on November 21, 2012
First off, I am an admitted IT Geek. I have a computer science degree and have spent my entire career working in IT on everything from mainframes to wearable computers. I really know computers inside and out. I want to provide some perspective about the Chromebook by a person who spends 10-12 hours on some type of computing device every day.
So why would I ever buy a device like this? Well, I ordered the Chromebook to evaluate it for my parents. They are not tech savvy at all. They have a Kindle Fire and an iPad, but when they do write e-mails and want to do other tasks, the pads are just not enough. They are computer users and media consumption people. What I found out during my work with the Chromebook is that it is the right computer for me too. Now, off to the review...
First off the Google Chromebook is computer unlike anything coming from the minds of Apple or Microsoft. Something on the surface that an IT Geek like me probably wouldn't like. It doesn't have a full-blown operating system like OSX nor is it a mobile platform like Android. It is something in between, it is ChromeOS. It is very fast, very reliable, and is perfect for doing your everyday tasks. If you mostly read e-mail, write notes, run spreadsheets, develop presentations, chat, Facebook, and surf, you should read on.
The Samsung Chromebook is very sleek, thin, and light. It is somewhat similar in form to a Macbook Air, but it's also close to a number of the new Ultrabooks. The feel in hand is very solid and doesn't seem like a $249 computer. The keyboard is very good; very solid feel and great action. If you type quickly (100+ wpm), you'll be happy to know this keyboard can keep up with you. The only better keyboard I've used in recent memory is the Air, but it's not far off.
When you open the box and lift the lid it automatically starts up in under 10 seconds. This is not coming up from sleep mode. That's its boot time from a cold start. The setup process is as painless as it can be. Attach it to your wireless network and if you have a gmail account, just login and you are done. I up and reading e-mail in my account in less than 5 minutes. The last out of the box Windows experience took nearly an hour before I was through all of the setup questions, patches, and add-ons.
Now that you are logged in, the simplicity of the system reveals itself. Effectively the entire Chromebook is a dedicated Chrome browser. Almost everything you do is in a Chrome browser window. There are applications included and that can be installed, but they all run inside of the Chrome framework. It is a new way to think about computing. And boy is it fast.
About the speed: Wow is the best way to describe it. I dare you to find a browser that is as responsive as the Chrome broswer on ChromeOS. All running on a tiny little ARM processor. This tiny little ARM processor is what gives the Chromebook its 7+ hour run time on a single charge. In practice a lot of this depends on what you are doing. If you want to stream 7 hours of YouTube videos, you're probably going to be disappointed, but for practical all-day off the charger use, I'm seeing that performance easily. It also charges like lightening, so if you throw it on the charger for an hour at lunch, you won't need to worry about it into the evening.
Back to why I am keeping the Samsung Chromebook. The device does what I need to do 95% of the time during my work day and 99% for the rest of my life. All of this in a very sleek, inexpensive, and portable package. I still have my work computer, a Lenovo i7 based monster, but it is huge, heavy, and doesn't have nearly the battery life or portability of the Chromebook. I now leave that laptop in the docking station on my desk and carry around the Chromebook and that is the computer I take home. I suppose if I was still spending the majority of my time writing C# I would need a different tool, but the Chromebook is the right tool for me.
Pros and Cons?
This introduces an interesting point of view. What can we really compare the Chromebook to? There is nothing else that is in it's class, so I guess I'll focus primarily on functionality.
-Inexpensive (I didn't say cheap)
-All Google-Centric (this can also be a Con)
-Very simple to setup and use
-Long battery life
-Good build quality
-Good library of add-on applications (yes, another app store)
-Everything for one price (Hardware, Operating System, Storage, Office Applications)
-Not a full-blown operating system
-Doesn't run Mac, iOS, Windows, or Android applications...none of them, it can't
-All Google-Centric (this can also be a Pro)
-Some apps you know and love aren't available yet, maybe never (Netflix is one)
-Not as mainstream as either full-blown computer platforms or mobile platforms
I gave the Samsung Chromebook 4 stars because it's really good, but not perfect. Bottom line, this is a new device that lives somewhere between tablets and full-blown traditional computers. It is a great consumption device with a full keyboard for doing some serious work (documents, spreadsheets, presentations, e-mail, and web-based applications). I recommend that you give it a shot, I think you'll really like it.
on November 2, 2012
I'm a student. I need something to carry around that I won't worry about losing, breaking, or someone stealing. I won't bring my Apple laptop to school due to theft increases lately. On that note, I wanted something for web browsing, typing papers in the library egg chairs and had a keyboard/trackpad combo. I found it.
This is not for a poweruser. Don't fool yourselves, people. It's a tablet on steroids. Get that through your head when you purchase and use it. If you have any other expectations like some of the reviewers, well, you're honestly not the target audience. It's meant to be light and cost affordable. Sure, the screen isn't high resolution and it lacks expandable RAM and HD space. That's NOT what this computer is.
I've had the computer for a few days now and I love it. It's not super fast by any means; however, it gets the job done in regards to web browsing, finding papers for literature reviews and listening to rdio or Pandora. That's what I need this for. And most likely the average consumer. Face it, most college students buy $1000 Macbooks to look cool. For what? To facebook, stream music, and browse the web. Most people who do photo editing buy the 15" models with maxed out specs (like me). I don't want to bring that to campus. That's too much money to be slinging in my bag to just browse the web.
So, let me be clear. This laptop is excellent. The build quality is amazing for the price. Build quality is great of which I was surprised. The keyboard reminds me of the Macbook and the track-pad keeps up with my fast paced motions quite well. It's light and I can have four to five tabs open running different processes at ease. It does like to stutter when I do multiple things with a video running though. Expected for a tablet processor though. It keeps cool and charged for a days use. The front camera is great for chatting.
I will admit, this little computer will replace your daily use computer you lug around currently. I used the Chrome Remote Desktop today on campus and was amazed at the speed and ease. I was using my Macbook at home on campus without any hiccups like I experience with Logmein or those other clients. Accessing the 100GB of free storage was as simple as clicking a link. My music, documents and life are on the cloud. I can access them with ease. Printing is no problem for me, either.
