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Chromebook the Third
on December 4, 2013
Acer's C720p is our third Chromebook (large family) and it follows Samsung's, purchased a little over one year ago and HP's Chromebook 11 a couple of months ago. We are very happy with all three and we're likely to purchase more so, let me start by answering the obvious question (see next paragraph).
WHY A CHROMEBOOK?
There's so much to say here but let me make a quick summary. And never forget that we are talking about an 'under 300' device here because, yes, anything that costs 3˕ 4˕ 5 times as much should do better most of the time.
˕ If counting 'hours' and excluding 'work hours', Chromebooks are our most used computers and by 'computer' I mean PCs, laptops and tablets.
˕ Malware, spyware, adware˕ free. Since nothing is manually 'installed' on the Chromebook, I can't see how one would ever be infected. I am now actually turning on and using a Chromebook to open suspicious emails or click on dubious URLs that I'd rather not touch from a laptop or PC.
˕ Chrome OS happens to be one of the safest OS. I don't know if this is common knowledge but Google is constantly challenging hackers to crack it. And, as far as I know, Chrome OS wasn't cracked yet.
˕ Easy to share among any number of users without any concerns for compromising privacy. If you have a Google account you simply sign in and you are going to be within your own, personal environment, including Chrome extensions, shortcuts and so forth.
˕ Constantly updated and upgraded. Google updates Chrome OS every few weeks and I found my Chromebook actually getting better all the time rather than getting slower and slower and gradually falling into obsolescence.
˕ Nearly maintenance free. Whenever I don't use a tablet or even a laptop for a while they tend to get very busy for a few minutes or longer once I turn them back on. Tablets, especially, are almost impossible to use until all those dozens of updates/upgrades download and install. Not the case for Chromebooks. Whatever upgrades may take place out in the clouds they don't hit my Chromebook. Whenever I call up an app, I get it in its latest version.
˕ The attached keyboard helps a lot. Yes, you can pair a keyboard and even a mouse to a tablet but the Chromebook's keyboard is always there, it also negates the need of a stand or even some protecting case.
˕ Chrome OS is streamlined and efficiently focused where it matters, on the everyday uses most of us need a 'computer' most of the time.
˕ While you don't get the top of the line CPU on a $299 Chromebook, performance is much better than that same CPU on a traditional laptop because there's no need to constantly run virus scans, there is on disk fragmentation to deal with, among other things.
˕ No need to worry about backups and losing your data. Yes, keeping your important or very personal data in the cloud is not something that I do or I would advise anyone to do but 'everything else' should reside in the cloud just fine and the odds of that data ever being lost are quite small.
˕ Quite versatile. You can easily pair your Chromebook with Bluetooth (or dongled) mice, keyboards and speakers. And you can even use a remote desktop app to access a 'true' PC when you really need one. You can make phone calls and video calls and you can even play some games.
˕ Runs Ubuntu. I haven't tried it yet myself because... well... I have Ubuntu running on a PC already but if you Google Chromebook Ubuntu or Chromebook Linux you will get a few posts that explain exactly how it's done.
˕ Works offline too. Yes, it's not a laptop but there are apps that work well offline and if you don't trust Google's cloud you can access your own local NAS at least for viewing docs, PowerPoint slides or playing videos. There must be a way to save edited docs in your own cloud rather than Google's but I didn't spend much time trying to figure it out yet.
˕ Relatively low prince, 11.6" display and light weight seem to be just about right for something that typically you'd be using to browse the Web while watching TV or take to and from school.
WHY NOT A CHROMEBOOK?
Yes, Chromebooks can't do everything. Google's productivity suites notwithstanding, they are mainly and they are best at media consumption rather than production. Nobody should buy a Chromebook and expect to be able to edit video or perform some heavy word processing or do some hard˕ core gaming even though you CAN do them, it's just that you can do them better on a PC or laptop or tablet. My experience is that a Chromebook can't do 'everything'. Tablets are more portable, PCs and laptops are more powerful but, to me, my Chromebook is the most fun to use device and it's likely to stay this way. I am not going to call it my 'second' or 'third' or 'first' computer but, objectively, it's the one I most use outside business hours if what we measure is 'hours'. Chromebooks, now that we have three of them around are what our kids prefer for their school˕ related activity and most of their entertainment, when not playing games.
Haven't spent a lot of time with the 720p but, and not surprisingly so, it's all very familiar because this is our third Chromebook. The 720p is not 'exactly like' HPs or Samsung's but it's easily recognizable as a Chromebook and that's a good thing.
There are many common features between our three Chromebooks but there are quite a few important differences so here's what it's probably worth to mention:
˕ Touch, of course. I didn't spend a lot of time with the much more expensive Pixel but the C720p does what I expected. It's not an iPad or a Nexus 7 when it comes to responsiveness but it's quite decent and it's good to have options.
˕ The LED 1366 x 768p HD display resolution is no different from the other Chromebooks and I would say it's somewhere in between HPs (better) and Samsung's. But the differences are minor.
˕ USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and HDMI ports plus the SD card slot make the C720p a relatively easy to connect device, especially when compared to HPs.
˕ Intel Celeron 2955U processor with (only) 2GB of DDR3 RAM makes it the fastest Chromebook. I suspect that a 4GB model is going to be available soon but even with 2GB it still feels fine.
˕ Decent speakers. Quite impressive, in fact for their size.
˕ Great keyboard, as far as the chicklets keyboards come. I prefer it to the others but keyboards can be such a personal thing. It's the typical Chromebook layout and the key travel is good. As a touch typist it took me little time to get used to it.
˕ Good battery life. They promise 7˕ 8 hours. I don't know how realistic that may be but at 75% brightness ours ran for almost six ours after a full charge.
˕ Same freebies Google: 100GB in the clouds for 2 years being the most attractive.
I am not going to compare Acer's Chromebook with the Pixel or some top of the line laptop. I noticed that many 'pro' reviewers are complaining because the 200˕ 300 dollar Chromebooks are not 'high end' and aren't as nice as the Pixel and such. Well... did anyone check the prices? So, yes, let me make a 'duh' statement: this Chromebook is not as good as devices that sell for 3 times or 4 times as much so anyone who doesn't mind paying more should pay more and get one of those. Even though... look at some reasons above for why one may prefer a Chromebook to a laptop or a tablet, regardless of price.
Acer's device is at least as good and in some way better than my now one year old, often used and much trusted Samsung and, while not as pretty, it seems to be speedier and definitely much better connected than HPs. The price difference can be justified by the touch capability which is nice to know it's there.
Chromebooks and the C720p are not for everyone and they are not a universal computing device but, if used for what they are meant to be used, they are as good and as a revolutionary device as tablets.