Google announced not one, but four new Chrome OS devices to its lineup. The first two are the most inexpensive Chromebooks we've seen, while the other two are new products from its longtime partnership with Asus.
Until now, the cheapest Chromebook was the $169 Asus Chromebook C201. However, Google still wants to drive down prices even further. At $149 each, the new Haier Chromebook 11 and the Hisense Chromebook 11 are the least expensive Chromebooks to date.
The Haier Chromebook 11 weighs 2.54 pounds and features an 11.6-inch LED screen. It's powered by a quad-core Rockchip RK3288 processor (1.8 GHz), and it has 2 GB of DDR3L RAM and offers up to 10 hours of battery life.
For connectivity, it has dual-band 802.11 2x2 (MIMO) a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. It also offers 16 GB of flash storage, two stereo speakers, and a webcam, although we're unsure of the specs on the camera. For I/O, it includes a MicroSD slot, headphone jack, HDMI and two USB ports. It's unclear if those are USB 2.0 or 3.0 ports; if we had to venture a guess based on the colors, it looks like these are USB 2.0, but we can't say for certain.
The other new little brother in the Chromebook family is the Hisense Chromebook, which weighs a little more than the Haier model at 3.3 pounds but still has the 11.6-inch screen. It also has less battery life at 8.5 hours.
Unlike the Haier Chromebook 11, the Hisense model contains a more powerful quad-core ARM Cortex-A17 processor (2.5 GHz) and 2 GB of DDR3 SDRAM. The spec list indicated that there's room to expand the RAM up to 16 GB, but we think this is actually an error on the product page, as most Chromebooks contain 2 GB or 4 GB of RAM. This is not to mention that it wouldn't make any sense to put so much RAM into a budget Chromebook.
Storage on the Hisense is the same as the Haier model, and connectivity is the same as well, but the Hisense version seems to lack Bluetooth 4.0. It also has a 1.3-megapixel webcam. For I/O, it has an HDMI port, a 3.5 mm combination jack, and two USB 2.0 ports.
The third new Chromebook comes from Asus, called the Asus Chromebook Flip, which is a little more expensive at $249. It s the lightest and thinnest of the three devices at two pounds and about 0.59 inches thick (the Haier Chromebook is 0.71 inches and the Hisense Chromebook is 0.76 inches, respectively). It's also a touchscreen device. Other than that, we still don't know much about it specification-wise, and we may not until it hits stores later this spring.
The last reveal from Google is an interesting one. It's not a Chromebook, but rather a portable stick running Chrome OS. It's called the Chromebit, and Google said that it will cost less than $100. All you have to do is plug the stick into a display and you have the full benefits of a Chrome OS-based computer. It's an interesting idea, and we'll see how it performs when we get our hands on the tiny device.
Although Chromebooks are already typically inexpensive by design, the Haier and Hisense models point to what amounts to a budget line of products within a budget line of products. This is a wise move on the part of Google and its partners; as Chromebooks that creep up to the $300-plus mark will face stiff competition from low-end Windows notebooks in the same price range (ignoring for a moment the question of whether $300 is too much for a Chromebook regardless), pushing Chromebook prices down well below the $200 mark opens up a whole new raft of potential customers.
Meanwhile, the Asus Chromebook Flip brings a new style of Chromebook to the table, and it's encouraging to see a design beyond the simple clamshell concept -- especially at the relatively still-low price point of $249.