This little beast will surprise you. Although, please, don't expect the world from this laptop. It's $250, folks.
P.S. I typed this from the Chromebook. No problems handling my typing speed. And ask questions if you need them answered.
I've been using this for a good while now and I haven't had any regrets. The computer does what I need, when I want and I only miss running Netflix at school. That's ok though, I have other avenues for watching movies. They do plan on updating and that's a problem with Netflix, not Google. Printing is simple as it seems to be a very common question. To clicks on your computer and you're done. They have been updating the OS and the Chromebook is acting a little better now. Overall, I'm still loving it. Just remember, it's NOT for everyone.
I love this computer. It is all I use around campus and for class lectures. I barely use Microsoft Office for my notes or spreadsheets in class. Google Drive and their office version is just awesome. If you do a lot of team-based activities, please, just use Google Drive. Keep your documents available to you at all times and collaboration is simple. It has made my life much easier. Just thought I'd let you all know.
Netflix now works!
Now that the school season is upon us, I thought I would go ahead and write an update of my handy-dandy little Chromebook. Let's just say, it's still alive and working. Drops, falls, and tosses across the couch and slides across the table this little tabcom is doing well. Software wise, Google has been working at it and getting all the bugs out of the system to provide an even more fluid experience. I love having the ability to use Google Print from ANYWHERE I am and have it waiting for me when I need it. Everything syncs up across platforms and this has really come in hand during projects. Just try the Google Docs as a team compared to Word with Review and you won't go back when doing initial collaboration. Battery is still holding up to 8-10 hours (I know, right)- that's with smart use of the brightness. I honestly don't know what else to say. It works and is the perfect complement for my Macbook that is collecting dust at home. The Macbook is used via my Google Remote Connection and it's just wonderful. No lag or anything like I've had with LogMeIn and the other one. And like always, ask questions if you have them. And I almost forgot to add that Spotify works in the browser just as well as the PC version. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon streaming does work contrary to the other review posted saying the opposite. Cheers!
The Chromebook is an excellent computer for those looking for something light. It won't do everything a full laptop will do and there are privacy concerns of the all-mighty Google. The question to ask yourself though is if you are really secure online? You can get a better laptop as some commentators have stated and that is very true. You can get a nice, heavy computer to carry around and worry about. This Chromebook offers you peace of mind that you can throw it around and not worry about it being stolen (as long as you have a good password on your Google account). It works for me and I'm sure it works for the MAJORITY of others. I've had it for nearly a year and it is only getting faster, not slower. I hope you will take the time to see if it works for you. If not, we live in a world full of other gadgets and tools to fit our lives. I will be removing myself from the comments as there has been a strong output of support from other owners. Live long and prosper!
on October 24, 2012
***Updates To My Review At The End***
My background: I'm a gadget geek but I'm not super devoted to any platform. I do love Google's web products but never used their hardware. My laptop is a 13" MacBook Pro and my desktop is a Mac Mini that runs both OS X and Windows 7 (I spend more time on Win 7 these days). I have an iPad (3rd gen) and Motorola Droid Razr Maxx along with a docking station. My wife has a Win 7 ultrabook, Kindle Fire HD and Razr Maxx, all of which I purchased for her.
I'm an editor for a web-based publication so my usage is primarily writing and some light (very light) image editing. I've done most of my writing on Google Docs for a long time because it automatically saves and I hate writing directly into the CMS. We also use Google Apps Business for e-mail, calendaring and doc sharing so that rocks.
The last thing I need is another computer but Chromebook called to me. A couple of reasons:
- The docking solution wasn't great. The keyboard was crap, my phone got unusually hot and interacting with the CMS was hit and miss with the phone OS. It was good for e-mails.
- An iPad with a keyboard is garbage. I've tried it and hit the same issues. It is just clumsy for my primary work. I still travel with an iPad because it is light and its battery is a rockstar and can do in a pinch.
- The laptop is fine but it is a beast to carry. I just got back from a week-long jaunt to three conferences and I think my shoulder is broken from my shoulder bag.
- I love my phone and tethering has been a lifesaver. No complaints.
Okay, enough background. Now to the actual review.
Unboxing wasn't particularly impressive but I don't really care. Standard laptop box with the laptop, an AC adapter and Chrome sticker. I plugged it in and it was at about 75%. Now about an hour later, it is nearly charged.
When I pulled it out of the box, it almost felt like a laptop that didn't have a battery in it (remember that?). Anyway, it feels solid closed up. I don't have any problem throwing this in my engineer's bag and feeling like it will get screwed up. The AC adapter is your standard black box with two cords.
I opened up the lid and it started immediately. It asked me to connect to my wifi connection and then proceeded to download the latest update of the operating system (version 23 according to the info in Chrome). After a quick reboot, I put in my Google credentials and it loaded everything I use in my Chrome browser normally, including my apps and bookmarks.
Opened up, the build quality showed a few weaknesses but nothing major. There's a little give on the keyboard and palm rest. I didn't feel any problems holding the laptop from its corner. It feels very solid overall. The thing to remember, of course, is that I came from a unibody MacBook Pro so take that for what it is worth.
The keyboard blew my expectations away. I figured it would be fairly cramped and that my typing speed would suffer. I figured the action wouldn't be very good either. But, coming from a MacBook Pro chiclet keyboard to this was a cinch. I feel very little difference in typing speed or accuracy. This was really a big deal for me. I tried the HP Mini a few years ago and it was awful. A few millimeter difference is it.
The trackpad is very good though not as top notch of a comparison as the keyboard. It is very Mac-like in using it. The two finger swipe gestures, right-clicking, dragging, etc... it all operated like I expected. I'm a tapper, not a clicker so that may have something to do with it. It doesn't seem like it is quite as accurate or response as the MacBook Pro but still very good.
The screen isn't great but it isn't a dealbreaker. For text, it performs adequately but not spectacularly. For video, it is quite adequate, maybe above average but again, not fantastic. The screen brightness isn't what it could be, I feel like it is a tick or two off what should be standard brightness. But, I am also used to glossy screens and even with the brightness, the matte screen seems to do okay. I work right next to south-facing windows and even though we have no sun here in Seattle, it gets fairly bright and it seems good in these conditions. The viewing angles aren't going to impress anyone but it works for me.
