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I was given a chromebook for a course I enrolled in at work. At first glance I loved it - it was extremely lightweight and felt like the perfect bridge between a laptop and a tablet.
However, the more I used it the more frustrated I became. Being a google product, everything installed onto the chromebook is google which I'm not familiar with and found difficult to use. For example, rather than using Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you have to use Google's own versions: Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations. These programs are clunky and complicated in comparison to the Office programs that I'm used to using.
Other problems I encountered were the lack of a print screen button and the inability to play flash. I googled solutions online but found they only worked some of the time - my chromebook is rather temperamental!
On a positive note the battery life is incredible and even after a year of use it lasts for hours. If you want a laptop simply to browse online then this product is great but it by no means replaced the traditional laptop, nor does it quite qualify as a tablet.
I'm not really a laptop kind of person at all. I like to sit at my desk for email, word processing, bookkeeping, blogging, website updates and (ahem) Facebook. And so on.
However, I was sent - free - a Samsung Chromebook as part of a survey. In return, I had to agree to fill in three online questionnaires over a period of six months.
The Chromebook arrived, looking slim and sleek (albeit perhaps a little plasticky with the clinical white outside) and my technically-minded son set it up in just a few minutes. It was quite intuitive, he told me. There were instructions which I could probably have followed myself, had I been so inclined. The computer quickly found the relevant wi-fi network and asked for the password; I had to log in using my Google username and password, and it was really very quick indeed.
There was a 'training' session in which I learned to use the touchpad. I don't like touchpads, but I had to get past this before I could do anything else. I managed eventually to get it to do what it was supposed to do, with a little help from my son. He even applauded when I finally completed all the tasks it set me. I still didn't like it, however, and promptly plugged in an external mouse for future use.
The Chromebook opened up directly into the Chrome browser which is what I use on my desktop computer anyway. When I clicked a few settings in the browser, I found that I could configure it to synchronise with my other computer, so that bookmarks and so on are the same in both. And, sure enough, it is very fast at finding websites. On it, I can do everything I normally expect to do online, including playing the Flash-based Scrabble on Facebook (very important). I can use my web-based email, and I can surf the web.
FAST BOOT-UP, EFFICIENT BATTERY
The boot-up time is excellent. In less than ten seconds after I open it, I'm online. Assuming there's a suitable wi-fi connection, anyway. I was a little worried when I opened it one day after not using it for a week or so, to be greeted by a black screen. Had it died already? Would I have to send it back...?
However, I don't totally lack technical expertise. After my momentary panic, a flash of intuition led me to the realisation that it had probably gone flat. So I plugged the battery charger in, and sure enough, within about half a minute my screen leapt into life and was usable. It takes a few hours to be fully charged - at least, when it's completely flat at the start - but the battery life is quite impressive. I haven't timed it exaclty, and have never used it for more than an hour or two at a time, but I can easily believe that it lasts for six to eight hours.
WEBCAM AND SPEAKERS
There's a small built-in webcam which is reasonable quality - not great, but fine for Google Video Chat or Google Hangouts. It doesn't have to be set up; it defaults to being available. There's no way to use Skype, as far as I can tell, but that's not unreasonable; I prefer Google Chat anyway.
The speakers are built in, and, again, reasonable but not great. There are simple + and - sound buttons (as well as other shortcut keys which I have not used) at the back of the keyboard, where one would normally expect to find function keys.
That's basically all there is to it. The Chromebook is a computer that runs Chrome. For everything online, it's fast and efficient. I like Chrome as a browser, and I like being able to open the Chromebook at any time to check something quickly online without having to switch on and boot up a desktop computer.
Google Drive - which has superceded Google Docs - is fine for basic typing, such as articles to publish on review sites like Ciao, or short stories to submit to magazines. It's useful to save webpages for future printing (recipes, for instance). And it's great for opening pdf files sent by friends. But it's not so good for more complex word processing such as creating newsletters.
No problem, I thought - I downloaded the free Zoho suite which looked, at first glance, somewhat like the Microsoft Office suite. There are lots of familiar word processing functions, and documents are stored online as with Google Docs. Unfortunately, there was a recent upgrade to Zoho, and since then it has not been very reliable.
So for any complex word processing, the Chromebook really isn't very useful.
The Chromebook does have a small hard drive. Small, that is, compared to today's typical hard drives. It's 16 gigabytes, which is twice the size of the old PC I used for many years. So I can transfer photos to this from my camera, as temporary storage while travelling, or download zip files to unzip (which can be done automatically). I could put music files there to listen to, or even documents exported from elsewhere. My memory stick plugs easily into one of the two USB ports (the mouse is usually in the other one) and it's easy enough to move files on and off as needed. Items in the hard drive can be accessed when not online.
When I first had my Chromebook, there was no way to edit anything while not online. This was my biggest problem with it, since I wanted to use it when travelling, but did not always have access to wifi. Google upgraded the Chrome operating system in 2012 to allow for offline editing of Google Drive documents - albeit somewhat limited so far. In my view, this instantly made the Chromebook a much more useful computer.
