Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Impression of The Chromebook

It's been a little bit over a week since I started using the Samsung Chromebook (The $249 version) and I must say that I really, really like it. Its small and lightweight form-factor, the low maintenance ChromeOS, and the low-price makes for a near perfect computer for those who like to take a computer with them wherever they go.

Before I delve into my experience with the Chromebook, I want to say that the Chromebook is totally not a traditional laptop. People who are looking to use traditional Mac/Windows-based programs (such as GPS software) on a small travel-friendly laptop would be better served by looking into ultrabook-class laptops. Ultrabooks have similar body size and portability to the Chromebook but have the unfortunate condition of costing significantly more.

My Thoughts and Observation of the Chromebook
  • I really love the size of the Chromebook. Its dimensions are 11.4" x 8.1". It is 2.4 lbs and has an 11.6" screen which perfect for people who found netbooks to be a bit too small but don't want to carry around a larger, heavier traditional laptop. As someone, who has lugged around a traditional laptop and a netbook in the past, I really appreciated the lightweight and compact body of this computer.
  • Unlike most netbooks, the Chromebook has a full-sized keyboard that makes typing on it a joyful experience.  Having a comfortable way to type was one of the major annoyance I had with my netbook, Android tablets and iPad. I know that companies sell keyboard accessories for tablets/iPads, but using them means that you have to carry around more stuff. (More stuff to carry =  More stuff to keep track of = More stuff to potentially lose and replace).
  • The Chromebook has an anti-glare screen that is not the "high-definition" sharp and clear screen that you'd expect from modern devices. Compared to a Kindle Fire HD's screen, the Chromebook pales in comparison. Because of the anti-glare screen, the screen has a dull finish that is reminiscent to the first generation netbooks and older laptops.
  • I was disappointed to find out that Netflix did not work on the Chromebook, but Neflix, according to their website, stated that they are working with Google to develop a solution for it. Online video sites like Hulu, Crackle, Crunchyroll and Funimation did work though. YouTube works flawlessly because it's a Google product.
  • The Chromebook can play MP3 music files from a USB flashdrive, external USB hard drive, or SD memory cards, but I was disappointed that it did not have a shuffle option. If you're like me who can't live without music shuffling action, we can upload our MP3s to Google's Play Music and stream our music in the app's shuffle mode. 
  • Uploading to Google Play Music also gives you the ability to upload your music files to Google and stream your songs to various Android and ChromeOS powered devices. 
  • Currently, Google is allowing you to upload up-to 20,000 songs for free. 
  • You'll need to use Google's Music Manager program to upload your music from a Windows, Mac, or Linux PC. The software is available at the Google Play Music  website. 
  •  To upload from Chromebook, you'll need install a free app called MusicAlpha from the Chrome Web Store. 
  • Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a maintenance-free operating system, but the one that runs on the Chromebook comes pretty close. ChromeOs automatically updates itself every six weeks. You'll automatically get all the new features and improvements to your Chromebook and all you have to do is make sure it's powered on and that the Internet connection is working. Also, all your programs or "apps" are automatically updated to the latest versions which means your programs/apps will never become obsolete.
  • ChromeOS is not a traditional operating system like Microsoft Windows or Mac OS and its apps operate on the Cloud, therefore viruses are not a concern. (I'm sure it's just a matter of time until this becomes untrue. There's always some evil person out there cranking out new kind of viruses that may eventually mess with ChromeOS. *Sigh* The best virus protection is practicing safe web surfing).
  • Despite what you may have heard, you can use the Chromebook even when it's not connected to an Internet connection. Although not all of them, there are many apps available in the Chrome Web Store that have an Offline mode. Documents that you save in Google's cloud storage service, Google Drive, can be made available offline for you to view and do some limited editing.
  • You can do some mid-level Photoshop-like tasks if you install and use the free Pixlr app. (Granted, the features in the app is not at the level of a Creative Suite version of Photoshop, but if it is quite capable. I'd compare it tot the level of Photoshop 5).
  • Web development on a Chromebook is possible with the use of an app like ShiftEdit. It's basically an online web editor with built-in sFTP functions. The free app allows for one web site to be managed. It's a very reasonable $50 per year to be able to edit an unlimited number of projects.
  • Compared to a netbook running Windows or Ubuntu, the Chromebook has an amazingly fast boot time. It's about 5-10 seconds. (Yeah. I wish my other devices loaded that fast).
  • In regards to gaming, the Chromebook is not designed for heavy online gaming. If you're a gamer, you probably already know what the specs are for a proper gaming rig and you probably already know that the Chromebook is not it. (Gamers are very smart people). Now, this is not to say that there are no games for the Chromebook. There are games like Angry Birds available from the Chrome Web Store.
  • Compared to other computing devices, the Samsung Chromebook is cheap at $249. It's a great deal for anyone who is looking for a portable computing device that's more than a tablet/iPad and not quite a Ultrabook.  Let's put thing in perspective:  You can buy two Chromebooks for the price of one iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard accessory.  You can buy four Chromebooks for the price of a decent Ultrabook laptop.

    Asus recently released their Chromebook at $199. The Asus Chromebook utilizes a glossy screen and has a 320 GB traditional hard drive, but unfortunately has a 3 hour battery life due to the power requirements to support a traditional hard drive.  The Samsung Chromebook only has 16 GB storage but it is of the newer, faster, low-power Solid State Drive kind that leaves the it running for 4-6 hours. 
All in all, the Chromebook may be priced cheaply, but its ease of use makes it priceless and it is definitely one device that I would recommend to anyone.

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