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Want to reach out and touch your Chromebook? How does $299 grab you?

Acer serves up touchy-feely Chrome OS kit at tablet prices

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Acer's latest entry in its line of budget Chromebooks is touch-enabled, making it the first time a Chrome OS device has shipped with a touchscreen while still being priced under $300.

So far, the only Chromebook available with a touchscreen has been the high-end Chromebook Pixel, which also includes such tony features as a 219-pixel-per-inch display, a backlit keyboard, and a glass trackpad – plus a $1,299 price tag to match.

The Acer C720P, which the Taiwanese firm announced on Tuesday, aims instead for the low end of the market. In fact, it's really just another entry in the affordable Acer C720 line, which the company debuted earlier this month.

In place of the Chromebook Pixel's Apple-defying 2560-by-1700 resolution screen, the C720P ships with a bog standard 11.6-inch, 1366-by-768 display, just like the other models in its class. The only difference is that it's been fitted with a fondle-friendly layer with ten-point touch sensitivity.

The rest of the C720P's specs are much the same as those of its brethren. At its heart is an Intel Celeron 2955U CPU based on the Haswell microarchitecture, running at 1.4GHz. Its solid-state drive is a little larger than those of some C720 models, at 32GB, but it's also limited to 2GB of RAM. Otherwise, "C720 plus touch" is pretty much all you need to know.

The addition of a touchscreen does seem to have one drawback, though. The battery life for the C720P is listed at 7.5 hours. While that's still a respectable amount, Acer claimed a running time of 8.5 hours for the earlier, non-touch models in the C720 series. That might be enough to turn you off, if battery life is all-important to you.

And then there's the question of just how important it is to have a touchscreen on a device that's little more than a dedicated mobile web browser. A lot of websites still have not been optimized for touch, and the Chrome browser itself doesn't lend itself well to touch-enabled Windows devices. Google has developed a few touch technologies that are so far available only on Chrome OS, however, such as touch-enabled text editing and pinch-to-zoom.

But potential buyers should still consider carefully, because the touch-enabled C720 model will set them back $299 – 50 per cent more than the entry-level, bargain basement version.

Acer says the C720P Chromebook will go on sale in early December via its own online store, in addition to being available through such retailers as Best Buy and Amazon. ®

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