Google aims for a better class of Chromebook with new Plus category
More than a decade since the first low-powered but fuss-free, easy-to-use, inexpensive laptops running Chrome OS were launched, Google has now announced the Chromebook Plus program – a new performance-focused category with built-in AI.
All of the new machines will still run Chrome OS, but to join the new Plus club they'll need to meet a minimum set of hardware requirements. Google says that Chromebook Plus will launch with eight models from Acer, Asus, HP and Lenovo with either 14-inch or 15.6-inch Full HD IPS displays, at least an Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 (7,000 series) processor supported by 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB or storage, and a 1080p webcam.
Those are minimum specs for this program, Acer's 515 model can be had with a 13th-Gen Core i7 processor, for example, while the Asus CX34 packs in 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage and Lenovo's Gaming version boasts Iris Xe graphics and up to 512 GB of SSD storage.
On the new features front, File Sync will automatically download files stored in a user's Drive folders for seamless online/offline working, though it's not clear exactly how this will work. The platform also sees the webcam working with included AI smarts to improve call quality and lighting regardless of what app is being used for videoconferencing, with enhancement tools available on the app shelf.
AI can help with touching up images in the Google Photos app via Magic Eraser as well, the system comes with a three-month free trial of Adobe Photoshop Web and the Adobe Express tool, with Adobe Firefly on hand to help with photos and graphics, there's a 25% discount available to budding film-makers to tap into LumaFusion's multi-track editing suite, and Plus users can also opt to try out Duet AI in Google Workspace for free.
The first batch of Chromebook Plus laptops go on sale from October 8, the starting price is US$399. Updates already planned for next year include a feature to help users spruce up short-form text entries on visited websites (such as quick reviews or comments), AI-powered background image generation for video calls, and more personalization options.