The speakers seem to be pretty good and loud enough. They are optimal for use on a desk rather than a lap though as the sound gets muffled a bit by clothing. I put on Pandora One and the sound through my nice $100 studio headphones sounds pretty good with the top volume topping out just right. Using my Apple headphone/mic combo, it worked well in a hangout. One thing is that the headphone jack seems very tight.
I hit my first snag when I tried to do HDMI out. It didn't seem to work. Then I read a bit more and got it to work with the Ctrl+Full Screen and that seemed to do it. Depending on your monitor, your results may vary. It actually looked great on my LCD TV (including sound) but the resolution needs to be adjusted. It didn't look good (ironically) on my Samsung 21 inch monitor. There might be some settings I'm missing on either side but it's not a huge deal. Testing the video on the 1920x1080 HDTV, it worked great other than the overscanning.
The camera is something that Monet would appreciate. You'll get the gist of it but this is no HD cam. It is good for basic pictures and compares unfavorably to the front-facing camera on my Droid Razr Maxx.
After an hour of use off the charger, the heat situation is non-existent. This thing is creepily quiet and cool to the touch except for a few warmer spots. I will end up watching a movie to see how it reacts but that would be a nice change. Even my iPad gets warmer.
I had no opportunity to try out the bluetooth or the SD card reader. I will be getting a 32 GB SD card. I did try out a USB drive and it seems to be working just fine.
Getting into the software and how it drives on the ARM processor, I was pretty impressed. I opened about 18 tabs (which is well beyond my max, typically) and I had Pandora running in the background the entire time and didn't get a stutter. At times, the load was sluggish but again, I am switching between this and a MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and a dual-core i5. But I really expected this to be flawless when using the web. As long as you don't go crazy with tabs or the apps you are driving in them, you should be good.
Watching videos, outside of the screen quality, was really quite smooth. From someone who bought the original Kindle Fire and saw it stumble with streaming video for just $50 less, I was super-impressed. I don't know if power-users will love it but it works with my slightly-lowered expectations.
That being said, this is a web enabled device and there are a few (very few) apps that I use regularly.
My stand-alone apps that I use regularly is chat (Google and AIM) and Tweetdeck. Both Tweetdeck and imo seem to work pretty good in a browser. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.
I also know that Skype doesn't work great right now. I am using it through imo but, at least as far as I can tell, I can't make dial-out calls like the Skype app allows on all of my other devices. This, including no support for a USB headset, would make it tough to make this a full-time replacement. I live on Skype as a dial-out provider (Google dial-out will not allow me to use certain conference call providers plus Skype is great for connecting with people worldwide with ease). I'm hoping a promised webapp version is coming soon. On the plus side, Skype works great on my cell and iPad.
I turned off the wifi connection and it worked liked it should. You need to turn on offline mode in Gmail and Google Drive in order for it to work but after that, it worked like it always has. Games that I had loaded for offline mode worked. Offline, this is a pretty limited machine but not unduly so.
Chrome remote desktop worked particularly well. Granted, I was using it on the same network but there was no lag on the software side of using it. I was, again, thoroughly impressed with the graphics. Though, one thing would be to allow me to select which screen I view when I am using a dual-display.
I'm looking forward to Netflix capability but that's not ultra-critical right now for me. Amazon Instant works well for me, as does Hulu.
I'm taking only this when I go on an extended trip this weekend so I can update more on real battery life and any other real-world experiences of using it later.
Overall, this is what I expected and I am pretty happy with the purchase, especially as one of my first sight-unseen types of purchase. For my uses as a primary road writing device for blog posts and e-mails, this is a solid, solid play. And for $250, it's pretty unbelievable. All of this typed into the new Chromebook as well at my normal rate.
== UPDATE 10/28/2012 ==
Just took this thing on a weekend away without bringing my laptop. This is a big deal as even if I took my iPad, I would normally take my laptop as well. A couple of additional thoughts from 72 hours as my primary computer.
I did end up getting a SD Card (a 32 GB one from Amazon) and putting it in the SD card slot. Unfortunately, it sticks out from the side pretty well (about a centimeter looking straight down on it). I loaded it with a few movies and some music so I would have some tunes and movies for offline. The player works fine but is very basic. Other than wishing the SD card would seat all the way in, it is a good setup for leisurely watching movies solo.
I also did some extended work while my wife was driving. I typed two articles and I can't emphasize enough how good of quality this keyboard is. Even working it off of my lap, it performed beyond its price point.
I typed those articles offline and using Google Docs offline worked as expected. When I reconnected, my documents synced up no problem. This worked exactly like it had on my MacBook Pro whenever I took it on a flight without wifi so no surprises there.
Under normal use, the battery is probably going to be right there in the 6.5 hour range. Google could have pushed this spec. Working offline with the screen brightness at 50%, I was able to squeeze a little over 2 hours into 25% of battery life.
Speaking of brightness, the ambient light sensor works pretty well. Maybe a little too good in the car as it would dim slightly as we went under overpasses on the freeway.
The other thing I wanted to do is try out the some games. I played Angry Birds because I could compare it across all devices and the Chromebook is definitely lagging in performance. It was just a step behind and could be a bit choppy. I also tried the most popular game Entanglement and it seemed to perform well though it is simple. I also did a fantasy basketball draft on Yahoo sports and it was also a step behind.
I'll also mention that the first time I loaded up Entanglement was the first time the Chromebook crashed on me. I don't imagine it will happen that often but the nice thing is that it recovered everything I had up in about 20 seconds. Also, it is the first time I noticed heat of any kind coming from the laptop at all. Not unusually hot but it will warm up some when going graphics and CPU intensive.
In any case, I stand by my 4 star review. Even with some minor performance issues and a few smaller issues with quality, this is still an excellent purchase. An improved screen and battery life would make it easier to look past the sometimes-lagging performance. I won't be getting rid of my MacBook Pro but I am looking forward to taking this thing on the road and getting a good chunk of the functionality without the weight.
