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Chrome OS computers excel at speed

The first thing to know about these machines is they lack regular hard drives for storage. There's a small amount of flash memory available, the kind you'd find on a camera memory card, nevertheless Chrome OS machines are designed for the cloud. That means documents are stored over the Internet, and programs are run over the Internet through a Web browser.

However securely and discretely the Internet services you use claim to keep your data, your content is one step removed from your tightfisted control. Cloud computing as well limits what you can do while those times you may not have an Internet connection.

What you get instead is speed

What you get instead is speed. The Chrome OS machines boot up quickly because they don't have to load a lot of software - all in other words run over the Internet. The machines as well don't need the most expensive and fastest parts because they aren't doing a whole lot.

If you're OK with that approach to personal computing, the Chromebook laptop and the Chromebox desktop computer hit the mark. Both are made by Samsung Electronics Co. and represent the second-generation of Chrome OS machines, following the models out last summer.

As notebooks go, the Chromebook is sleek and simple in appearance. It sports a 12.1-inch display, weighs a tidy 3.3 lbs and has built-in Wi-Fi. The model I tested as well came with a 3G cellular modem and two years of free online connection to Verizon's network. That model costs $549.

The hood is an Intel Celeron processor

Under the hood is an Intel Celeron processor and four gigabytes of RAM, which is plenty for most Web-based activities. There's a paltry 16 gigabytes of flash storage, which can quickly get eaten up if you store a lot of songs or photos - forget about lengthy video. Again, the idea is for you to keep all that on the Internet instead.

Google's Chrome Web store has plenty of useful, free applications to run on the machine. These are the same apps that you can add to Chrome Web browsers running on Windows or Mac computers. The selection includes accounting software, Amazon.com wish list management and "Angry Birds".

Mac or Windows machine

But if all of that can as well be installed for Chrome on a Mac or Windows machine, why have a whole computer with the entire functionality dedicated to one browser? Isn't that severely limiting?

That said, I see neither Chromebook nor the Chromebox as replacements for traditional computers, as cloud computing isn't fully robust but. Instead, Chrome OS machines are likely to be additions, the way you might buy an iPad to supplement your main desktop or laptop.

If you're comfortable with cloud computing, the Chromebook and the Chromebox deliver a clean networked experience and give you a full keyboard that touch-screen tablets lack.

More information: Vcstar