Customer Review

824 of 861 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chromebooks Go Production, June 16, 2011
This review is from: Samsung Series 5 3G 12.1-Inch Chromebook (Arctic White) (Personal Computers)
I've been testing the prototype Cr-48 since February. I expected to just use the device for a few weeks and then go back to my desktop system. But instead I changed a few of my habits and stayed with it ever since. There is very little difference between the Cr-48 and the production Samsung. Size is about the same, keyboard almost identical. Cr-48 was coated with a rubbery material that you either like or hate. Samsung is more traditional glossy plastic.

Both machines have very bright and crisp displays in a wide format. The screen itself is of the traditional non-glare type. I can't imagine why anyone would want a screen with glare but I notice many new systems come that way. I guess if you work in a totally dark room the glossy screens are fine. The second version of the Chromebook from Acer is said to have a glossy screen for anyone that wants that.

I'll second what others said that this machine is not for everyone. If you a big user of Apple products and happy with their "roadmap" to the future, stay with them. If you need all the specialized software that only runs on Windows, then you'd better stay there too.

But... If you are tired of running virus scanners, clean-up utilities, disk defragmenters, firewalls, and tired of having to ask a relative or neighbor to get your machine working again (or worse having to pay someone to do it) then cloud-based computing may be for you.

Chrome OS is a slimmed down (very) version of Linux that boots in 8 seconds and awakes from sleep almost instantly. There is no desktop, so the graphical interface is the Chrome web browser which takes up the whole screen as soon as you log-on to the machine. There are some "hidden" aspects to this OS, but you can only get to them by flipping a special switch for those who like to experiment, and the machine keeps track of the fact that you have done this. Security experts know that no system is safe if you grant physical access to an attacker, but the Chrome notebook does everything it can to protect your locally stored information (even though there isn't much of that). Each user must log into the machine and that causes his and only his files to become unencrypted for use. Signing off causes those files to be encrypted again. But very little data is stored on the machine anyway and the entire solid state "disk" is only 16 gig, so pack-rats need not apply. The idea is that you store all your documents in the cloud (you are not limited to using Google products to do this of course). While you *can* download files, typically you do so simply to turn around and upload them somewhere else. You can display photos and play MP3 and MP4 files locally but that is about it (for now anyway). In addition to the SSD space you can store local files on a USB stick or memory card (as used in cameras). Theoretically files you store on the SSD drive will get erased automatically after a while (like a month, though I haven't seen this happen yet). So if you feel you just HAVE to have some files to carry around with you, a 16G USB stick is probably advisable.

If you want to let a friend use the machine, just sign off and they can use "Guest mode" and your stuff will be safe, no matter what they do. Also anything they do will get erased when they are done. If someone else will be using he machine regularly they can also sign in with a Google ID rather than using Guest mode and their files and yours will be kept isolated from one another.

I'm not sure what it is I like about this keyboard as it mostly resembles other "island keyboards" but I bang pretty hard on the keys and they usually register without too many mistakes. I don't feel that I am in danger of breaking the thing as is the case with many new notebooks or keyboards. The mousepad as others have mentioned is HUGE. I am not a big fan of mousepads so even with a notebooks I tend to carry a mouse with me. I recently went visiting needed to use the mousepad for a while though and found it acceptable. I'd say a cut below the Apple mouspads, but not by much. Remember that most of what you get from a mousepad is done in software, not hardware. When the Cr-48s came out there were lots of complaints about the mousepads being almost unusable, but with each new release of the OS things got better and I'm sure that will continue.

With Chrome OS being a young product so far there is still room for improvement, but the improvements are coming fairly regularly and they are totally non-disruptive, downloading in the background and automatically activating the next time you boot. Even that first boot after update doesn't seem to take longer as with some OSs.

There are three "Channels" for updates: Stable, Beta, and Dev(eloper) depending on how risk averse you are. There is also a USB stick based recovery procedure should your machine get "hosed" which can happen on the developer channel or when playing with the developer switch.

Why is there a developers switch? Well, security is a big goal of Chrome OS. There are no virus scanners needed, but the OS does do a self-check during those 8 seconds it is booting up, and when your files are decrypted they are check for tampering as well. The developers switch bypasses some of this paranoia, and also gives you access to additional parts of the file system that are normally off-limits. In addition you are given access to a more complete set of Linux/Unix commands some of which could get you into trouble. People have run other version of Linux, Windows and even the Apple OS on Chromebooks by flipping the developer switch, but then that is rather missing the point of a machine that is designed specifically for cloud-based computing. On the other hand, if you have been keeping your stuff in the cloud, and happen to trash your system while on the road, getting it going again doesn't take too long or involve too many steps (and I suspect might eventually only entail pressing a reset button or something).

