Google Chromebook: The Good, the Bad and the Beta
When Google first started giving away the Cr-48 in early December, lots of reviewers posted their first impressions after driving the Chromebook around the block a couple of times. We've taken the Chromebook out on a two-month test drive to see how it performs in real-world conditions.
Here are 9 things we like and 9 things we don't like about the Chrome OS-based netbook.
Don't like: No "CAPS lock" key (but you can turn it back on)
There was a minor controversy over Google not including a "CAPS lock" key on the Cr-48. In truth, they simply re-assigned it to work as a "search" key. But you can turn on CAPS lock functionality for this key by clicking the wrench icon in Chrome OS, choosing "Settings," "System" and then "Modifier keys...".
Like: The learning curve of Chrome OS is easy
There's actually no new operating system you have to learn in order to use the Cr-48. Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome Web browser. The only difference between the two is that the settings menu of Chrome OS includes adjustments for things specific to the Cr-48 hardware (like its Wi-Fi, 3G and touchpad).
Don't like: Once you sign in, you're committed (unless you reset the entire OS)
Like a puppy, a brand-new Cr-48 "bonds" to the first person who claims ownership of it. The computer requires that you sign in with a Google account (such as a Gmail account), and once that happens, your account is locked into the computer -- it cannot be changed or removed (at least easily -- it is possible, but you have to force the computer into "recovery mode" to reset everything from scratch).
Like: Near-instant on
The Cr-48 snaps back on from sleep mode instantly. Starting from being completely turned off, it loads into the user log-in screen in 10 seconds, and from there, after you've signed in, goes to Chrome OS in 7 seconds.
Don't like: Cannot play your media files
Essentially, the Cr-48 seems to be in the same league as a smartphone or tablet in terms of its processing power -- except you cannot play your own media files (music and video) on it.
There is a clue that Chrome OS (and the Cr-48) may have the ability to do so: type about:flags in the Chrome OS address bar, and you will see "Media Player" listed. But, despite enabling this, we couldn't figure how to get this to work (or, if the current version of Chrome OS even allows for this to function).
Like: Long battery life
On a full charge, we found that the Cr-48 ran up to 8 hours. Of course, this duration depends on how much you use the computer to view/listen to streaming video or audio, how long you have the Wi-Fi or 3G modem on, or whether you run whatever else on it that puts the computer's processor through its paces (in other words, doing almost anything on it that makes using any computer fun).
Still, if you use the Cr-48 to do offline, low-processing activities -- such as writing -- it is possible to squeeze out a work day's worth of juice from its battery.
Don't like: The touchpad is too wide
The sensitivity of the Cr-48's touchpad can be leveled down, but we found that the touchpad itself may be too wide for such a small notebook. You have to be careful not to rest your palms upon the Cr-48 while typing. Otherwise, your palms will probably make contact with the touchpad and send the cursor flying off to another part of the screen.