ChromeBook Review: Ready for PrimeTime (if primetime is Saturday at 3AM)

So I got a production ChromeBook on Jun7.  I havent had a ton of time to play with it but I saw reviews popping out today so I do want to let peeps know about the goods and bads of this new class of ‘network computer’ that releases Jun15.  A reminder that I do work for Microsoft so you can expect bias below.  That said, I’m also  computer scientist from the days of old with a fetish for hardware (and have an  entire house full to prove it), so I know of what I speak – at least sometimes.

The Goods:

* Great keyboard – really one of the best.  Nice travel distance, great spacing, nice large keys.

* Good screen – not great, but good.  Matte, good brightness.

* Solid construction – nice port doors.  Very little flex.  Good metal casing.  Feels pretty good in hand.

* Wicked fast resume and start.  Seriously.

* Good, large trackpad.  Multitouch.  No two-finger back swipe, tho (seriously?  even my Sony PC has this!) for a machine that purports to be "web first".

The Bads:

* OOBE: Out of the box, wouldn’t turn on.  Plugged it in and kicked her up and the battery reported 65%  charge.  Strange. 




Finally got booted, hopped on my open network, and BANG – ChromeOS update that took nearly 7 minutes to download and then ‘reboot’.  What the hell are you updating?


* Samsung carried over the shitty Series 9 WiFi connectivity.  Two bars in my kitchen (where every other machine gets 4-5).

* Once OOBE is done, you’re presented with a Chrome browser and two tabs.  First, the promo page for Samsung ChromeBook (thanks, already bought it, so this isn’t really helping me) and second, a trackpad instruction tab.  Nice, except the fourth step in the trackpad instruction tab isn’t possible to finish.  So you just X it out.  Weird experience and good luck Mom!


* Underpowered unit: I’ve always experienced Chrome on a PC and it’s fast.  On this little device, not so much.  Watch the video below – on a page load, look at it jitters in scrolling all the way down.

The lagtime is chronic when surfing around the web (both 3G and WiFi).  Which wouldn’t be a huge deal except…

* The whole damn machine is predicated on the web being the OS.  When its slow, its maddening.  It makes me realize how much I enjoy compiled apps (not all of them, mind you – i’m looking at you Adobe Reader and your insufferable installation process, including your cryptic and long "optimizing system" task.  WTF.)  Switching into Skype or another browser is fast on a PC or Mac – on this thing, well, no Skype at all so forget that.  But wanting to “launch” a word or ppt simply takes too long when you’re relying solely on the network. 

*3G signup.  Yes, you get 100MB for free.  Great, so I can work for about an hour in the cloud until I burn up my allotment.  But before you even get to do that, you get to go signup for free service.  Which then gets in a loop (see below).  Nice.



* 16GB of local storage.  Yes I know its de rigeur to go all cloudy and shit, but sometimes I JUST WANT TO SAVE A GODDAMNED 10MB PRESENTATION LOCALLY so I don’t have to rely on shitty connectivity to get my job done.  (oh, and no caps lock is on the device,so you can’t yell)

Overall it feels much less polished than I expected.  Seriously its like the biggest innovation here (besides getting people to pay for it) is POSTing into a browser.  But that’s not really all that interesting.  It’s like an engineering student went a little overboard and stripped out as much functionality as possible (File Systems are SO OVER!) because they could, not because they should.

What amazes me most is the number of reviews I’ve seen today that overlook the fatal flaws: like it’s$500, no real offline capability, shitty performance, etc.  People are actually saying “it’s not that bad” – my favorite quote:

“On the other, it would be short-sighted to knock a Chromebook solely because the OS is a work in progress…”

Uh, no it wouldn’t.  What world are we in again?  Oh right – the one where Google announces the desktop OS dead in favor of a networked computer that uses the browser as the OS.   It is precisely because they’ve made this an OS play that we can absolutely dismiss this thing because of its shitty OS.


19 thoughts on “ChromeBook Review: Ready for PrimeTime (if primetime is Saturday at 3AM)

    • totally agree tom…regardless of this review chromebook didn’t impress me much, especially when I saw the pricing. almost like the first time I got suckered on a netbook with linux on it.

  1. I was lucky to get in on the beta and test ChromeOS. It has improved tremendously but there is still work to be done.

    I have to agree that the hardware is lacking, if I have too many tabs open(10+) then ChromeOS will just crash on me. I also removed all extension as they would take up resources just running in the background.

    While there is no dedicated caps lock key, you are able to have one by going through the settings.
    Settings -> System -> Modifier Keys

  2. >> BANG – ChromeOS update that took nearly 7 minutes to download and then ‘reboot’. What the hell are you updating?

    Sorry, since you work for MS, you need to take that one back. Sure, for a while now Windows updates have ‘claimed’ not to take over the computer — but it wasn’t usable while the big ones were going on. God forbid you bought a computer that was lacking a service pack.

    I enjoyed the post, though.

  3. The link at the bottom to view the normal site doesn’t work. Please fix it so that we iPad users don’t have to be subjected to that garbage Onswpe theme.

  4. I still don’t see what niche Chromebooks are filling. Grandparents? Computer illiterate parents? If I were to give my parents/grandparents a computer, it would probably be either some specially prepared Linux I could keep updated and sane without too much work or some Macbook if I had faith in them learning to use more things.



    • Its a neat technical experiment and I would cast less hate on it if a) its was half the price, and b) Google didnt actually pitch it as a replacement for a real PC or Mac. It isnt, and people who buy it thinking as such will go backwards about 10 years in computing experience.

  5. Pingback: Samsung Chromebook | dotcoma

  6. You could have left out the entire article and just shown the photo of the power button right above the backspace key. Who the hell designed that? Not gonna be any problems there when you accidentally hit it, no siree.

  7. Actually, you can save projects to the device, and you can have a capslock key if you really REALLY want one. My wife and I have been beta testing two Chromebooks since February 2011. The connection can be shitty at times though.

  8. Joli OS is looking pretty good these days, can be installed on many books (INCLUDING ONES WITH CAPSLOCK), and is web oriented but allows the occasional native app and local storage.

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