Buying a computer has been “Windows or Mac” for as long as we’ve known, with the Mac question coming more and more in recent years. Enter stage left the Google option of not using either – a Chromebook is a computer without an operating system, it’s just a web browser. I’ve been using the Chromebook for a few months and I like what I see!
What is a Chromebook?
Google changed internet browsing when they developed the Google Chrome browser, putting Internet Explorer to the sideline and even making people who had switched to Firefox think twice. The idea was a lightweight, fast browser with independent tabs ensuring that problem pages didn’t freeze everything.
Then you take the Google cloud offering – Email with Gmail, Calendar with your Gmail account, Google Drive for storage and document editing and you add to that a range of “apps” being built to run within the Google Chrome browser.
Once you realise that many of the things you do each day are just “on the internet” you realise what a Chromebook is – it’s an Internet Browser. This laptop has nothing else to offer other than the web browser.
Within the “browser” settings you can do things you need like connect to WiFi, control volume, and there is a pop up browser-based file explorer for when you put your USB in.
So – a Chromebook is a web-browser you can take with you.
The wonderful thing for Samsung who make this particular Chromebook and for Google, is that you’re not really comparing Apples to Apples if you try to compare the Chromebook performance to that of a Windows or Mac Ultrabook or Laptop. You don’t have to install software so you don’t notice “load times” or performance. The performance really comes down to the speed of your internet and the sites you’re connecting to.
For what it’s worth, I never felt restricted in any way by the speed of the device. Switching between browser tabs or windows was fast and simple.
This is a good-looking device – from a distance. Grey look similar to many other popular Ultrabooks and laptops, with a black keyboard inside.
Up close, it’s plastic and that’s obvious. The keyboard is functional but needs to be backlit. After a fair bit of usage the plastic grey outer does tend to mark easily so you’ll be wiping it down a lot.
It’s light, but it feels cheap. Not such a bad thing given the cost is under $350.
I could live with this every day. The only programs I’m missing are audio editing and video editing. I even found a Chome App called Pixlr Editor for photo and image work, and to my complete surprise I found a terminal shell client called Secure Shell. I did not expect to be able to do those things “in a browser”
The fine print to that is how I work. I live in the Google cloud. 50Gb of Gmail, documents stored in the Google Drive so I can get what I need “online”. You’d need to be confident you really do live in the cloud before you buy this.
That’s easy to do. Install Google Chrome – and try to use it, exclusively. You can “try before you buy” by simply downloading the Chrome Browser.
Check the Chrome Store for apps or things you need and see how it turns out for you!
It’s $349. That’s insane. Sit at home, at work or at a cafe, connected to WiFi doing all your stuff on a super cheap laptop.
The Chromebook boots in an instant and is really always ready for you when you want it.
If you’re not in a WiFi area you are a bit stumped for access. Yep, some of the device is useful “offline”, but for the most part you’re going to want to be online. So if you’ve got a 3G Broadband dongle – that’s not going to work. You see there is no software to install. There is a version that has a built-in 3G sim-card slot – Sadly this isn’t it.
If you don’t “live” in the cloud, you are going to struggle to come to grips with being always in a web browser – you’re going to deal with it or you aren’t. As I said earlier, download Google Chrome and use it exclusively for a while – that’s your test drive!
I like it, I like it a lot. But the user in me needs to be able to download stuff, try things and do more than just the browser based stuff. However, for the people who can fit in that space, I find it hard to believe you’d bother spending more than $349 for a laptop.