Some time ago, I got a Chromebook. For specifics it was the new Chromebook from Samsung with an ARM processor, the very same in the Nexus 10. So, basically what I have here is a laptop that, for $249, browses the web. Is there more to this laptop, and Chromebooks in general? Read on to see if they really are a viable option for a laptop and if Chrome OS is a platform worth using.
Let's Talk About Hardware
When we talk about Chromebooks there are a number of configurations that are out there but, 2012 has been the year that the laptops hit some incredible pricing and finally hit prices that made sense for a laptop like this.
With the Samsung Chromebook – as Google are calling it – comes with 2GB of RAM, an Exynos 5250 ARM processor and an 11.6" screen. For connectivity there's a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port. There's no ethernet although a USB to Ethernet adaptor is supported.
Am I Crazy?
For someone to buy a laptop for even $249 that does little more than browse the web sounds like they are in fact, a little insane. When you dive a little deeper into what a Chromebook can offer though, you soon find out that the ChromeOS platform could well be all you ever need or want in a laptop. In my daily use the Chromebook fits in just perfectly. I'm a little bit of a strange case when it comes to laptops in that, I really hate them. Never have I gotten on with a laptop and I'm not a cheapskate when it comes to computing either, I've probably spent more than is healthy on my gaming rig and my peripherals – I have a keyboard that costs more than an everyday smartphone. So, you'd think, why don't I just buy a decent, high-end laptop? It's a good question but, when you think that all I would be doing on it is running Chrome and watching the odd video on it, it'd ultimately be a waste of money.
With a $249 Chromebook I get all I could want in a laptop – including a very nice keyboard, I might add – and I'm rarely left wanting more. Sure, I'd like the Samsung Chromebook to be built a little better but I have no more complaints to make about this than I would an "ultrabook" made from a heap of creaky plastic.
What's It Like Living in Google's World?
As a writer for an Android site you'd expect me to be pretty "in there" when it comes to Google services. You'd be right and I'm active on Google+, use GMail for both work and play and for as long as it's been available I've had Chrome sync turned on. I've long used the service between my Desktops and whatever Laptop I was currently hating on. Google Docs has been a pretty big thing for me, granted, my use case is small as all I want to do is type, using little formatting and only a handful of fonts but, to be able to access my work anywhere I want – without having to ever worry about hitting "Save" is just amazing. Studying English at school meant I had a lot of writing to do and I was terrible at saving, sending and all of that so, Dropbox fit my needs but it was still a hassle to set up. With Drive and Docs there's virtually nothing else I need to do to make sure my files are saved – anywhere I want them to be.
But ChromeOS is Just a Web Browser…Right?
Well, yes and no. ChromeOS is basically a browser but thanks to the improvements of the user interface that came in the "Aura" update earlier in the year it feels a lot easier – and more pleasant – to use. The dock at the bottom of the OS displays apps and extensions you install can be loaded as such from the app menu as well but, in practice this doesn't work too well.
For the most part, ChromeOS is definitely a nice place to work and play. I use it pretty much exclusively at the office and have yet to run into a snag because I was on a Chromebook. Of course, there are a couple of things that I would like changing about ChromeOS but the rate of development on the platform is already very fast and it's not a Beta product like some are still suggesting. It's a very real platform that will fit around you and not the other way round.
Could I Use a Chromebook?
Yes. If you're the type of person that spends a lot of time on the web and/or practically live in Google's world then there is no reason why you can't get on with ChromeOS. On the face of it, it's just a browser but if you take a step back and really think of just how much you do online that statement becomes pretty moot. There are a lot of apps out there that do pretty much all you could need in a web browser these days but, more to the point, Chromebooks aren't out there to replace your main machine. Perhaps not yet.
For a second PC, you could do a whole lot worse than a Chromebook. The interface is familiar, the keyboards are really quite comfortable and when you consider what you're getting for the price, it's a great deal.
I'm really interested to see what you all think about ChromeOS – I'm no expert on the platform but I have been using it for some time now and Chrome itself for even longer. I'll be happy to answer ChromeOS and Chromebook related questions in the comments!