Should I buy a Chromebook? - Google's Chromebooks have arrived from Samsung and Acer
Why I choose a Chromebook
I recently purchase a Chromebook rather than a traditional laptop or tablet like the iPad. I'll tell you why I made that decision and my experiences with this new computing device after a bit of background.
What is a Chromebook
A Chromebook is an inexpensive computing device like a netbook designed for "simple" computing tasks such as browsing the web. Its not intended to run Windows or Apple software programs. In fact it doesn't run operating from either of those companies. Instead it runs a version of Linux called the ChromeOS.
While not intended to run "traditional" software like the Windows Office Suite or Adobe Photoshop, the Chromebook is optimalized to run the Chrome web browser and gives you quick and simple access to the web and all of the applications available on the web like email, Facebook, Itunes etc.
Because a Chromebook doesn't run a full blown and bloated operating system like Windows, it doesn't have all of the negatives associated with those OSs, like ridiculously long start up times or endless downloads of upgrades. It also bypasses all of the virus problems that those full blown operating systems have.
Rather than have every thing on the host computer, the Chromebook takes full advantage of the "cloud" or rather the applications exist on the web instead of in the device.
This means the actual Chromebook device is rather streamlined with a small solid-state hard drive (i.e. no moving parts to get damaged) and changes/updates happen at the source online instead of on the device.
Once you are fully in the cloud, the device is immaterial. You could lose it, have it stolen, drop it in the river, and your documents and everything are still safely accessible on the web. As long as you have a WiFi signal or if you get the 3G version, a 3G provider.
My New Chromebook
Samsung Chromebook review
One of the best selling points of the Chromebooks is their incredible boot up time. Lift the lid and the Chromebooks take only 10 seconds to book up, try that with a laptop. They also shut down when the lid is close without losing battery power. They also have long battery life up to eight hours so they are perfect for keeping on the coffee table. Want to look something up on the web? Lift the lid and in ten seconds your surfing the web. Done? Just close the lid and it shuts down.
What you don't have to buy with a Chromebook
- An office suite - use free Google Docs
- Security or virus software - its included
- A keyboard - no addition cost for a keyboard
- A contract - just use and existing WiFi connection
Is it a replacement to a laptop?
Chromebook is not intended to be a replacement to a full blown desktop or laptop. For example I am an exclusive photographer with Dreamstime and use my HP desktop to process photographs for my photography business. I run Abobe Photoshop and Abobe Lightroom 3 both which take an incredible amount of process power on my local computer. But 90% of the rest of my computing time is using a web browser.
Chromebooks handle that part of your computing - email, browsing, Facebook, YouTube etc. and for some light computer users, this might be 100% of the usage. For me its and additional computer that I don't have to both with long boot up times, constant updating and viruses. If I lose it or it crashes, nothing is lost.
Cool kid reviews latest tech
Currently two manufacturers offer Chromebooks. Acer and Samsung. The differences between the two companies devices really comes down to only screen size and looks.
Acer does have a user changeable battery while the Samsung battery is not user accessible.
Right out of the box my new Samsung Series 5 Chromebook took about ten minutes to get set up. Plugged it in, opened the lid and in 10 seconds it took me through the quick set up and update proceedure including connecting to a network and setting up my user account. When my son came home we figured out how to set him up with a separate account so he can do his homework on it. Most of his homework is via Google docs or the schools portal so this is perfect.
The control pad takes a bit getting used to if you are not used to this buttonless style. You push on the pad to click or use two fingers to left click. During the set up procedure, online instructions show you how and test your skill.
There is no manual with this device other than a quick start quide. So you'll either have to figure things out yourself or buy the guidebook. See below.
Printing from a Chromebook
Chromebooks are designed to be total mobile and do not come with a bunch of input or output ports other then a headphone/speaker jack, a memory card slot and a USB port. For printing its designed to use Googles Cloud print which is essentially accessing your printers via the Internet. This works for classic non-Internet enabled printers as well as WiFi ready printers like the ePrint line from HP. Set up was amazingly simple considering there are not device drivers to install. Setting up a classic printer like my Lexmark laser printer was simply a matter of enabling it through my desktop computer running the Chrome browser. Printing over the Internet from my sofa to my tethered laser printer connected to my desktop computer worked perfectly. The only downside was that the desktop computer has to be on. With my color ePrinter from HP I can send print jobs to a special email address of the printer. In this case only the printer needs to be on or it will print the next time its turned on. In either case set up was simple and quick.
Using a Chromebook Offline
Chromebooks are designed for online work but that doesn't mean its useless offline. There is 16 Gs of storage on the Chromebook themselves plus a memory card slot which is comparable to my Apple iTouch. Not having an active WiFi connection does limite the use of a Chromebook but there are apps for offline reading of your GoogleDocs, Gmail and Google Schedule. You just can't make changes to the documents or schedule events. All of its Chrome Web Store games (including Angry Birds) and many of its productivity add-ons work without an Internet connection. My son says why pay for games like Angry Birds anyway when you can play the online versions via the web. But if you want an offline version you'll pay.
Don't forget that memory card slot. Unlike an iTouch, the Chromebook's memory card slot give you additional storage options and Chromebook includes a file manager kind of like the one on Windows.
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