== UPDATE 11/20/2012 ==
After about a month more with regular usage, a couple more notes.
After awhile, the Chromebook does warm up but not significantly. Again, I'm comparing this to other laptops. And really, you shouldn't be using a laptop on your lap anyway but some situations require it.
Closing the screen instantly puts it to sleep but I definitely have found that you can't keep just putting this thing to sleep time after time and not expect any lag. Eventually, something I loaded would make the Chromebook freeze and I'd have to restart. I've learned to simply shut this computer down rather than close the lid and let it sleep. With near instant boot time, it's not a big deal but that's definitely a change.
The keyboard on this thing is still a rockstar. Using it in poorly lit situations make me long for a bit of backlighting but I am really a touch typer at this point so it only slows me down when I am realigning my hands.
No degradation in performance. I've watched probably 6-7 ripped movies on this thing with no problems and no internet connection. Looking forward to taking this to my in-laws for Thanksgiving instead of my MacBook Pro.
== UPDATE 03/09/2013 ==
I haven't updated in awhile so I thought I would. I still use the Chromebook on a regular basis and thanks to the regular updates to the system, this version of the Chromebook now has swap enabled (at least in the beta channel). For those unfamiliar, previously when the Chromebook would run out of physical RAM, it would just start dumping inactive tabs (so it would require a refresh). It would, at times, get a bit laggy with too many tabs open.
With swap enabled, once you hit the top of your RAM usage, it starts using the hard drive as RAM. This means limited to no inactive tabs being dumped (I haven't seen one yet) and overall, faster usage under heavy workloads (10+ tabs).
In short, this computer has actually gotten faster and better since my last update.
A couple of issues still exist. Netflix still doesn't work. I've contacted Netflix and they say they are working on it. They've been saying the same for months though. Every other streaming service works (including Amazon Prime, Hulu and Comcast's streaming). If Netflix is a must and you don't have an alternative device (I use an iPad mini for it if I really need it), I wouldn't bet on this coming through anymore.
I would like to see more gestures using the trackpad as well, The two finger scrolling is nice but the three finger nav (especially for back) helps a lot. I can use the keyboard back button too, yes. But switching between using a Mac and the Chromebook makes it especially unnatural. More gestures!
There is a little bit of wear on the palm rests and some dings but nothing major as of yet. This thing still is great for writing (which is my primary use for it). It is so great and lightweight so it is easy to throw in a small bag for a day trip.
Overall, still very happy and it is even better with the speed and stability improvements with swap enabled.
== UPDATE 03/11/2013 ==
Just a quick update since I just updated but Netflix now works. I've tried it and it has been confirmed by many other users. Again, this has been a big ding against both Netflix and Google for not figuring this out but now it is working.
on October 27, 2012
I'm based in the UK and bought my unit there. However, physically this model is nearly identical to ours (to my knowledge only the keyboard layout and socket you need for charging it differs) and I've been using Chrome OS and previous Chrome hardware for a while, so I thought I'd give my take on this device.
I've owned the Cr-48 for a while, which was a kind of test unit Google sent out to people to beta test the operating system. That came out a long time ago and none of the commercial units have felt good enough to me to justify buying, up until now. They were always a little too expensive, despite the obvious advantages.
This will be a long review. For those wanting a short summary, I'll include one at the end.
For those unclear, Chrome OS (which the Chromebook runs) is fundamentally different to a Windows, Mac or Linux-based laptop, desktop or netbook. This is because it runs the web. No native applications exist specifically for this machine. There are apps (sometimes referred to as Chrome apps) but they also work in the Chrome browser.
Because this computer runs what many call 'just a browser' it has several advantages, as well as disadvantages when compared to a Windows machine. I've chosen Windows for most comparisons here as more people typically use Windows than a Mac or Linux machine.
You cannot install Windows applications (or other native software) on Chrome OS. This means that the computer can operate more securely than a Windows machine simply because the computer knows what should be installed. If something is there that shouldn't be there, the computer will erase all local data and install a version of the software that's stored in a secure area. Once you're connected to the internet, you'll be updated to the most recent version of the operating system. As your settings, bookmarks and Chrome applications are stored by Google, they are also restored after the machine is reset and you log in. Typically the operating system is updated every 6 weeks, meaning bugs get fixed pretty quickly (important bug fixes will arrive more quickly) and new features are released quickly, too.
Getting things done
This is where the big problem is for some people; you can't install Microsoft Office, Adobe's Photoshop or other software packages. You're limited to software that's delivered through a website. Most people are perfectly comfortable with using things like Facebook, Twitter and email this way. The web offers some pretty powerful tools, though. For instance, pretty sophisticated image editing software exists on-line, as do audio and video editing tools. Using the massive resources of the internet (typically referred to as 'the cloud') means that video editing and other resource-intensive tasks can be made dramatically quicker than doing it locally. Make no mistake though, if you do need something like Photoshop it's just not possible, unless you use software specifically designed to deliver 'normal' software through the web. Companies like Citrix offer products that can do that, but given the additional cost, it's usually only big businesses that use them.
If you don't need extremely-specialised software though, there's a lot available. Google, Zoho and Microsoft all offer tools that will let you create, open and export documents in popular formats, such as Microsoft Office. There are advantages to this approach, too. Google Docs (as an example) allows individuals to use their on-line document, spreadsheet and presentation software free of charge and, even better, you can collaborate with up to 50 people on the same document, practically in real-time. This sort of thing just isn't typically possible with traditional software. Where it is, it's likely to be clunkier than a web-based tool as a website just lets you login and work.
Calendars, Angry Birds, finance tools (Sage and QuickBooks are available through the browser) are all also available in this way. It's worth checking out if the things you'll want to do are available in this way before ordering a Chromebook.
There are also many off-line capable applications. That is, things that will work without an internet connection. These include Google Documents (editing and viewing) Google Docs spreadsheets (viewing) and things like Google Calendar. Keep in mind though that this is primarily a device for accessing the internet. Without a connection, this device is extremely-limited. Applications delivered through a browser will get more and more capable over time, though.
As I've said, not everything is available through a browser. Critical things that people take for granted either aren't available or are very different on a Chromebook.
