The reality is that you get what you pay for. If you spend £250 on a laptop then in general you get something not very good. If you spend £750 on a laptop you get something nice.
And the hardware is more than the internals. A decent desktop keyboard costs about £60. A decent desktop mouse costs about £40. A decent desktop monitor costs £150. The first £200 of any device - laptop or desktop should be on the stuff that makes it a pleasure or a pain to interact with. Buy a £400 laptop with higher end internals and the costs will have been cut somewhere. Buy a £750 laptop with the same bits inside and you suddenly find you have something that you want to use, is nice and quick, and works. Be it an Apple MacBook Air or a Microsoft Surface.
So why have I just switched to a £250 laptop?
Firstly because I am a Google. Although I still use Microsoft and Adobe software for content creation, all of my content in stored in the Google cloud. Google Drive offers as much space as you need for very little cash (30GB per user free for Charities) and increasingly capable Office compatible applications that work in your browser (even when not connected to the internet). When I do want to create content, render video, design materials, the chances are I will be using my desktop PC, not my laptop. And I still can.
From my £250 laptop.
The flip is a Chromebook. That means it runs a very lean operating system that is mostly the Chrome browser. Although many Apps work offline most require some sort of internet connection. You can use remarkably capable browser applications like http://www.sumopaint.com/, or Microsoft's Office Online suite (with free editions available to charities). You can install a small but growing number of Android Apps, or Google provide tools to enable you package your own Apps. I have Olive Tree Bible Reader set up.
SumoPaint (Web) & OliveTree (Android)
The hardware in a Chromebook is optimised to run Chrome. Unlike a Phone or Tablet or PC or Mac there are not lots of background processes eating away at performance and battery life.
The screen is 10 inches and 1280x800 resolution. Low for a tablet or phone, but good for a small laptop - more pixels per inch than the 11 inch Macbook Air. The screen is a touch screen. Fold it back and you have a tablet. Most importantly it is an IPS panel - which means better colour reproduction and viewing angles. The keyboard is small but a pleasure to type on, the only downside is the lack of backlighting for the keys. The trackpad works, unlike many Windows laptops - and with gestures similar to a Mac. The speakers are quiet but clear.
Most of the laptop is made of aluminium. It is thin (<16mm), light (<.9kg) and looks and feels premium. The £250 has been spent on the important stuff. No 1tb hard drives, graphics cards, or high end Intel CPU's.
The Flip's processor is similar to what you would find in a phone or a tablet, rather than a desktop PC. It quite happily handles 10 browser tabs open and plays HD video. It has 4gb of Ram and and 16gb of storage (you keep everything on Drive in the cloud), and you can add an Micro SD card if you want lots of local media or files. The battery lasts upto 9 hours.
So how do I get any serious work done?
RDPChrome RDP. Remote Desktop Protocol. Just as the Flip runs Chrome very efficiently, it runs Google's own RDP software superbly. What this means is that the Flip becomes the keyboard, mouse and screen for another PC. In my case the considerably more powerful desktop machine in my office. As long as your home computer is switched on you can access it. How good is it? Pretty seamless.
Yes it's a Windows 10 Desktop
I made some basic optimisations on the home desktop. Turned off Window's bells and whistles, and set the desktop resolution to match the Flip's
Using the Flip in tablet mode over public WiFi I can finger sketch in Fireworks, play point and click, puzzle or strategy games, or stream a PowerPoint presentation in 720p at 25 frames per second with sound. From Wales to Watford.
The size of the Flip means that I am happy to carry it about. It works surprisingly well in tablet mode with the screen flipped behind the keyboard. Not everywhere has public WiFi and I may end up using the data on my phone with the flip via WiFi hotspots. Although Drive works well it still doesn't offer all the offline options of the Android and iPhone apps.
Chrome OS offers an interesting conundrum. For the basic user it can seem very basic, with very little that can go wrong. For the advanced user it offers a some very clever solutions. Over the next few weeks I will be exploring using the Flip as a presentation tool, and for remote video editing, which is where it may fall down. But my initial conclusion is that the Flip is one of the first Chrome OS devices that feels premium at a budget price point.
I feel like it has saved me £500 on a laptop.