Chromebook Review Revisited
I have owned a Samsung Series 5 Chromebook since it was released, but I have never used it as my main computer. This all changed when the new Aura update was released. I decided to sell my $2,000 Thinkpad X201 with a Core i7 processor, 8gb of ram, and a 9 cell battery, and rather then purchasing a new computer, I have been using my $300 Chromebook for the last month. Is a Chromebook a viable alternative to a Windows or Mac laptop? Read on to find out!
All Chromebooks available today have similar form-factors. They are all relatively thin, light, and attractive. The Samsung Series 5 in particular is very sleek and well constructed. Compared to my X201, the Chromebook is much easier to carry around and feels much better in the hand. Supposedly in the future, Chromebooks will be more like Ultrabooks and Macbook Airs.
This is the big question: is ChromeOS as fast as Windows? The answer is yes and no. My Chromebook is able to run smoothly with over 20 tabs/windows open, but with around 30 tabs open, the machine begins to slow down. Flash runs well, even when watching a 720p youtube video and playing an online game at the same time. Webpage load times are fast and very comparable, if not better, than a Windows computer. Photoshop opens ve.... Oh wait, never mind. Because chromebooks don’t need much local storage space, OEMs (PC manufacturers) can create laptops with small but fast solid state drives, giving Chromebooks an edge over slow physical hard drive driven laptops.
One thing that sets Chromebooks apart from the crowd of cheap laptops is its boot time. The fact that Chromebooks are running a super thin client on a solid state drive, allows for around 8 second boot times. And that’s not all. The time to wake up from sleep is only 1 second! In comparison, even with a solid state drive, my x201 boots up in 30 second and wakes from sleep in about 20 seconds.
The app ecosystem in Chrome OS is very different from any other platform. Because Chrome OS is browser based, all apps are “in the browser”. You go to the Chrome web store which is much like the Apple App Store. One can download Angry Birds, Google Docs, Google Music, photo editing software, and pretty much anything else you could think of. The “issue” is that most of these apps are just bookmarks to web pages that do not work offline. My answer to this is, “who cares?”. With HTML5, the internet and browsers are powerful and fast enough to run full applications. There are many online photo editing software that works just as well as Photoshop. I am sure that if Adobe was inclined to, Photoshop could be ported to the web and therefore make it to Chromebooks. Though the web has yet to become the main platform for applications, it soon can.
The great thing about Chromebooks, is its simplicity. The fact that Chrome OS is just a browser makes the machine super easy to use. All you do is click on an App, much like in Android and iOS and it opens. Settings are easy to find thanks to the “search box” in the settings tab. And the “quick settings” on the bottom right corner of the taskbar is very utilitarian, allowing you to simply change the volume and brightness without obstructing your work. With the new “windowed” mode in Aura, I am able multitask with ease. The addition of the “window box” on the top right corner of the screen allows you to organize your windows easily, such as making them full screen or half screen (for multitasking).
So is a Chromebook a viable productivity machine? The answer is mostly yes. You are able to type documents, surf the web, work on spreadsheets, and even edit movies, all through the web apps. I found it to be an even more productive device than my windows laptop because there were less distractions. Though you can’t run photoshop (yet) or any intensive Windows application, the Chromebook can handle 99% of my productivity needs.
Now here is the “issue”: you need internet. For me, this is not an issue at all. Thanks to my school’s continuous wifi and my smartphone’s unlimited tethering, I have internet 24/7. I am so in the “cloud” that I have not a single file that is on a real hard drive. Everything is in Google Drive. This means that without internet, my desktop is just as useless as my Chromebook. This might not be the case for you though. Those without internet won’t find a Chromebook useful, but the internet is becoming more and more prominent in our society today and more and more people have internet all of the time. The “cloud” future is imminent.