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Chromebook perspective from an IT Geek
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.