Finally, on communications, WiFi set-up is as easy or easier than Windows or Apple machines I've used. Previous connections are memorized by default. All the protocols up to and including "n" "just work". In a pinch you can tap into the 100M of free Verizon wireless 3G coverage. In a real pinch they have various for-pay coverage after that. I've tried it just long enough to know that it works. On a trip I can imagine tapping into the "unlimited" plan for a day at a time between WiFi enabled hotels.

Cons: (1) I wouldn't have minded a wired Internet option as well, but with notebooks getting thinner and thinner it would probably be hard to squeeze the connector in there. So far the "n" version of WiFi maxes out my router's speed anyway. (2) Only VGA connectivity to external monitors... else I might be tempted to use this as a desktop machine with a larger monitor. If there is indeed a Samsung "mini" desktop system waiting in the wings that will probably be a better way to go anyway (and might well be significantly cheaper than a laptop). (3) There is a way to go for "apps" for this ecosystem. there are advanced applications that demonstrate what *can* be done such as music composition, technical drawings, photo editing (and of course Google Docs which handles normal office needs) but almost everyone will run into situations that require a "legacy" system to handle. For example, you currently have to use a special set-up on a Windows or Apple machine to print, unless you have one of the very new "e-printers" that have an e-mail address associated with them and support their own network connection. If the Google "roadmap" holds steady I fully expect these issue to be addressed in the not too distant future.

In the mean time, I'm sitting comfortably here on my couch with my Chromebook, and not tempted to sit at the desk where I have a "more powerful" system. Come to think of it, I have more power in the cloud than I could ever afford at home. With proper interfaces, everything I could need.
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Comments

Tracked by 9 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 34 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 21, 2011 10:22:01 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jun 24, 2011 2:20:05 PM PDT
I. Andriot says:
Just to tell you one reason why glossy screens are so popular. They are more scratch resistant than matte/non-glare screens, this is especially important on devices you have to touch like a tablet.

Posted on Jun 25, 2011 11:59:50 AM PDT
Ryan Stevens says:
to print, use Google CloudPrint Beta. It works well the few times I have used it.

Posted on Jun 25, 2011 12:47:18 PM PDT
Vox Locus says:
Wired internet option? I'm connect on a Chromebook to the internet on Ethernet.

I'm using the Ethernet to USB dongle I bought from Apple for my MacBook Air.

Just search Amazon for USB Ethernet Dongle and there are lots of options, most cheaper than what i paid Apple.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2011 6:06:04 PM PDT
Raleighphile says:
I used a cheap $2.99 USB/Ethernet dongle I bought here on Amazon when I was playing with a friends Cr-48. I worked right out the box. I don't know why it wouldn't work with the new chromebooks if the old Cr-48 had the drivers right out of the box.

Simple solution. I have a really hard WiFi key and after 3 tries punching it into the darn Cr-48 I just gave UP and tried a wired connection. After it worked I just emailed myself the darn Wifi key.

Posted on Jun 30, 2011 9:23:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 30, 2011 9:40:51 AM PDT
"3G broadband cellular connectivity via Verizon Wireless"

Guys, what plans are offered by Verizon for this Chromebook? How expensive they are? Is it easy to configure this device to [temporarily] turn off cellular connectivity and only connect through WiFi?

I oredered WiFi-only version and now think maybe I made a mistake?

I got answer on Google+ thread:

100MB per month is free. You can then buy: an unlimited day pass for $10, 1GB for a month @ $20, and the price works up from there up to 5GB for a month for $50.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 1, 2011 5:41:35 PM PDT
100 meg per month is free forever? Or as long as the device lasts? If you run over 100 meg, does it automatically boost you to a gig and bill you $20? Or $10 a day?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 1, 2011 5:52:19 PM PDT
Vox Locus says:
Free for two years. But to get it you have to sign up with Verizon and cough up a credit card. In theory, you won't be billed for anything and at 100.01 MB it would just stop. That's "in theory."

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 1, 2011 5:59:59 PM PDT
100M per month for 2 years.

When you use up 100M on a given month you have the option to buy more (for a day, for a month, etc) but it isn't automatic.

Signup process for this service has ben problematic. You are supposed to be able to do it on the device itself, but this never worked for me.

On the other hand, the online sign-up asks for a credit card. When I signed up over the phone they wouldn't even take my card info. So, there is no way I can be accidentally charged that I know of.

From my brief test, the 100m can go pretty quickly unless you turn all grafics and plug-ins (like flash) off.

Posted on Jul 22, 2011 9:14:50 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Aug 2, 2011 9:27:15 AM PDT]
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