Tech Biz

Haswell Chromebooks: More Power and Extended Battery Life

Acer, HP, and Toshiba will offer three new Chrome OS-powered clamshells by year’s end.

Google and Intel showed off three new Chromebooks at the Intel Developers Conference in San Francisco. All three Chrome OS-powered laptops incorporate Intel’s fourth-generation Haswell chips – not only increasing processing power, but extending battery life by up to 50 percent over previous models. Previous Chrome hardware partners Acer and HP, as well as Chrome OS newcomer Toshiba, plan to offer their new computers by the end of the fourth quarter.

The new Acer Chromebook has an 11.6-inch display. It is 0.75 inches thick and weighs only 2.76 pounds. It is said to offer 8.5 hours of use, thanks to the upgraded Haswell CPU.

HP’s Chromebook 14 sports a larger 14-inch display with 1366 x 768 pixels and 16GB of built-in storage. It is 0.81-inches thick and weighs 4.08 pounds, boasting 9.5 hours of battery life. Additionally, the Chromebook 14 will have HDMI, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0 ports – and be offered in multiple colors that include “Snow White, Ocean Turquoise, and Coral Peach.” It will retail for a mere $300.

Both laptops can boot in less than seven seconds. While battery power doesn’t quite match the impressive new MacBook Air models, it shows vast improvement over the Chromebook Pixel’s four-hour battery life (at a fraction of the MacBook Air’s price tag).

Toshiba executives didn’t attend the event and Google has yet to post a product description online. It, along with the new Acer, will likely retail for $300 or less.

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“Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and Android, came on stage to say that Haswell will offer superb battery life without compromising performance,” said Engadget. Previous iterations of the Chromebook, with the exception of the Pixel, relied on ARM and Atom processors – outdated and underpowered by the latest CPU standards.

Google has been pushing app development for the Chrome OS in the hopes that it can grow into a full-fledged desktop ecosystem. The ultimate goal for Chrome OS is being able to compete with the industry-leading Windows and OS X mainstays.

“Depending on the level of performance and polish, these devices could serve as a compliment to Google's efforts to mature on the Chrome software side,” reported The Verge. “Back when Chrome OS was just a browser and nothing more, bargain basement hardware wasn't a problem and, in fact, preferred. But if Chrome OS is going to grow up and truly take on Microsoft and Apple, it'll need both better apps and better hardware.”

The first Chromebook started as a glorified netbook, essentially incapable of doing anything without an internet connection. The new range of hardware seeks to break that stereotype and be seen as more than a portable supplement to a full-power PC.

“Caesar Sengupta [Google’s director of project management] referred to the new generation of Chromebooks as ‘primary devices,’” said PC World. “With the new packaged apps for Chrome that allow Chromebooks to run them offline, Chromebooks are gathering momentum as primary devices.”

Although the PC market has been struggling against the popularity of mobile devices – tablets, phablets, and ordinary smartphones – Chromebooks are one segment of the PC market that is growing instead of shrinking.

“In the U.S. they account for between 20-25 percent of the sub-$300 notebook market, making the devices the fastest-growing PC category based on price,” reported Yahoo News. “Therefore, it is less than surprising that at a time when traditional PC sales have never been worse that more and more companies are looking to diversify and tap into any market that offers signs of life.”

Additionally, Google claimed that “more than 5,000 schools have deployed Chromebooks for their students, representing more than 20 percnet of school districts in the U.S.” Clearly, the budget pricing has elevated the Chromebook’s popularity in this setting.

With these impressive new entries, perhaps 2014 will be the year that Chromebooks achieve mainstream appeal.