The Chromebook has arrived. Google’s answer to the PC has actually been around for a few years now, but both the low price and functionality- coupled with the dismal launch and reception of Windows 7 and 8, and lack of enthusiasm for Microsoft’s tablet, Surface – of the sleek computers are real variables to make even diehard MS Windows fans take notice. There are Acer Chromebooks, Dell and HP models and ones from Asus, but the Samsung XE303C12 seemed the best for my budget and requirements.
Size & Weight
Per Google requirements, Chromebooks must adhere to a strict size and weight requirement, so no matter which Chromebook you buy, you’ll be getting an ultra thin and lightweight machine. The Samsung Chromebook weighs under 2.5lbs and is only about 0.8 inches thick. It’s kind of like holding and using a slightly bigger iPad or Android tablet. You can use a Chromebook on any standard portable notebook stand or holder, yet you still can comfortably – for a time anyway – balance it in one hand. And talk about a true laptop. Since it’s so light, you can keep it tucked in your lap for extended periods of time, and since it runs so cool – no noisy fan needed – you have a greatly reduced risk for burns or overheating.
If you wanted a computer without a real keyboard, you’d probably stick with an Android Tablet or iPad. Users who can’t live without a full sized and fully functional keyboard need a design that can keep up with their frantic hunt and peck or blazing touch typing skills.
I’ve found the Samsung Chromebook keyboard to not only be more than sufficient for my touch typing needs, but the responsiveness of the keys and the fat, chicklet like layout really pleasantly surprised me. Upon seeing the machine in person, I was struck by the different style of the keyboard, and a bit concerned. “Can I really type well on that?”, I thought. After the first few keystrokes of testing it, my worries faded away. The full size accommodates large hands and fingers – mine are certainly not small – and the keys bounce back with a springy feel which make typing a joy.
Speed & Power
Samsung Chromebook XE303C12 is fast. It has a dual core processor and webpages load lighting fast. I haven’t seen much of a lag or delay at all. Also, as Google claims, the more you use the unit, the more it seems to learn or customize to your use. The Chrome OS means no more annoying updates or restarting ala Microsoft Windows. Indeed, the machine still needs updating, but it’s pretty invisible, and restarting is only needed eventually – not the on demand kind Windows users are subjected to.
Whole New World Without Windows
The basic concept of a Chromebook is a PC to utilize the cloud to store our important data – specifically Google’s legendary cloud computing. Like it or not, Google and its still dominant search engine virtually is the world wide web. So storing our precious data in their massive cloud seems pretty logical, if not still a little weird. Giving over family photos, videos or personal documents to a private company may still put many off, yet we’ve all been engaging in a version of this for decades – web based email. With Hotmail, Yahoo and then Gmail from Google, people have been passing their personal stuff back and forth in private emails – essentially cloud based storage – for a good while now. There is 16gb of local storage and you can use USB flash drives, external hard drives and SDHC memory of varying capacities, so you don’t have to restrict storage to the cloud.
The interface is more like Android or an iPad. You don’t have a Start button or a real desktop where you can store files and utilize icons. I kind of missed that initially, but you adjust. You can ‘pin’ icons on the toolbar, so you have a shortcut kind of bookmark experience. Also, don’t expect to use Microsoft programs like Office, Word, Excel, Powerpoint or Access. Supposedly, there are limited translations of these for some Chrome versions, but the standard flavor out of the box won’t necessarily support it. You will have access to loads of great – and FREE – applications through the Google Chrome Web Store. Here you’ll find scores of games, news, productivity apps, education and business tools. Like any new system, there’s a learning curve, but the Chrome OS is so well structured and designed, you should find yourself picking it up in short order.
For about $250 bucks, you can find the Samsung Chromebook at retail stores like Best Buy or online at Amazon – where it’s becoming one of the best selling notebook computers. The lack of Windows compatibility may put off some, but if you’re like me, you have your Windows horror stories and the more I use other operating systems like Chrome or Android, I find myself puzzling over just how I struggled along with the chronic bugginess of Windows for so many years.