It's not possible to watch AVI or MKV video files (at the time this was written) for example, without converting them. That's a big pain for some. Printing is different too, as you can't just plugin a printer on Chrome OS and have it work. For those that are curious, Google has a service called Cloud Print, which involves hooking up your printer to the internet. This approach does have an advantage in that you're able to print to your printer from anywhere with an internet connection, either from a mobile device or any installation of Chrome. For those without a printer that can connect to the internet independently of a regular computer, you can enable a normal printer by installing Chrome on a Windows machine and running it that way.
A key thing about Chromebooks is that they come with a 16GB hard drive. This is considered very low by modern standards as a typical Windows machine will come with a minimum of 500GB and often far more.
Google Drive is Google's solution for this. Essentially, Google Drive is on-line storage. It stores files from Google Docs and will store pretty much any type of file, too. A key thing is that it integrates with the file system, meaning you can save files directly to your account (Drive can be used on Windows and other computers, as well as Android and iOS devices) and access them from whichever device you're using.
By default, Drive comes with 5GB of storage. This isn't a huge amount, but for free on-line storage it's pretty typical. Many other services actually offer much less. However, if you buy a Chromebook you get 100GB free for two years, which is very useful given that it can be used across many devices. If after two years you're using more than whatever the normal free allowance is at that point (things do change) and you've not qualified for some other promotion, you'll no longer be able to add new files. Your existing data will be accessible, meaning files will not be deleted.
Another great thing about Drive is that files can be shared with others. Google Docs files are not counted towards your storage.
Again, it's worth noting that other great on-line storage solutions exist, such as Dropbox and Box. The difference of course is that they're not tightly-integrated with the Chromebook.
This new Chromebook is running on an ARM chip, the type of processor you'd typically find in a mobile phone or tablet. That may sound slow given the demands of a typical Windows machine, but it's very quick. It boots in around 7 seconds (it feels more like 5 as the logo is on the screen almost as soon as you open the lid) and you can be on-line with your normal tabs open in under 30 seconds with ease. The keyboard is extremely responsive and many professional reviewers have remarked that it's the best that's ever been on a Chromebook, which includes the much more expensive Samsung Series 5 550 machine. The trackpad, too, is very good indeed.
The machine is extremely responsive due to it needing very few resources to operate. If you attempt to run 20+ tabs, yes, it will slow down a whole lot. But if, like most typical users, you use this for email, Facebook and the like, you should have no performance issues. Depending on your usage, the stated 6.5 hours of battery life are very close. In fact I'd suggest that you'd get more, depending on screen brightness etc.
On this particular unit you'll find one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI out (for putting what's on your screen on a bigger screen, like a computer monitor or TV) and an SD card reader. External USB hard drives work fine in my experience and many phones are treated properly as mass storage too. However certain devices such as external optical (CD/DVD) drives will not work at all. As a commenter noted, I originally forgot to point out that this machine has no moving parts because of the type of hard drive used. This means the machine is extremely quiet and doesn't get hot.
It should be noted that since Chromebooks are essentially stateless (that is, they have little personal data stored on them) they can be wiped at any time without a problem and you can start over. This also means that they can easily be shared and Chrome devices (a desktop version, called a Chromebox also exists) have something called Guest Mode, which allows a friend to browse the web without accessing your settings or bookmarks and when they're done, their browsing history is automatically deleted. For those with whom you share your Chrome device regularly, you can add them to the list of permanent users.
Essentially, if you use the web most of the time (this is what most computer users do) or want a second machine that can be used without any technical knowledge for that purpose by others in your household, this is an ideal device. If, however, you like to play a lot of 'real' video games or access specialised software, chances are that this device isn't for you. That said, this device is cheap enough that you can buy one for the couch or to use while you watch television. Due to the price of this machine, it's most likely to be compared to a low-end Windows machine (which are typically very slow) or a tablet, such as a Nexus 7.
If you want easy web access and don't care at all about typing, I'd suggest a tablet. A good quality tablet can (at the time of this review) be had for $199, including a high definition screen. But if typing and web access matters to you, I'd seriously consider this device.
on November 3, 2012
Got my new Chromebook yesterday and was really excited to have an alternative device that I could type on. 99% of my computer time is while connected and the offline apps will be more than sufficient for this backup computer. Setup went very smooth. The screen looks like something from a laptop 5-8 years ago. Others have mentioned the viewing angle, but you also have to constantly adjust the screen tilt. I imagine alot of the cost savings were related to the screen. I immediately noticed that I have one dead pixel near the center of the screen. I have not decided if I will return for this issue.
I would have rated this device 5 stars except I quickly found that video playback from all the major sites is not supported on this version of Chrome OS (running on Linux). Netflix, Amazon Streaming and Xfinity DO NOT WORK. Every site has a nice message to tell you that there is either a problem with the Flash plugin on Linux or playback is just not supported. I am sure Google has every intention of fixing this, but they have been deceptive in their advertising where they show these sites being used on the new Chromebook. Also interesting that this issue was not mentioned by the professional tech reviewers.
No information comes with the machine and the tutorial at the beginning is sparse. No info on how to change themes even though there are many nice ones on the Chrome Store.
The plastic case scratches VERY easily and the back of the laptop is already scratched just from sitting on my lap.
Overall a great concept and machine. I hope that the popularity of the device will convince the developers to fix the video issues or alot of kids are going to be really angry this Christmas. Seriously, why put an HDMI port on a machine if none of the major sites support playback??????????????????
