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RadioShack Announces Exclusive Line of Chromebooks


As a kid, I remember walking into my local RadioShack to explore the newest gadgets, playing with the computers on display and spending hours re-arranging the parts drawers to annoy the poor employees who had to later clean up my mess. My memories of this were so treasured that I later got a job at RadioShack when I turned 18, sadly I moved on after completing my 2-year conscription.

I am excited to report that RadioShack has just announced a new line of exclusive Chromebooks and a new Chromebox that will be carried at all of their tens of stores nationwide. RadioShack partnered with several well-known computer manufacturers to deliver the line of co-branded devices at three different price points to appeal to a wide number of potential customers.

One of the largest benefits of choosing RadioShack to purchase your next ChromeOS device is that you will be able to visit any of their stores for world-class support, followed by several shameless attempts to sell you another cell phone.

The Tandy TRS-Chromebox 1 – $1,699.99

It should not come as a surprise to learn that RadioShack’s parent company would be the first to introduce a Chromebox for the masses, based on their wildly popular TRS-80 line of home computers. The TRS-80 has withstood the test of time and is still one of the most used computers in both financial institutions, datacenters and airline in-flight infotainment screens.

Following the long legacy of the TRS-80, Tandy has built the TRS-Chromebox 1 to appeal to the average home user as well as small businesses by offering a single basic model that can be easily expanded by simply adding an expansion card or connecting an accessory to one of the two DB9 Serial Ports on the rear of the keyboard.

Unfortunately, to keep costs low, the TRS-Chromebook 1 lacks any built in connectivity, so users will need to purchase their own modem and telephone coupler if they wish to get online and explore the World Wide Web at blistering speeds of up to 300 baud. Additionally, you will need to supply your own cassette deck if you wish to load your legacy copy of Commander Keen from cassette tape. Demanding users are encouraged to purchase a 4 or 8 MB hard disk drive if they wish to install a lot of applications.

Tandy did try to overcome the lack of a built-in modem by including a color display and 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drive. Customers who pre-order the TRS-Chromebook 1 will receive a special bundle via Mail-In-Rebate which includes a microphone, speaker set and cupholder.

The TRS80-Chromebox 1 is powered by a Motorola 6502 processor clocked at an impressive 1.4 MHz and comes with 128 K of system RAM, which will allow you to comfortably open multiple telnet and BBS tabs without the need to worry about sluggish performance. Power-users may wish to add an extra 128 K of RAM if they have demanding needs or wish to run applications such as Lotus-123.

Tandy ships the TRS-Chromebook 1 with a ChromeOS 10401.99.249.420 boot disk. Customers will be able to visit their local RadioShack every 9–12 months to trade in their ChromeOS boot disk for a later copy of ChromeOS until the EUA date of December 31st, 1999.

The Osborne Chromebook – CR-0401 – $1,899.99

The Legendary Computer Manufacturer, Osborne Computers out of Silicon Valley, Florida is excited to announce the launch of their new line of Chromebooks with the first being The Osborne Chromebook = CR-0401, a model that will be exclusive to RadioShack.

Osborne wanted their first Chromebook to be able to compete with some of the better known brands such as Gateway and Aldi while offering portability in a complete package. Customers who opt for the Osborne Chromebook will be happy to learn that they don’t need to purchase any additional accessories to get started.

The Osborne Chromebook includes dual 3.5-inch floppy disk drives and unlike the TRS-80, ChromeOS is stored in a socketed ROM chip which allows you to make use of both disk drives. Many users will choose to use one for software and the other for data. Osborne included 2 storage areas to allow you to keep your disks when not in use. Also, unlike the TRS-80, the Osborne includes a built-in 600 baud modem with integrated phone coupler which will allow owners to get online and check their BBS or to submit expense reports. Owners of this machine can even do things that mist businessmen have only dreamed about like sending faxes from the beach!

The Osborne is powered by an Intel 8088 clocked at 2.1 MHz and 640k of RAM, which makes this small form factor machine a powerhouse. Our benchmarks show that it takes as little as 29 minutes to render a web page. The gaming performance on the Osborne is also very impressive, as the Chromebook can easily play pong at the highest resolution.

The Osborne Chromebook – CR-0401 has a massive 4.5 inch high-resolution Black and Green display with an impressive 24 line display. The built-in display is easily readable in bright light or in darker places like the cabin of a long plane ride if the owner wants to be productive on a business trip. Our testing shows the screen can reach 100% of the Adobe sB&G Color Scale to allow it to produce color accurate ASCII Photos.

Speaking of a long trip, the Osborne Chromebook offers incredible battery life to allow owners to work while on the road or plane. The battery will last a whopping 14 minutes on a single 16-hour overnight charge. RadioShack will be selling a rapid charger in late 2120 that is expected to reduce the charging time to as little as 15 hours. The only complaint we have is that the 19 lb power supply is a bit hard to travel with, resulting in the need to carry a dedicated wheel away suitcase for the charger.

The Osborne Chromebook was designed to be incredibly lightweight at 37 lbs (not including the charger). Osborne was proud to announce that this ultraportable can be carried by a minimum of 2 people and easily fit in the back of most SUVs.

Customers who purchase the Osborne will need to schedule upgrades to ChromeOS by calling their local radio shack to see where the nearest service center is located. Customers will then need to ship their machines to the service center, who will perform the updates and ship the machine back via first-class fright in as little as 6 weeks. While waiting for their updates, RadioShack will supply owners with a coupon for a free video rental from Blockbuster to help them pass the time.

The Compaq Chromebook AF00L-CR69 – $120,245.99

Compaq and RadioShack have teamed up to announce an Enterprise Grade Chromebook that is targeted at professional users who need the ultimate in portability. Compaq has leveraged technology that we expect to only see in science fiction to produce a Chromebook that many users will drool over.

The most eye-catching thing about the Compaq Chromebook AFOOL-CR69 is the massive COLOR flat screen, complete with its own backlight. This is the first ultraportable to use this sort of technology, as previous color displays were only possible on bulky CRT displays. This display allows Compaq to make a Chromebook that is only 17 lbs in a form factor that can easily fit in your carry on luggage.

You would be wrong if you thought the small form factor of the Compaq Chromebook AFOOL -CR69 would perform poorly, the performance of the CR69 is impressive. Compaq has put a desktop grade Intel 8088 processor clocked at 5 MHz along with 640k of RAM. Compaq somehow also managed to put a 12 MB hard disk drive AND a 3.5-inch high density floppy disk drive in this small machine. The only downside is that the battery life is only around 8 hours after an overnight 37-hour charge.

Compaq did limit connectivity options by only including a SSTP modem (Smoke Signal Tunneling Protocol) which can only be connected to a campfire network when you need to get online. While remarkable for being completely wireless, it also limits use to daylight and makes the service essentially useless in the rain.

Compaq also made a controversial decision to omit the parallel port and requires users to have a secretary manually type all documents out on a typewriter if you wish to print a page. This does make the Chromebook AFOOL-CR69 less useful for those who cannot afford a secretary.

Customers who purchase the Compaq will be able to get ChromeOS updates by flagging down the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile and connecting their machine to a PS2 port on the rear to allow the update to transfer.

RadioShack does not expect to sell the Compaq Chromebook AFOOL-CR69 in all stores, it will mostly be available via the mail in catalog.