Lifestyle

6 Months with a Chromebook: The Good and the Inconvenient

6 months ago on an uneventful weekend, I was looking for  a new computer. My old laptop had finally croaked and the Nexus 7 tablet was feeling tiny in my hands.

I was looking for something with a decent screen size, light weight and preferably with a keyboard. Tablets are great for flipping through news on Flipboard and watching YouTube but they are really lacking when it comes to typing things on them. I was looking for a lightweight cheap laptop which would satisfy my basic needs of typing and browsing.

Every electronic shop and megastore in Singapore seemed to push you to buy Windows 8. Firstly, I hate laptops with touchscreen which would just get covered by layers of oil from my finger and even now the Windows 8 interface does not manage to excite me. In one of those “Electronic Megastores” in Singapore, hiding quietly was something which looked like a smallish “Macbook Air” but running only the Chrome browser. Turned out it was the Samsung Chromebook running the much intriguing Chrome OS.

Chromebook Photo: Alex Washburn / Wired

Asking the non enthusiastic salesman did not help, as everyone in Singapore would know they mostly do not care about what they sell and will try to push for the most overpriced overrated product to earn a commission. Messing around with it, what struck me was how light weight it was (later I found out it weighed 1.1 kg almost the same as the Macbook Air 11 inch model) and the fact that it booted up as fast as a tablet, unlike those clunky Windows machines which just take forever.

At the end of the day, all I do with a laptop is mostly to browse the internet, write stuff on some of my blogs and maybe watch a few videos on Coursera and Lynda. For this purpose, the Chromebook was perfect. I told myself that worst case scenario it is a loss of S$449 and I end up with another discarded piece of electronics in my house.

Chrome OS
Chrome OS

Impressions

  • Although the Chromebook looks identical to the Macbook Air with its black chiclet keyboard, it feels a bit ordinary. The brushed metal of the Macbook has been replaced by metallic colored plastic molding. As long as it was light and I kept it away from sharp objects, it would be fine.
  • Having Chrome as the only thing on a computer felt weird. Everything else was running as a Chrome App like you have in any other computer. Evernote, YouTube, Gmail was all there.  Also they gave you 100 GB of space on Google Drive and it showed up as your local drive.
  • I was still loving the light weight and the incredible startup time. It did not come with the bloatware usual laptops come with that you spend the first few days uninstalling. The battery life was great giving me at least 5 hours per charge and I could not ask more for the price I paid.
  • The keyboard felt great and the touchpad recognized multi-fingered gestures. The Chromebook can also be used to be play MP4 videos as well.

The Inconvenient

  • The Chromebook ceases to exist without a Wifi, but this is not such a bad thing. I do not think there is hardly anyone around who is on a laptop which is not connected to the internet.
  • If I tried to play YouTube videos at resolutions of 720p or higher, the video became choppy specially if there were more than one video on different tabs.
  • The Chromebook was unreliable in connecting to my password protected WiFi router at my home. Usually it was a breeze but there were a few days the connection went on and off. Chrome does not enjoy the convenience like the Windows Control Panel to go and troubleshoot the problems.
  • Well, this is a computer with just the Chrome Browser, there is no MS Office unless you want to use Google docs and no VLC player to play mkv files.

6 Months Later, and I am still fond of it

I am still fond of it thanks to the light weight and decent battery life. It is worth every dollar of the S$ 449 and it is still fast as the first day I bought it thanks to the absence of manufacturer installed bloatware. The keyboard makes me choose it over a tablet anyday.

Guess what I just wrote this entire article on my Chromebook too.

Also read: Apple to increase app store prices, pressured by tough competition?

 

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