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Acer Chromebook Review: Should you just buy an iPad?

Acer Chromebook Google

(CBS) - As the iPad and other powerful netbooks have already occupied the market for some time, Google has its work cut out getting people to care about Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks.

Samsung and Acer are currently the only makers offering netbooks with the Chrome Operating System. The Samsung Chromebook is on sale for $399.99 for the Wi-Fi only version and $469.99 for the 3G version on Amazon. Acer's Wi-Fi only Chromebook will cost $349 and it's 3G counterpart is priced at $429.99.

With the Acer model starting at $349, it's hard not to consider it an option if you don't already own a tablet or a netbook.

Tech Talk had the pleasure of testing out the Acer Wi-Fi Chromebook. It's a slim, cute netbook with a long battery life. The boot time is fast and comparable to the MacBook Air. The browser-based OS is intriguing - after all, most people use their computers primarily for web browsing. And if you're a fan of the Google Chrome browser, you'll feel right at home with Chromebook's user interface.

The Chrome OS is geared to those who have stopped using programs like Microsoft Office in favor of web-based apps like Google Docs and Gmail. People who use services like calender and Google Voice religiously, won't miss a beat - everything syncs flawlessly once you sign into your Google account. Plus the Chrome web store has plenty of great free apps and games.

Add in the built-in security and automatic system and app updates it all sounds like a good buy. After all, the Internet is awesome and the Chromebook's only job is the Internet.

But that's where the operating system has its faults, and it becomes apparent rather quickly. Other than a handful of offline apps like Google Docs and Gmail, the laptop is practically useless without an Internet connection. Plus the extremely low storage space - 16 gigs - makes it less of a bargain compared to many Windows netbooks.

It's worth mentioning that the 3G model for the Acer and Samsung Chromebooks comes with a two-year included 100MB/month data plan by Verizon, which may be the only 3G laptop that comes with free data. But 100MBs seems like a tease and can deplete rather quickly.

But how does the Chromebook stack up against its other foe: the iPad. Well, the iPad is a tablet and the Chromebook isn't, but both rely heavily on their individual app markets and both are something less than a full-fledged computer.

Chromebooks are priced a bit cheaper than the iPad ($499 for the 16 gig, Wi-Fi only model) and will utilize the Internet better than most Windows netbooks. But once your broadband is cut off - you're Chromebook is just an expensive paper weight, unlike the iPad which has an enormous library of offline apps.

In short, there are a lot of things you can do with an iPad that you can't do with a Chromebook just yet, so, if you have the cash, go for an iPad.

Though if price is an object, and you're looking for something cheap and reliable to just browse the web, we would recommend the Acer Wi-Fi only Chromebook over most cheap netbooks. Plus, it's built-in HDMI port allows you to stream Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go on any high definition television.

For more on Chromebooks, go to CNET News

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