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TECHNOLOGY

Tested: Lean Budget Laptop For Any Small Business

Smart, low-cost laptop for any small business.

What if you could add jet-engines to the back of a Ford Taurus? Not only would you look cooler than anyone else on the road, you'd be able to get to work in only a few seconds.

That's essentially the idea with the new Acer C720 Chromebook, a "thin" computing laptop that runs the Chrome operating system and doesn't use traditional Windows apps. Chrome is a light operating system that only runs Web apps and has limited local storage. For example, you can't run Adobe Photoshop, set up a complex local-attached network drive to create back-ups (because it probably will need Windows drivers), or even print that easily.

If you do most of your work on the Web, or if you have employees that mostly need to process e-mail and use online apps, the Acer C720 is a smart choice.

There are two versions of the C720, but they both run the Intel Core i3 processor at 1.7GHz. One costs $350 and has 2GB of RAM; the other costs $380 and has 6GB of RAM. I tested the model with 6GB of RAM and it runs like a jet-engine powered Taurus.

Acer C720 Chromebook

Many Windows-powered laptops already use a fast processor, but the light Chrome OS now feels even snappier. There's also 32GB of local storage, but you might not need all of it. I tend to use Photoshop regularly to edit photos and shoot videos as part of my job, but that's not even possible with this laptop. Otherwise, I have moved entirely to cloud storage for my files and back-ups using services like Google Drive. Besides, if you already use an online tool like Google Docs, you won't need much storage.

The C720 has an 11.6-inch screen that looked colorful enough and crisp for most document editing, but won't win any awards for brightness or side viewing angles. A photo of my kids looked a bit washed-out. I found myself having to look a bit closer at e-mails due to the smaller screen size. Acer has outfitted this low-cost laptop with a few handy extras, including an SD camera card reader and a webcam.

The keys felt springy and I was able to type fast and with good accuracy. The mouse responded well to swipes and clicks, and I could even use a two-finger gesture to scroll. The battery lasted an acceptable 8 hours--or about one full day of use.

The C720 doesn't let you play high-end video games during off-work hours, doesn't let you edit photos or videos using a high-end app, and won't handle any major data processing chores using scientific apps you can only run in Windows. No matter. For a start-up, the C720 is a good fit as a lean and low-cost laptop forthose who wantto spend smart.

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IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Aug 13, 2014

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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