"What the netbooks should have been!"4.5 starson by Jacob-Griffith
Pros: Keyboard is easy to type on, trackpad is easy to use
Build quality is decent
Light and easy to carry around
Free 100gb from Google
Long battery life
Summary: I really like this little computer for most tasks.
About 5 years ago there was this push for netbooks as being a nice little easy to take with you computer. These were stripped down "WinTel" laptops without an optical drive. I tried two of them and my general experience was that they were portable, but so under powered from a computer viewpoint that I got tired of dragging them to wifi hotspots. Just a quick summary of human factors - this chromebook is light - the keyboard is easy to type on - the trackpad is easy to use - and the battery runs for 5+ hours. I don't have to charge it any more than a typical cell phone.
So when this device came out, it sort of broke that mold, but in a good way. I was a little afraid based on my previous experience as to this basically using a "Smart Phone" CPU, whether it would be slow as well, but the usage of a solid state drive (SSD) (as opposed to a platter based drive) gave me enough confidence to take the jump. I was hoping it would be sort of like "low end MacAir". And I think it does meet that criteria for about 20% of the equivalent apple cost.
I N T E R F A C E S
One of the most important things with any computer is how well does it play with the peripherals. I was scared with a new operating system that this would be a weak point. Obviously the first and primary one is to the internet with a "cloud based" computer. I've connected the device to several different wireless routers and hot spots and never any trouble there. Of course a failure on this front would make this device Dead On Arrival (DOA).
S T O R A G E
So I connected several storage devices that I had used on PCs and Macs (USB sticks, and SD cards, and external hard disks) - everyone of them worked with no trouble. So even though you only have a little bit of storage on the actual computer, you can have lots of extra external storage. Things to note here, there is an "App" called "Files" that will show you all the files that are stored locally or in the "cloud" (e.g. "Google Drive"). If you bring some external storage to the party (e.g external disk, flash disk or SD card), you will find it here. One time I was copying music files to the local disk and accidentally sent it to the cloud disk. I then re-discovered the fact that on most internet connections the uplink is much slower than the downlink. This isn't a problem with the computer, but just something to keep in mind, if you decide you want to copy over a load of data to a cloud based drive, it may take a good long time!
A P P L I C A T I O N S
I've been using "Google Docs" (recently renamed "Drive") for years, so no troubles figuring this part out. I really do like being able to access certain files from any computer on to which I've logged on. There are certain things I am just more comfortable where I am more comfortable using MS office 2003, but that is with complicated multi-tab spreadsheets. Note Office 2007 and 2010, etc are just plain painful to use. Having been using MS office products for 2 decades, the change in the user interface is just down right irritating, and I will never spend any more $ on that product line due to the complete lack of respect for the user or backward compatibility. I am happy with google docs or open office which retain the user interface that MS created and discarded. I haven't even tried, but I suspect if you wanted to create a movie or do some serious photoshop work - this will not be the computer for you. Go grab your high end Mac.
O F F L I N E -- A P P L I C A T I O N S
(e.g. Desktop Apps (e.g. not in a browser))
This was one of the main things that sold me on this computer versus a completely cloud based computer. The ability to do some things without internet access.
For Google Docs - currently only the word processor and chart maker work off line. So no spreadsheets in the Outback or on most planes. There are a few other applications that exist outside of the "browser window" if you miss that sort of thing. There is a "calculator" and "scratch pad". There are probably other things floating around in the google play store, but I haven't gone looking extensively. Note that this is a completely different operating system (not windows, mac or linux) so sometimes when you view a website - and they try to figure out what sort of application fits your machine - it gets sort of interesting - usually they guess its some version of linux so you end up with these "tar" or "crx" files.
You can look through photos and listen to music without internet access. It's not obvious because you won't see a picture viewer or music player in the application list. But from the file application - which presents a directory like structure if you hit a picture (*jpg) or music (*mp3) file the correct program will show you the photo or play the song.
Note that skype doesn't currently work on this platform - but Google Hangouts works just fine as a replacement and you can have a whole family get together (4 locations) without any additional charge.
"O F -- M I C E -- A N D -- M O N I T O R S ------ M O V I E S -- A N D -- M U S I C"
I connected several two button USB mice to the computer and it makes it a lot easier to use. I can get by with the trackpad - which works fine - but for any sort of serious computer work - I still like the mouse. I do have a hard time getting the "right mouse" click to be recognized on the trackpad. You are supposed to hold down two fingers for a little bit to the the "contextual" menu.
