Review

The Chromebook 11, made by HP.

The Chromebook 11, made by HP.

Google's Chromebooks are no-frills laptops. They're light, simple, fast and cheap.

They're not meant for business executives who rely on Microsoft's PowerPoint presentations, or video artists who use Apple's suite of editing programs.

They're meant for people who use laptops for simple things, such as email, surfing the net, watching videos, listening to music and working on the odd word document.

If the kids need a computer to do their homework, or if the grandparents need a computer for email and simple web browsing, for example, they're perfect.

Chromebooks run on Google's pared-down operating system, which is based around the company's ecosystem of services, such as Gmail, Google Docs and Google Maps.

All these things require a steady internet connection, though, meaning Wi-Fi is the Chromebook's lifeblood.

Deprive it of internet, and the functionality suffers. You can write emails and work on documents, but several functions don't work fully without an internet connection, or will need to be configured for offline use while you still have an internet connection. Changes to documents sync and save back the cloud when a user reconnects to the web.

Photos, music and movies, meanwhile, are all online – the Chromebooks themselves offer little on-board storage.

In Silicon Valley, where the Chromebook was thought up, there's plenty of public Wi-Fi around. In Australia, it's a slightly different story.

Take the Chromebook out of the house or the office here, and you'll be hard pressed to find an internet connection.

Much like tablets, therefore, Chromebooks can't yet match the functionality of a traditional Windows or Mac computer. But they do the simple things well and are great as a secondary device.

And the price makes them attractive. Samsung offers one for $380, Acer's costs $400, and a Hewlett-Packard model costs $500.

The cheapest laptops running Microsoft Windows start at about $500, while Apple's models start at more than $1000.

AAP