My New Chromebook (March 2013), Unboxing
chromebook google samsung computer laptop nexus7 tablet logitech
I recently decided to buy a laptop to compliment my Nexus 7. These days I do most of my computing from my tablet since it pretty much has all the functionality of a regular computer. I do have a bluetooth keyboard for my tablet but sometimes typing gets old on it and I missed having a larger screen for browsing the web. I also missed non-mobile webpages.
After looking at what was available, I decided to take a shot on the Google Chromebook. If you don't keep up with Google, the Chromebook is a laptop computer that runs Google's own operating system called Chrome OS. Basically it is just the Google Chrome web browser. This has some nice advantages like super fast boot times and long-lasting battery. The drawback is that it pretty much needs to be connected to the internet to work. There are some offline apps (they all run in the web browser) but there isn't a lot of good software available yet.
All I really needed was something I could do a bit of writing on (there is offline access to Google's office suite complete with automatic syncing back to Google Drive, the online storage service that Google is pushing) and browse the internet with, so the Chromebook seemed like a fit for me. I'm going to share my unboxing of the Chrome, followed by my opinion on it after having used it for a couple of weeks.
My Nexus 7 set up with my bluetooth keyboard/stand combo. It actually looks like a laptop. This worked pretty well but my hands would occassionally brush against the back button on the screen which was frustrating. Its also nice to have a larger screen when writing so you can see more of the text. I was getting by but I didn't really feel like it was ideal.
One of the perks of the Chromebook is its super-cheap price (there is a high end Chromebook, the Pixel...but that's another story). The Samsung model I settled on retails for $250 USD. I ended up getting a logitech wireless mouse and a laptop sleeve along with my computer. This brought the total price to $350 USD. The Chromebook is carried by Best Buy in the United States so I was able to see a floor model before I took the plunge which helped sell me.
Here's the box for the Chromebook in all of its glory. It is actually pretty huge given the size of the laptop (11'' screen). The next photo shows the insides but as for the outside? Colorful artwork and surprisingly sturdy. The box is heavier than you'd think and would actually make for a decent storage box. I've still got it and haven't tossed it yet though I probably will eventually since space is at a premium in my house with all the video game boxes I keep.
Inside the box we have the computer to the left. Here it is covered by shipping foam and the manuals. To the right in the cardboard box is the power supply. The box is spacious but packed well. The computer is held firmly in the center of the box and I suspect this thing could take quite a bit of punishment in shipping. I wouldn't care to toss a pallet of them but I'm glad Samsung didn't go cheap on the packaging.
After pulling the computer out, here's what it looks like from above. The simple grey color scheme isn't going to dazzle anyone though I find the Chrome logo to be stylish and distinctive. For the person with to many computers, it is easy to spot. Good call on their part since Google is marketing this as a secondary computer
Here's what the computer looks like opened up. Foam is still on the screen. The keyboard is spacious and certainly has an aesthetic reminiscient of the Macbook. Most laptop keyboards seem to be headed in that direction though, with large square keys that are slightly spaced apart. Personally I think it looks good and I enjoy the feel of the keys on my fingers. I always had issues with the lettering rubbing off on the older style keyboards but so far that hasn't been an issue for me on my Chromebook's keyboard.
One last shot, the power supply inside the box. I was pleased to see that it was relatively lightweight as the laptop my Chromebook is replacing had a monster PSU and I had to buy a separate travel power supply to go with it.
I know I didn't include any side shots to show off the available ports but the computer includes an HDMI out jack, two USB ports (one for one of the smaller size USB cables...sorry for noobing it up and not knowing the technical terms here), and a SIM card slot on the back. There is a more expensive version available at $330 that uses this port to get 3G data from Verizon. On the left hand side are a headphone jack and an SD card slot.
So after two weeks of using my Chromebook, I can definitely say that I am still in love with it. It only weights 2 1/2 lbs and is super easy to carry around. It isn't quite as portable as my tablet or phone but it is pretty easy to carry.
For the technically inclined, the underlying operating system is built on Linux (Gentoo, I've read) but the only thing it is really there for is to power the Chrome web browser. Unfortunately this means the computer is pretty limited in some ways. There is a file manager but it is really awkward to use and basically works like an online manager. While you CAN access things like how much storage you have (chrome://quota-internals), a lot of this stuff isn't in plain sight and you'll have to hit the internet to find out how to access some of it. Obviously, with it being just the Chrome web browser, you won't be loading all your favorite applications either.
But, as it turns out, there is actually quite a bit that you can do within a web browser. As I mentioned previously, Google offers its full office suite and I find that it actually runs surprisingly well on the Chromebook...better than I recall it working when I used to use it in college for collaborative projects. So one of the things you can do is get extensions (just like with Chrome on Windows, Apple, or some other OS) and some of these extensions do work offline. The Google Docs programs are bundled as an example of this. Unfortunately the Google Chrome App Store is pretty uninspiring. There's a lot of junk on there and some of the "apps" are no more than web links (ie facebook). Though when you do grab these extensions, they add them to your program launcher if you like pretending facebook is a program. You can also mess with the Windows to make it look like it is a separate program instead of a web page in a browser if you are so inclined.
If you can get around the limitation of the computer being "just a web browser" though, the whole package works pretty well. It is lightweight, low cost, has a monster battery, makes no noise (for tech folks: it uses an ARM processor), and generates almost no heat. In other words, at last they've finally made a LAPtop that can go into your lap without frying your legs and overheating the computer. About time says I.
The laptop only has a 16GB SSD so you can't really store a lot of stuff on the computer. I did download a few CDs in case I only have my laptop for some reason and can't connect to the web. One of the other offline "apps" is a general purpose media player so if you really need some content on the go, you actually are covered. 16GB isn't much, especially if you like HD video, but as I mentioned previously there is an SD card slot if you really need extra movies, music, and photos. I personally find the 16GB to be more than enough for storing articles and documents offline that I might want to read when I don't have a connection. Google also includes a two year sub to Drive for free which gives you 100 GB of "cloud" storage. Between the cloud storage and the remote desktop app (which lets you sync with a "real" computer) you can actually do quite a lot from the Chromebook...as long as you're connected to the web.
The nice thing about the SSD is that it has lightning fast boot times. I timed the initial boot at only 28 seconds and normally the desktop is ready to go in the time it takes me to blink. Shutdown and sleep are super fast too. To be honest, I'm not even sure how much the computer distinguishes between the two. Waking from shutdown takes maybe one or two seconds more as I have to log back on. The computer automatically boots if I open the lid regardless though, which is great.
Now I can say that it isn't all good. Unfortunately, $250 does NOT get you a good screen. The display on the laptop is absolutely terrible. The resolution is spacious at 1366x768 but the colors are washed out and the matte screen seems to suffer from perpetual glare. Unless you're staring right at it, it gets blurry or dim. Viewing angle is basically non-existent on this computer.
If web browsing and light word processing are all that you do, the Chromebook is definitely worth considering given its excellent price and portability. It does have some pretty serious limitations though. A lot of my music is on Amazon MP3 but for some of my CDs, I have to borrow a friend's computer. The screen resolution on the computer is good for work and word processing but not so good for consuming HD media. While there is quite a bit you can do in a web browser there are also some things that I don't do day to day but would like the option of being able to do, such has having some sort of photo editor. I think my Chromebook was a solid choice and it will be my machine of choice for lounging on my couch and surfing the web but I am probably going to pick up a larger laptop (one that can handle HD media). I'm all for new technology but I'm just not comfortable with only having my data on the Cloud.
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