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.