On Monday, my company was informed that it was the first business to get a confirmed corporate order for Chromebooks. Today they arrived. We greeted the FedEx Express (Federal Express Express?) driver with confounding enthusiasm and received our boxes. With an utter lack of productivity, we un-boxed a few Samsung Chromebooks and explored.
The Samsung Chromebook won't power on the first time until it is plugged in. The battery reached full charge quickly, so I don't think it was shipped flat, but perhaps they just wanted users to charge them before killing them. As soon as we connected power, we were prompted for our Wifi settings and we were started... updating. The Chromebook, like many current devices, won't do anything before running system updates. Considering what a dangerous place today's web is for browsers, this seems rational; even if it did delay our gratification. After a short delay we were able to login with a Google account, presenting us with a brief (click, right-click, scroll, drag) tutorial.
My intention is not to echo specs, but just to describe our experiences with the device, as regular users. The Chromebook is about the size of a textbook (about 9x13 inches), but feels lighter (about 3 pounds). The overall look and feel of it is a bit plastic, easy to bend, but appropriate for the low cost. According to WhatIsMyScreenResolution.com the screen runs at 1280x800, above par for netbooks, small for notebooks, just right for this Chromebook. Aside from the power connector, and a vent, I can also see two USB ports, an audio combo-in-out port, SD slot, proprietary video out, and something looking like a SIM slot (AT&T/T-mobile support?).
The keyboard has special purpose keys where the function keys are usually found. These include:
The touchpad supports multitouch, at least in as much as it allows two-finger scrolling. My attempts at zooming or navigating with gestures familiar to MacOS users were unsuccessful.
When connecting a monitor using the provided adapter, the Chromebook dutifully switches display to the external monitor. We have been unable to coax the Samsung Chromebook to display on both monitors; either in mirror or extended display.
Not apparent to me until this far into this review, perhaps because it takes a short while to occur, is the tendency of the finish to collect fingerprints and smudges. It’s not an attractive look for a piece of plastic, palm-prints.
[Update 2011-6-30] The battery life is amazing, when Samsung said 8+ hours, they were not exaggerating![/Update]
Anyone familiar with Chrome will know most of what would be said here, so I’ll skip ahead to what’s different.
There is no desktop, Chrome is always as maximized, with familiar windowing controls absent. Since there is no desktop, or windowing, the idea of a new “window” plays more like a new “screen,” though keeps its name. One drawback of this is the loss of the ability to move a tab to a different/new window. Additions include a status area in the top right displaying the time, wifi signal strength, and battery charge; each with click access to related settings. The “wrench” button/menu is familiar, with an added last option to Sign Out.
I inserted an SD card into the slot, and it was detected, presenting me with a chromesque file browser. I was able to move down the file tree and view the pictures from my camera; but not play the .mov files my camera produces for video. A quick search for a quicktime extension did not reveal anything that described itself as my solution.
The idea that one can do anything online is nearly true. It’s an interesting return to the server/(thin)client model of days gone by. Many services include web-based versions of their clients, or are entirely web-based. Beyond the common, email, chat, and social media; we have managed screen sharing and photo editing. While I have not yet found how to use Windows Remote Desktop to connect to unattended computers, I expect similar things, like GoToMyPC to work.
It’s exciting to see the web advanced to the point that a device such as the Chromebook is practical. There are few things I cannot do with this that I currently do on my laptop, but many of my co-workers won’t need anything else. We can even imagine that a start-up company could equip themselves with a fleet of Chromebooks, and one PC, to meet the needs of all their staff.
I’m thinking about getting one for my mother.