One laptop not getting enough attention these days is Google's new Chromebook.
Simply put, it's a great second computer for $250.
The laptop's shell is plastic, but it performs an excellent impersonation of silver brushed aluminum. It has an 11.6-inch screen, weighs just 2.4 pounds, and its extremely clean, satisfying keyboard is modeled on the MacBook Air's. There are HDMI, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 jacks, and a memory-card slot is on the side for transferring camera photos. And a headphone jack. (For $330, you can get a version that gets online over the cellular data networks.) It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Google claims 6.5 hours for the battery.
The Chromebook takes some getting used to: It's exclusively for online activities. Web, email, YouTube and apps like Google Drive (free, online word processor, spreadsheet and slideshow programs). The laptop has no moving parts: no fan, no DVD drive, not even a hard drive. It's silent and fast.
And it comes with very little storage; you're supposed to keep your files online. Google starts you off with 100 gigabytes of storage for two years; after that, you have to pay for more storage (although you get to keep whatever you've already used, no charge).
There are all kinds of payoffs to this approach. The laptop turns on instantly. The operating system is updated automatically every six weeks or so. It has "insane levels" of security, according to Google.
The Chromebook runs something Google calls the Chrome OS. It doesn't run "real" software like Photoshop, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Skype, and so on. It's basically just a Web browser.
But a price of $250 means you don't spend hours online comparing models. A price of $250 means half the price of an iPad. And you're getting a laptop.
For so many things people do with their computers (and tablets) these days, the Chromebook makes eminent sense. Flash videos play. Netflix movies play. Office documents open. It's also a perfect computer for the technophobic. It's very hard to get lost in an operating system that basically has no features.