Like the previous reviewer, I purchased this from the Google Play store for my wife. I got tired of her using my new iPad, so I figured this would be an inexpensive solution to the problem. Quite honestly, I wasn't expecting much, considering the ridiculously low price. I'm very impressed with the technology and simplicity that went into its design. This Google/Samsung Chromebook is really quite amazing. The first thing that you'll notice is that it's extremely lightweight and is very uncomplicated. This is something that my 87 year old mother-in-law would be able to use right out of the box. Since she's never used a computer before, that says a lot. Many of the everyday apps that you use on a daily basis, are preloaded into the device. It comes with things like YouTube, Gmail and other Google products, and there are literally thousands of free apps available. It starts up very quickly and according to Google, updates are installed automatically. I've found all applications to run smoothly and quickly. The fact that it comes with a regular keyboard is a tremendous plus and the touch-pad works flawlessly. While the screen isn't the most impressive that I've ever seen, it is certainly more than adequate. I will continue to use my iPad, but now that I also have this, my wife will have her own travel size computer to use. All in all, this device offers far more than I expected. I didn't give it a great deal of thought when I purchased it, as it's not going to be used by me. Now, after running it through the paces, I'm really in awe that something as inexpensive as this could do so many things. While the iPad and this device are different animals, this Chromebook is more than capable of performing many of the things that my iPad is capable of doing. I don't think there's any way you can possibly go wrong purchasing this sleek looking device. I've purchased many products from Samsung in the past and have always been impressed with their quality and durability. Since this is a new computer, it's impossible to say if any problems will arise, but based on past experience, I have no doubt that this will be real workhorse and will last for years. At the price that it's being sold for, it's almost disposable when something newer comes along. The bottom line is that you'll be very impressed with this product, and you'll be in awe how they could have built so much into such an inexpensive computer. I give it 5 stars. My wife gives it 5 stars too, now that I finally let her use it.
on December 12, 2012
==UPDATED 03/25/14== (Please see updates at end of review!)
The 249 dollar price point has really made this thing really popular. I was one of the CR-48 (prototype versions of the Chrome OS) testers, and recently I had a chance to play around with both this Samsung version and the 199 dollar Acer C7 version. Since most of the reviews have already covered pretty much everything about this Chromebook, I'm going to do more of a comparison review for those wondering which Chromebook they should buy. Both these laptops run the same Chrome OS but there are some significant changes in their hardware which I'll get into.
I know this is a long review so feel free to go to the end for a summary, or just check out the parts that you care most about. I've separated it into characteristics that most people will consider when they look at a laptop.
DESIGN: Samsung wins this one: It's thinner by .3 inches, lighter by around half a pound. Yes, they're both made of plastic, but Samsung's Chromebook has better quality plastic, if that makes sense. It's more unified looking & just feels more pleasant to hold. Many have compared this one's design to a Macbook Air while comparing the Acer one to a typical Windows Netbook. If design is a heavy factor in your decision process, then definitely get the Samsung one.
BATTERY LIFE: Winner - Samsung: It has almost double the battery life of the Acer laptop. (6.5 hrs vs 3.5 hrs)
CUSTOMIZABILITY: Acer wins here: It's true, the Acer C7 is really like a netbook, which means it is easy to take apart and add your own stuff. If you're a tech geek and enjoy modifying your notebook, this one is for you. You can add more RAM, take out the battery, and swap out the hard drive for a SSD. Compare this to this Samsung version, where everything is pretty much sealed. You have to be happy with what you're given.
PERFORMANCE: Acer wins here: Now I know this is strange--how could a cheaper notebook have a higher performance? Well if we compare both these Chromebooks through sheer performance power, the Intel Celeron processor in the Acer laptop actually outperforms the ARM based Samsung Exynos 5 processor in the Samsung Chromebook. This is because the Intel Celeron processor is actually a computer processor while the Samsung Exynos 5 is actually a processor designed for tablets. And even though the Exynos 5 is a processor found in high end tablets today (such as the Nexus 10), it's still not up to par with an actual computer processor. Another advantage the Acer has over the Samsung Chromebook is that since it's using an Intel chip, it can run things like Netflix (which, from the last time I checked, the Samsung Chromebook wasn't able to do). This is because the Netflix app on chrome hasn't been adapted to run on the ARM processor yet. This is after all, the first Chromebook to incorporate an ARM based processor.
That being said, there are a couple of advantages with the Samsung Exynos 5. First, a tablet processor generates a LOT less heat than a computer processor (it's why tablets & all those mobile devices don't need a fan). Therefore, the Samsung Chromebook is completely silent when running. Also, the Exynos 5 uses less power than the Celeron, and it's one of the reasons why the Samsung Chromebook has such a nice battery life. Now, keep in mind that it's only a SLIGHT difference in terms of performance between these two processors. Most of us probably wouldn't notice much of a difference, but the Samsung Chromebook might stutter a tiny bit when rendering pages, etc.
WEBCAM: Acer wins this one: The Acer C7 actually has a 1.3MP `HD' webcam compared to the VGA quality (.3MP) webcam of the Samsung Chromebook. If you do a lot of video chats you'll probably look a little better with a 1.3MP webcam. I can't call either of these cameras great though. One's just slightly better than the other.
BOOT TIMES: Samsung wins this one: The SSD inside the Samsung Chromebook is just faster than the hard drive based Acer C7. Keep in mind that boot time (the time it takes to start your computer) is different from performance (the time it takes for the computer to process an action). If you're willing to do some work & spend around 50 dollars to buy a SSD to install on the Acer C7, you'll be able to match (and you might even beat) the boot time of the Samsung Chromebook. We're talking about a few seconds, so personally I don't consider this a big deal.
KEYBOARD & TOUCH PAD: Samsung wins here: Like the overall design, the keyboard and touchpad of the Samsung is just better quality and more responsive, though I can type on both just fine. The Acer C7 has function keys though, if that matters for you.
SCREEN: I can't really pick a winner for this one, because this really depends on what type of screen you prefer. The Samsung screen has a matte polish (easier to see while outside/easier on the eyes) while the Acer Chromebook is glossier (slightly brighter). They're both 1366x768 resolution. This is more of a personal preference.
PRICE: Acer wins this one, just because it's cheaper by 50 dollars. As mentioned previously, the Acer C7 is 199 while the Samsung Chromebook is 249. As of this time of writing, the Samsung Chromebook is still sold out, while the Acer C7 is available on the Google Play store (It's more expensive on Amazon).
PORTS: Acer wins here because it has two ports that the Samsung one doesn't have, and that's VGA and Ethernet. Samsung has a USB 3.0 which the Acer lacks, but I doubt many people are going to be doing a lot of heavy data transfer to an cloud based computer, so I'm not sure why that was included.