I connected a large TV set with the HDMI connector and that worked pretty well. I was able to watch a amazon video just fine. There were a few cases where the on screen motion was very quick that the graphics couldn't keep up and got a little pixelated. So if you want to watch action movies you may have trouble. Netlfix doesn't seem to work, since it uses the MS "flash" equivalent. Well let me take that back I just went and opened up netflix to get the name of the missing driver and it is now working. So if you like to watch videos - I think it supports most services (netflix, vudu, youtube).
You can certainly play any of the music systems on the internet here, I guess iTunes would be excluded, due to it's basic nature of being a windows/mac application, and the ongoing fight between google and apple to be digital content distributors. I have used grooveshark, the amazon MP3 player, google MP3 player and the actual resident chromebook player with no trouble. I actually sit the chromebook on top of the stereo sometimes and connect the headphone jack and it runs for hours with no troubles. If you really really feel compelled to get something "ITunes like", there is an android phone app called "DoubleTwist", but I think it needs a windows laptop to run. While I have a retro 30 GB iPod at home, for the most part I stream music from one of the services above now days. In the car I like satellite radio due to the variety and not having to worry about a data connection, which is spotty and slow out where I live.
Weird random fact - I tried to connect my nexus 4 phone to the chromebook and it didn't recognize it. So two flagship google products aren't compatible. A day later I realized - well if you believe in the "cloud" then you don't really need to be moving data around with USB cables! But still - sort of funny that my "google phone" is recognized by Macs and PCs but not the chromebook.
2nd random fact - the power button is right where the "forward delete" key is on a windows machine. So if you are used to using that key, you will occasionally be surprised by your chromebook being powered off. On the good side I do like all the dedicated buttons above the numbers ("Full Screen", brightness, speaker volume and mute).
I haven't gone and purchased a compatible printer yet to check out that interface. But I wouldn't expect too much trouble, since printing things is one of the core competencies any computing device needs to exhibit. When I cross that bridge, if I have troubles I can update this note. Do note that most of your USB and older Wifi printers won't work. So count that in your costs if you plan on making this your one and only computer. Since new printers are usually the cost of the old printers print cartridge I'm not really worried about this. if you are in the market for a new printer, you can google "cloud ready printers" and probably find something that fits the bill.
Bluetooth - There is a bluetooth interface, but it isn't intended for music streaming or headsets. I tried. But I can confirm it will work with a bluetooth mouse. And apparently with a bluetooth keyboard, but why you would want to use a separate keyboard escapes me, unless you had it connected to the TV and wanted to "surf around" from the couch. I had hoped to use my bluetooth headphones, but that isn't yet possible. There is a wired headphone jack (3.5 mm) jack though.
Internet Access Note - I have been able to setup the nexus phone as a portable hot spot for the chromebook with no trouble - I have decided that I will have a "talk phone" and a "data phone". Sometimes the smart phones make it too hard to do the basic phone function. So for the data phone I signed up for the T-mo $30 4G plan with 5Gb of data and 100 minutes. While obviously this depends on how fast the wireless carriers data runs at, but I have been able to get 10 Mb downlink (e.g. fast enough) going from the Nexus 4 google phone to the chromebook. I also installed "AdBlock" and it is way nice to view most of the internet without all the flashing advertisements. I'm thinking that also helps with bandwidth.
R E T I R I N G -- T H E -- N E T B O O K S
In fact my two netbooks hardly ever get used anymore, and of course when I do turn them on once a month, they spend half an hour downloading all the latest security patches from the "mother ship" in Seattle. Seriously how can any operating system just have continued on-going security patches issued for years on end?! Random aside the only good MS operating systems I've really seen were windows 95, 2000, XP, and 7. But again the on-going battle to keep viruses and security patches under control is something you won't ever have to think about with this device. I suspect windows 8 (an operating system that can't figure out if its a tablet or a PC) along with the new office interface will lead to the ultimate marginalizing of a once great software development firm.
T H E -- B O T T O M -- L I N E
This device is light and easy to carry around. Boots in no time at all which is really nice (having made a habit of going and getting a coffee while waiting for Macs and PCs to startup). Beyond that you don't really have to turn the thing on and off, just close the lid. It doesn't overheat and there is no fan - due to the lack of heat generated by this CPU. Checking emails, creating documents, listening to music and watching streamed movies/TV is easy. I wish this thing had been around when I was shopping for the netbooks. It is pretty much the only laptop I throw in my backpack now-a-days!
PS: check best deal of the Chromebook at: laptoppicking.blogspot.com/p/samsung-chromebook.html
Hope it helps.