today.

With that in mind, the performance and specs of the latest Samsung Chromebook (officially called the New Samsung Chromebook) fall just a bit below that of the mid-range $450 Samsung Series 5 Chromebook launched in May. For example, the new Chromebook uses a Samsung Exynos dual-core ARM processor — essentially a chip designed for use in smartphones and tablets rather than traditional laptops — along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of built-in storage. The Series 5 Chromebook had 4GB of RAM.

Google is also giving Chromebook buyers 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years, so they can store files in the cloud, rather than locally on the device. The New Samsung Chromebook is available for pre-order on Amazon starting Thursday and officially goes on sale Monday. Google is setting up 500 “Chromezone” kiosks in Best Buy stores, staffed by Google employees, to give consumers a chance to use Chromebooks, ask questions, and see what the low-priced computer line is all about. The new Chromebook will also be sold in Google Play, alongside Nexus phones and tablets.

“We really want this to be for everyone in your family,” Pichai said. “We really want users to think about this as one extra computer for your kitchen counter, one near the bed, maybe a computer for your kids or family.”

The new Chromebook has a full-sized keyboard and trackpad and an 11.6-inch matte display with a 1366 x 768 resolution, versus the 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800 display found on the Series 5 Chromebook. The previous Chromebook offered two USB ports and a single DisplayPort++ connection that could be used with HDMI, DVI and VGA to hookup to TVs or external monitors. The New Samsung Chromebook also has two USB ports but ditches DisplayPort++ for straight-up HDMI.

But the main feature, aside from price, is the new Chromebook’s profile. At just 2.5 pounds and 0.8 inches thick, this is one of the lightest and thinnest laptops on the market. It has no fan and or other moving parts — just like your smartphone or tablet.

“At Google, our goal is services which are used by hundreds of millions of people, gmail, maps, hangouts,” Pichai said. “This is a big step in the journey for us. From the inception of the project we’ve had this goal to provide a thin, light computer that is perfect for everyone.”

Keyboard-equipped computers need to be, and can be, more accessible, he said, pointing out that although about 85 percent of U.S. households have multiple TVs, 50 percent of them have only one computer. So the $249 Chromebook is Google’s most accessible Chromebook, a category that so far has mostly been a toy/tool for early adopters and about 1,000 schools.

So why buy a $249 Chromebook over a $200 Nexus 7 tablet? Pichai said that while tablets take care of quick, casual computing for most people — checking e-mail, using social media apps, maybe watching a movie or video chatting with a friend — the world still has a need for low-priced computers with a keyboard.

“We, today, see a huge need for computing which is very usable with keyboards,” he said. “I see it in my house with my kids. My daughter has a tablet, but when she wants to do her homework, she needs a keyboard. She doesn’t want to do that on a tablet.”

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