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Chromebook gets real

The Chromebook is a good extra computer for cloud-loving Google-centric Web users.

Why do you need a browser-based laptop that won't run a full OS? Chrome OS-powered ultraportables didn't make sense at $500, but at $199 they suddenly seem a lot more interesting. Google's parallel computing environment to Android has been a bit of an experimental black sheep, but that status could be changing very soon based on price drops and significant improvements to the function and stability of Chrome.

The recent availability of low-cost Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer means that a Chromebook can finally be a low-cost viable alternative to a Netbook, provided you keep your expectations in check and realize that these devices are made to mostly run online. Then again, if you're living in the Google cloud and love the idea of an instant-on, laptop-like gadget that can stream, e-mail, and Web browse to your heart's delight, this could be perfect. And it might portend where mobile computing is headed in the next few years.

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