20 Minutes with my Chromebook

A few weeks ago, TechSmith gave all of their full-time employees a $300 dollar voucher to buy a tablet device (iPad, Xoom, Iconia, etc) in an attempt to get us immersed in the world of mobile computing.(Oh yeah, we’re hiring) Since I already had an iPad, I decided to invest in a different buzzword going around at work lately. The cloud. I preordered a Chromebook (Samsung Series 5) on June 15th as soon as I could. Today at work, I was excited to see that my Chromebook (Samsung Series 5) arrived a day early. So of course the first thing I did when I got home was tear it open. What were my first impressions?

The packaging was fine. It wasn’t Apple quality, but few companies put the effort into packaging that Apple does. I pulled the computer out and was impressed with how it felt in my hands. It’s quite slim and doesn’t weigh too much. I was annoyed by the big advertising sticker on the screen about how it’s 40% brighter or something stupid.

Alright, here comes the 10 second boot. This is gonna be awesome. 20 seconds later I’m greeted by the startup screen. Well, 20 seconds is really fast but they promised me less than 10. It’s not a regular boot so I’m not holding anything against it. I sign in with my Google account and connect to my wi-fi. Then it starts downloading an update. 15 minutes later, it’s done. That really sucked. All I wanted to do was play with my shiny new toy and I had to install an update? I thought it could do that in the background.

Once it starts though, I’m greeted by a simple browser window. There is a nice start screen that explains the basics of the OS. You don’t really need it though. Everything is simple. Everything makes sense. I’m already logged in to Google apps so my email is right there.

It’s actually quite amazing how easily I am able to do things I would normally do from this computer. Sure, I won’t be writing iPhone apps, but I can do most everything else. I think this ChromeOS thing might actually take off once it gets a little more mature. I really like some of the things they’ve done like replacing caps lock with a search key and stealing Apple’s one button trackpad design.

One thing that I really like to do with my Macbook Pro is use the Hulu pop-out player along with a great app called Afloat to have a video always on top of my screen. That way I can browse the Internet while watching tv. It works really well and I was worried that ChromeOS wouldn’t let me do that. It does though. It handles the pop out window by docking it to the bottom. I can move it side to side and resize it but it has to be stuck to the bottom. I wish I could move it, but I can’t.

The power cable feels like it’s going to break off in the laptop. It seems really cheap. The trackpad, while probably the best non-mac trackpad I’ve ever used, is still pretty mediocre. It handles 2 fingered scrolling pretty well, but not as good as Apple did it 4 years ago. The performance is also not great. It can handle Hulu, but even Angry Birds (designed for Chrome) is a little sluggish. I’m hoping performance improves with some updates.

The speakers aren’t loud enough. I had to put in headphones when my air conditioning kicked on because I couldn’t hear the computer. I’m used to my Macbook Pro (which has pretty awesome speakers for a laptop) and I never had to use headphones to hear it in my own apartment. I also don’t like that adjusting the volume doesn’t give you any feedback. OS X and Windows give you a nice sound to show you how loud you’ve just made it, but ChromeOS just gives you a little volume bar.

They keyboard is large and spacious. I’m used to having an Apple laptop keyboard so the lack of delete, home, and end don’t bother me. I’ve been writing this whole blog post from the Chromebook and I almost feel like the keys are too spread out. It’s really pretty great to type on. Hardware forward, back, and refresh keys are also a nice touch.

The screen is fine. At its brightest it looks very washed out. It is too bright. At half brightness it looks fine and is still plenty bright. As much as I hate the glare on shiny screens, I kinda miss how cool it makes them look.  I think the matte screen will make this a decent outdoor laptop though.

Right now, you can tell that ChromeOS doesn’t have the polish that Windows and OS X have. Maybe I’m being unfair by comparing the Series 5 to a high end laptop running an OS that has had 10 years to mature, but that’s its competition.

I’ll give this 3/5 stars. I really believe in the spirit of the laptop. It beats out traditional netbooks like my girlfriend’s EeePC and it is going to be a lot better for typing/video watching than my iPad. Unfortunately, it’s still a long way from replacing my Macbook Pro.

I plan on using this thing mostly full time and we’ll see how things change the more I get used to it.

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12 Responses to 20 Minutes with my Chromebook

  1. Pingback: 20 Minutes with my Chromebook | farp.blog | Vickkumar.com.au

  2. Ravi says:

    I absolutely love Afloat and use it primarily the same way you do – pop out a video, put it in a corner of my screen, and have it stay on top of all other windows.

    However, unlike Netflix or YouTube videos (which btw you can play in VLC), Hulu actually makes a desktop app for this express purpose. Doesn’t support HD or Hulu Plus yet, but it works great otherwise.

    Check it out, it’s called Hulu Desktop:

  3. Dachkn says:

    You seem to be forgetting that you are reviewing a $300 notebook and not a macbook equivalent. Shitty speakers and an average track pad aren’t exactly unexpected

  4. Joe Friedl says:

    As I understand it, the Chromebook isn’t meant to replace a Macbook. Especially considering the price difference even with the early adopter premium, the comparison is meaningless. You enjoyed the simplicity, which was the goal.

  5. JohnLBevan says:

    I’m wondering, what’s the price difference between the Chromebook & the Macbook Pro? From what I can see from current UK prices the Chromebook is around £300 whilst the Macbook Pro starts at £1000. How do the two compare once you factor this into account? Also, I suspect they’re not competing; Macbook Pros are aimed at high usage users / professionals. Chromebook is designed to be more of an advanced netbook which simplifies getting online for the non technical user. As bandwidth increases and web apps improve it will likely become competitive with the likes of the Macbook, but for the time being, I don’t think that’s what it’s trying to be.

  6. Pingback: Si algú fes una versió web de l’Emacs … « Només 5 línies

  7. Michael says:

    Yeah I’ve been playing with mine and I don’t think I love it yet. Web apps are mostly glorified bookmarks (with some exceptions) and I’ve been able to get tabs to crash pretty easily. Even with only 2 open…

  8. Pingback: 1 Month with my Chromebook and it’s going back to Samsung | farp.blog

  9. I was one of the fortunate who received a free CR-48 Chromebook from Google. Having had mine since early in the year, I’ve seen the OS go through a serious maturation process. Not that early on it was painful, but the subtle UI tweaks and not-so-subtle performance enhancements have been very welcome. Once it started supporting streaming video for Netflix, I was quite happy. :)

    I use it the most at home, using the home PC only when I need to do some serious picture editing or uploading files. My Chromebook is amazingly versatile, but I think web apps need to mature much more before it really becomes a true desktop replacement.

  10. Randall says:

    I wrote a follow up to this post about all the problems I had with it. The screen stopped working on me and it took about a month for me to get around to mailing it in and get it fixed. After I got it back, I noticed that the OS was MUCH more stable. Not sure if it was a hardware thing or if the updates have made it better while I wasn’t using it.

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  12. Ryan Morgan says:

    This was a useful review for me. I work at a school and we decide what to buy based on the needs of the students. Its useful to know what the new device can do in comparison to a well known device. Of course the price would suggest the two aren’t comparable. Its nice to see how much further the new product has to go before it is viable in our particular setting.

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