I spent a weekend with the latest Google Chromebook and wanted to update real quick with my impressions. I tried to do as much as possible from the machine so I could really get a feel for what it would be like if it were my only computer. I like some of Chrome OSs ideals, but have never spent “hard time” with one of the Chromebooks to be able to see how it would work for me. I also really wanted to figure out if it would be something I could recommend to my family and friends looking for a cheap notebook.
First of all, the Samsung is not that cheap, $500 is the price of a low end notebook and a high end netbook. It is also right in the sweet spot for tablets and about 1/2 the price of any notebook I’d consider good. So does a $500 web browser live up to it’s expectations? No. Here’s a quick breakdown.
- Portability – Small and light, but not as small or light as a netbook or tablet.
- User management – There is nothing to manage here, that’s a good thing.
- OS management/updates – Automatic, until there are problems. Trust me, someday, there will be problems.
- Boot/resume time – Good, but only on par with a SSD equipped netbook and less than a tablet.
- Keyboard spacing – Better spacing than a netbook and no need to muck around with onscreen keys. Oh and Dvorak support was a good surprise.
- Build quality – Worse than low end netbooks I have used.
- Touchpad – Multitouch scrolling wasn’t as bad as the CR-48, but clicking was a nightmare.
- Missing keys (home, end, f*, delete, super) – With such a terrible touchpad I turned to the keyboard to make up for shortcomings, too bad a lot of the hotkeys I rely on for writing were absent
- missing tools (citrix/rdp, screenshots, storage) – It came down to the fact that I could not do my job with this computer, and that’s a deal breaker.
- Price – As stated above, when the price is around the same as a low end notebook running Windows, something is wrong.
- Display auto brightness – I had multiple occasions when the screen ignored all brightness level I set and did its own thing. Very rough on the eyes.
- Video out/adapter – No extended monitor means, why put video out on the thing at all?
As you can probably see, I wasn’t a fan. I used the Chromebook for 2 solid days before I gave up and went back to my HP 2560p which costs twice as much but does 1,000,000 more things (even run Chrome OS). Battery life on the Chromebook was about the same as my notebook and so was resume/sleep times which are typically two of the selling points of the Chromebook.
Because the Chromebook is not a serious work notebook, if someone asked me what they should get for casual internet browsing and games for ~$500, I’d recommend a TouchPad. If they said they needed a real keyboard, I’d tell them to get the bluetooth keyboard and touchstone. If they still didn’t want that, I’d recommend a netbook.
The Chromebook only makes sense for businesses doing the monthly rental, and if they have a Citrix environment set up so users could get real work done. As my companies Citrix XenDesktop engineer, I look forward to that day, but for my family and friends, never.