I am the new owner of a white Samsung Wi-Fi Chromebook. My old trusty Viao had finally died (it could not be moved lest it sulked for many months).
The Sony ran the latest Ubuntu with the funny GUI, because I was too lazy to change it to the ‘classic’ Gnome view and did not have a Mint disc to hand. I looked around for a replacement for my Sony but it was hopeless.
Apple MacBook Airs (£800+ !!!) cost twice the price of Windows 7-equipped notebooks, and I was blowed if I was going to pay Microsoft for their OS then install Linux and make sure it all worked myself.
This left me with a choice of an Android tablet with a bluetooth keyboard, or a Chromebook. I choose the latter partly out of curiosity, partly because I have a massive smartphone and partly to evaluate it as a possibility for my college students who typically have netbooks and laptops that either are infected, going slow or broken.
I had pretty much already migrated most of my work to the cloud, as we call it now, for the simple reason that I got fed up with losing my work through bad luck or incompetence. I was set to go.
The question for me was: ‘is it any good and is it the ideal student machine?’
The risk of failure was pretty high. As it says on my byline for this blog, I am an both an early adopter and sucker for duff technology... though in my defence I only bought one Sinclair and no Amstrad products.
My Chromebook cost £340 which is not cheap nor really expensive ( think Airbook ) but at this price it had better be good rather than just alright.
Post-charging I fired it up and it did its updates via my wireless router, took my photo and asked me to set a password; it was ready to go. The first thing I did then was to switch off, and yes, it took less than 8 secs to boot up including logon. You can turn it off and on like you do a light. That’s a nice feature, and I have demonstrated this to more people already than actually wanted to see it.
Struggle Number 1:
It really is hard to get over the lack of localism. I think this is especially hard for Linux and Android Linux users. We are used to getting loads of free apps and installing them on our laptops or phones.
Where are my apps! Get over it John, you just get a browser... anxiety attack, what about my photos on my camera? Insert SD, phew there they are! this thing auto-mounts and has an easy to use local file system you manage through ‘tools’ on the browser. I’m relaxing a bit now.
Struggle Number 2:
There are no buttons on my trackpad! It’s a bit like a cross between a normal pad and a resistive touch screen. I quickly got the drag and drop gesture, the right click two finger gesture and the two fingered scroll but struggled with moving the cursor until I realised that you have to be soooo gentle with the finger ( there’s a lesson in life there I think). I’m OK now and have got my tap gesture option working rather than pressing on the pad until it clicked ( didn’t like that it felt like it was breaking).
The screen is 12.5” and very bright if needs be. Samsung can make decent screens, ask millions of TV and smartphone users. Keypad is excellent and Mac-like. Battery life is awesome. I had forgotten that laptops even had batteries, let alone one that you could actually forget to charge for two days. It looks cool in white, and feels high quality.
Day 2 verdict:
I love it. I still have my Linux desktop at home with massive monitor for working with GIMP, but already I don’t miss my apps. This machine is quick and most importantly of all it is now just a commodity electrical good as computers should be: like a phone or a DVD player or a TV.
You don’t muck about with it, or go on training courses, fight off viruses or whatever; you just switch it on and use it.
For students? Emphatically yes. Leave the IT support to the server infrastructure and forget about staff and student laptops. For once the techs will be happy.
I really hope this concept catches on, there was a bit of the ‘shock of the new’ for me, but that has worn off already. If it cost just under the £300 mark I would guess that it would fly off the shelves.