To conclude, if you prefer elegant design, long battery life, portability, and fast boot times, the Samsung Chromebook is the one for you. If you prefer customizability, slightly better performance, and you're able to live with a kind-of-ugly looking computer and a 3.5 hour battery life, then go for the Acer C7. Neither of these Chromebooks are perfect, but they serve their purpose well enough, especially when considering the price. This is going to be a really hard choice for some (it certainly was for me!), but fortunately, both these computers are priced so low that you can't really make a wrong choice: it's a choice between two good options, kind of like choosing between Kit-Kats and Twix (everyone loves both right?!).
The fact that this is such a hard choice is a testament to Google's hard work and how appealing the Chromebook line has become.
-PS- I didn't actually review the OS because I think the other reviewers have done a solid job with that. If you do have any questions regarding the Chrome OS, I'll happily answer it. I do want to emphasize one thing that many reviewers have said, and that is to know the limitations of this OS before buying it. If you buy this 250 dollar Chromebook expecting a full-fledged laptop, you'll be sorely disappointed.
So it's been a while since I got this Chromebook, and since then, Google has updated it multiple times, fixing random bugs, security patches, etc. So I felt the need to update this review a bit. It actually feels a bit faster compared to when I first got it due to these patches, and the Chromebook is still working fine despite some accidental drops. Also, Netflix now works on this Chromebook! Google advertises the Chromebook as something that gets better over time, and in a way, it's actually true due to how often they patch it/improve it(~every 6 weeks). Anyways, I don't regret buying this Chromebook, but I still hold true to my 4-star review because I do think that the hardware can be improved.
The next generation of Chromebooks have been released! They're faster, more efficient, and overall better looking, and are in the same sub-#300 price range. Please give those other models a look if you're interested in a Chromebook. In particular, I'd recommend the Acer C720, but the HP 11 and the HP 14 are also solid options.
Though Samsung is still selling this model, they're also going to be releasing the second generation of this model soon, called the Chromebook 2 with a faster processor, longer battery life, and a new design for slightly more money. Though this model was good for when it was released, I do not recommend it anymore, as there are much better models available now for around the same price.
on November 17, 2012
I've had my Chromebook for about two weeks now and have given it an "average use" test run on it over that time. It does what I wanted it to do, has the limitations I'd expected from the reviews I'd read, and is generally excellent value for the price.
--great keyboard--I like the touch and layout in the space. It's a tiny bit "clicky" but not annoyingly so. I miss the delete key and some of the quick key options I'm used to with a PC, but I'm adapting. The most commonly used key commands (for copy, paste, print, save, etc,) are unchanged. I don't like back-lit keyboards so that's not a problem for me. Some reviewers have noted its absence.
--excellent battery life--I've gotten a little over 8 hours on a charge with using it for text/writing, web surfing and having it "sleep" overnight. That's not brilliant, but for a working laptop at this price, I'm a happy camper.
--light weight yet solid. I tend to be gentle with my toys so I'm not bothered by the plastic case. Yes,there may be some give on the keyboard, but only if you have a very hard touch or you're trying to test its limits. (I checked. It flexed, but I had to push.) I'm a fast touch typist with a light touch and I generally don't rest my wrists on the computer when I'm keying so have encountered none of the squeaks or flex that other reviewers have mentioned.
--VERY fast boot and wake up. Actually takes longer to shut down than to boot. Also very easy on the battery during sleep...I left it three days on sleep (unintentionally), yet saw surprising little drain on the battery.
--screen is decent IF you have the right tilt and aren't trying to share it with others. It's a one-person screen. But get the tilt or view angle off by a few degrees and it goes to poor and straight on to unviewable. But what do you expect for the price? (Okay, the screen on my old Acer netbook is better, but that sucker is SMALL.) For most uses, I've set brightness at around 75 or 80%, so that helps. At max brightness, it's plenty bright for me, but not for a couple other people who tried it out.
--Nice size for working. I like my laptops actually on my lap, and the light weight coupled with a good size makes it a very easy machine to work with for hours at a time.
--Surprisingly decent speakers for such a cheap machine. I use a Logitech lapdesk under it so there's no muffling effect of fabric. They aren't high end, by any means, but they're actually significantly better than the speakers on my $900 Toshiba or the several Dell Inspiron laptops I've worked with.
--Quiet (no fans for solid state!) and cool. Very nice!
--I really did enjoy NOT having to install all the other software and going through all the system setup and adjustments that are needed for a new pc. Take it out of the box, plug it in, get on-line, go do something else for 5 minutes, and it's ready to go. When you consider how much those services and software packages can cost, this machine is an even better value than its wallet-friendly $249 price. Add ordering it from Amazon and getting free shipping and it's a super value. And not once it two weeks has the shut down been postponed because the system is "installing 1 of 18 updates" like MS is so fond of doing.
CONS (or at least IFFY)
--Other reviewers had mentioned problems with the browser and web page display. I use Chrome on other computers, both desktops and laptops, and like it a lot. Unfortunately, there really is a problem with Chrome's performance here. I've experimented with setting my 4 year old Acer (1G ram), my Kindle Fire, and the Chromebook to bring up the same page off the same wifi service at about the same time. There were times even the Kindle outperformed the Chromebook, and the Kindle is not a speed demon. I really did expect Chrome to work better than it has on this machine. It's adequate, but not what I would have expected on a machine that is specifically intended to use Chrome as its centerpiece. And it does stutter and seem to lose track of pages at times. This is my single greatest reservation with the thing. I would have liked Netflix capability going in, but knew it wasn't there and crossed it off my list. But I really did expect it to do better with a wider range of websites. That took a star and a half off the review, right there. I also wish I could get rid of the "recently visited" boxes on the screen of each new tab. I prefer either high-use apps or nothing but the background graphic in that space, but haven't figured out how to change it (and haven't tried very hard--it's not that important, just a nuisance).
--Trackpad is acceptable, no better. I've found the trick is to use a firm touch. It's actually less responsive than the trackpad on my old Acer. It helped to set the speed all the way to the top. System works fine with a nano-wireless mouse if you want one. However,an inadvertent brush of your palm will shoot the cursor off somewhere else, which is annoying. It can happen on any laptop, but it does happen more often with the Chromebook.
