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Hands on: The US$149 Hisense Chromebook succeeds at being incredibly affordable

Melissa Riofrio, Gordon Mah Ung | April 1, 2015
This Chromebook costs just $149. The Hisense Chromebook, that is, announced Tuesday morning and available immediately via Walmart.com. This model and the Haier Chromebook also announced today set a new standard for affordable computers compared to Windows and Mac PCs.

In general, the quad-cores Cortex A17 can be somewhat competitive with Intel's budget Celeron N2840, which powers the vast majority of new Chromebook models. In other tests, though, the RK3288 extreme budget roots are apparent.

Google's own Octane V2 test, which measures JavaScript performance, sees the Rockchip just slightly slower than the Atom-powered Toshiba Chromebook 2 and its Celeron N2840, as well as Acer's Chromebook 13 and its Tegra K1 chip. That tells us the new Hisense Chromebook should offer fair performance for the vast majority of what people do in a browser.

That assessment is backed up by Rightware's BrowserMark 2.1 test, which also includes testing of JavaScript as well as CSS, DOM and graphics tests. Again, that's not bad for an SoC that's usually associated with rock-bottom performance.

Mozilla Kraken 1.1, however, exposes some shortcomings in the Rockchip part. The test is also a JavaScript test and uses some aspects of the popular SunSpider benchmark. There's audio processing, image filtering, and cryptographic tests in the test, and the RK3288 falls far behind the Nvidia Tegra K1 and the Celeron N2840.

We're seeing the same dead-last performance in Principled Technologies CrXPRT-2015 test. There's a lot of HTML5 and JavaScript, as well as encryption and WebGL used in the simulated apps that test photo editing, face detection, offline note taking and even a DNA sequence analysis. Intel's little Bay Trail-based Celeron pounds the Rockchip. Badly.

Overall performance of the Hisense Chromebook isn't bad, especially compared to older ARM-based Chromebooks (Acer's Tegra K1 is not included in that group). Compared to the vast majority of budget Chromebooks, which are Intel Atom/Bay Trail-based, it offers somewhat competitive performance in many areas.

The people's PC

Whatever the Hisense Chromebook's shortcomings, we can't deny the power of the price. It is now possible to buy an adequate computer for $149, a price point many people can afford. What's more, the Chrome ecosystem continues to add promising features, including Android apps to help close the app gap. Microsoft may be trying hard to beat back Chrome, but bargain laptops like the Hisense Chromebook help keep Google ahead of the game. 

 

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