--I knew going in that I was stuck with Google Docs for offline work (it has improved but still isn't really more than merely acceptable for basic work) or a Chrome app service like Zoho for online work. I actually installed Google Drive on a couple other laptops and a desktop and set it for offline work to test it out before I ordered the Chromebook . The print facility and offline performance were okay, but I'm still counting off a half star because Google docs isn't wonderful and you have no other real options on this system .
Update Dec 16, 2012: I've been experimenting with MS Office Web Apps through SkyDrive on the Chromebook and been very pleased. So long as I have a wireless connection I can edit and work on my Word and Excel documents with ease. Some of the quick key commands aren't available since Chromebook doesn't have the same keyboard structure, which isn't a huge problem (I use a lot of keyboard commands in preference to the mouse because it's so much faster). Of course, you have to be online to take advantage of the apps, which means you're still stuck with Google Drive and Google Docs when you're offline so the half star off remains. I assume the same on-line functionality would apply if you're a regular Mac person and use CloudOn, but can't confirm that.
--the ports on the back side are set a little close. I haven't had problems because I'm not using them for much except the mouse on occasion, but it could be a problem for those who want to connect multiple devices.
Overall, the Chromebook is a good value and a decent machine. I'd buy another...unless I suddenly, miraculously, join the ranks of the wealthy 1% who think the cost of a top-of-the line Mac or ultrabook, plus software, is just pocket change. Until then,I'll stick with my Chromebook as a light-weight, long battery life alternative for basic writing/spreadsheet work and some web surfing or email.
Update Dec 16, 2012: For what the Chromebook can do well, I love it. Love love love the keyboard. Love the light weight and long battery life and fast boot. It's so easy to grab and check something. Love being able to work in bed, out in the yard, haul it around without having 7 pounds of computer and chargers in the bag on my shoulder or worrying whether the battery will last. However, Chrome still hangs up on the web. Example: Every week, I check the NFL standings [Go, Broncos!!] and every single time,Chromebook hangs up....I scroll down the page, then I scroll back up and find I have to refresh the page because some of the information bars from the very top of the page are now superimposed on the stats. Never happens on Chrome on any of my other machines--I checked--so this is definitely a Chromebook problem. Still,I expect the problem will be resolved eventually. If not with updates to this OS,in future editions of Chromebook. And I'll definitely be in line to order the next generation when it arrives.
on January 20, 2013
Anybody who is really upset by their chromebook isn't being realistic. THIS PRODUCT IS FOR CLOUD USERS!! If you use google drive and google docs then this is going to be a breeze for you. I am a college student and use evernote for everything school related and i can honestly say this is the smartest purchase i have made (except for evernote premium). The awesome battery life (6-8 hours) makes it a no brainer compared to the Acer version (3-3.5 hours) in my opinion. Everything i do is cloud based however and i feel like if you are not living in some sort of cloud ecosystem then this is NOT for you.
An example of how to live in the cloud using a chromebook.
Music- Google Music & Pandora
Documents - Google Docs, Evernote, and even Skydrive has a version of office 360.
Storage- Google gives chromebook users 100gb of cloud storage to be used for whatever. But you can get an additional 25 from dropbox by doing some extra work.
Remote PC- Using the chrome remote desktop.
Video- Plex, Youtube, Vimeo, Netflix*****************
This brings me to my only gripe about this chromebook, for some reason this specific version of the chromebook can not play netflix right now. Google says they are working quickly to get it resolved and as soon as they do resolve this i will be happy to rate this a full 5 stars.
Chrome OS is not quite able to completely eliminate the need for having a PC, however if you have a full blown PC for a few specific things then this is an awesome companion for an awesome price. (I have a desktop for more power hungry things and this is my only laptop and everyday computer!)
on November 7, 2012
A review of the new $ 249 Google Chrome Book
Google has introduced a new portable computer - they call it the perfect additional computer - and I see it as a paradigm shift in the role of a portable computing device.
The new Samsung Chrome Book has an 11.6-inch full color display. It weights 2.42 lbs and is .7 inches thin. It has a battery life of over 6.5 hours and runs on a Samsung Dual processor with 100 GB of online Google Drive space. It features a web cam with USB and HDMI ports and is Bluetooth compatible. It runs the Chrome OS, which means it has Google apps built in, and is priced at $249.
I think it's one of the most remarkable product introductions I've seen in my 35 years working in the PC industry.
This new Chrome Book re-defines what a portable computer can do and how it can be used, and is completely based on the concept of Cloud Computing . It works right out of the box, has no moving parts, and has built-in anti-virus protection.
Google has created a complete infrastructure for cloud computing; Google Chrome browser for surfing the web, Google email, online google docs application software compatible with MS Office apps, google drive to store whatever documents you want in the cloud, free downloadable apps such as google voice for phone calls and video conferencing with webcam, and dozens of other applications. And of course the Google Search Engine. All the software you need is in the Google Cloud.
I've had 5 portable computers over the years and I bought each one to be an additional computer to my office computers. But now you don't need a bulky expensive laptop computer with a big hard disk and Microsoft Office installed on it.
I had also bought an IPad as a possible new portable computing device. Trying to use my Ipad for email and type on the glass was maddening. I couldn't get it to print as I didn't have an Apple Airprint compatible printer, and I was shocked to learn that I could only buy music and media through Apple Itunes.
I could easily print to any of my printers with the Chrome Book, it has a great real keyboard, and I can buy anything from anywhere - Amazon or whatever vendor I can get the best prices from.
Placed side by side, The Macbook Air and The Google Chrome Book look almost like twins in design, keyboard and screen size.
With the Chrome Book, I can surf the web, watch Youtube videos, play games, check my email, video chat, make free phone calls, and If I want to create a letter or a spreadsheet I just use Google docs and I can store them online in Google drive. If there are files on my main computers I want to be able to access with my Chrome Book, I can upload those files to my online Google drive, and be able to access and edit them.
The new Samsung Chrome Book defines the new world of Cloud Computing and provides virtually everyone easy access to this world at an astoundingly low price. I also feel that many people could use this as their only computing device.
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