One problem, however, is that it's surprisingly difficult to edit PowerPoint displays. For one of the websites I maintain, I get sent a weekly bulletin produced in this format (don't ask why...). On my desktop computer I can open it, make one or two adjustments if necessary, then save as a .pdf file to upload to the site. It takes a few seconds. On my Chromebook, even with the latest upgrade of the Chrome operating system, I can open these presentations without difficulty... but when I try to edit them the formatting goes all over the place.
LACK OF OTHER OFFLINE APPLICATIONS
While there are thousands of applications available, mostly free, from the Chrome Web Store, I've found very few that are of any use to me. If I wanted to play games all day, I could find an almost infinite variety. I could get news feeds, educational applications, entertainment to suit any tastes. I could find accounting packages too... but unfortunately, I have not found anything as useful as the one I use offline which deals with multiple currencies easily.
SECURITY OF ONLINE DOCUMENTS
When a file is stored on a computer's hard drive, it's reasonably secure. Yes, there are backdoor trojans that allow hackers to gain access, but modern anti-virus and anti-spyware software protects most of us. And if we go offline (or switch the computer off) then we can be pretty sure that nobody else can read it.
But with the Chromebook, everything is stored 'in the cloud' (ie on the Internet). Google assure us that our documents can only be read by people we give access to, and in general, that does seem to be the case. But how can we be sure? Google must have ways of accessing everything, in theory. Most of the time it probably doesn't matter, but if someone has sensitive documents stored in the cloud, they could theoretically be found by hackers, or indeed by government agencies. Even if we delete something after transferring to a memory stick, there is no guarantee that the document is permanently gone from the cloud.
QUICK MENTION OF TECHNICALITIES
You can find technical specifications in many places (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0052JBIPK/ for instance) so I'm not going to copy them in here. What's relevant to me as a non-technical user is that the keyboard is just about full size, so easy to use; the screen is 12 inches in diagonal, so quite readable, and the weight is about two and a half kilograms.
And the cost? It's currently listed at a few pence under 300 pounds sterling at Amazon UK. Although less than the original price, I still think this is too much to pay for a glorified browser. Still, if you want a reliable online tool with plenty of applications and a good battery life, I guess it's better value than a tablet, though it's rather heavier...
Each of the surveys I was sent included the question: 'Do you use your Chromebook as your main computer?'
My answer each time was 'no', and in the comments I explained that this was not just because of it being a laptop. I could, after all, have set it on my desk, using my screen and keyboard, as well as my mouse. No, the problem with the Chromebook, from my perspective, is that I want my main computer to run offline applications, and that's not what the Chromebook is designed for.
So, while I was more than happy to have a Chromebook as a gift, I would not consider buying one unless its offline capabilities change fairly dramatically, or unless the price drops considerably more. I ended up passing it to my son, who installed Linux on it to work when he was on trains... he found that it didn't do all he wanted it for, so passed it to my other son, whose laptop had recently died. He finds it ideal for travelling - though he has kept Linux rather than the Chrome system - but I prefer to use my smaller, slower Netbook when I need something portable, since it let me install everything I wanted to use.
As a second computer for quick online referencing, or for tucking into hand luggage to take on holiday (so long as you'll have reliable wi-fi available) the Chromebook is great. But in my view, there are cheaper and more useful alternatives. I would rate this with three-and-a-half stars I could; but will give four since I didn't pay for it.
(Review originally published on Ciao)
The anti-reflective 12.1" LED display has a mirror effect and produces the sharpest images with 300 nlt brightness, which is up to 40% brighter than normal laptops. Get outstanding picture quality and text readability, even when you're outdoors. Enjoy the web longer without straining your eyes.
Chromebooks keep your applications, documents, favourites and settings safely in the cloud. That means you can login to a friend's Chomebook and access your profile without disturbing theirs. Or, if you lose or break your Chromebook you have nothing to worry about. Just get another and login, you will be back up and running in minutes like nothing happened.
Make the most of the web by using a keyboard that's designed for it. Your Chromebook comes equipped with a dedicated search key, a row of web-enabled keys, and a comfortable, full-size layout that doesn't cramp your fingers so you can get more done and make fewer errors.
|Product Description:||Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE500C21 - 12.1" - Atom N570 - Chrome OS - 2 GB RAM - 16 GB SSD|
|Operating System:||Chrome OS|
|Processor:||Intel Atom N570 / 1.66 GHz / 1 MB Cache|
|Memory:||2 GB DDR3|
|Storage:||16 GB SSD|
|Display:||12.1" LED backlight 1280 x 800 / WXGA|
|Graphics:||Intel GMA 3150|
|Security:||Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Security Chip|
|Dimensions (WxDxH):||29.4 cm x 22 cm x 2 cm|
|Environmental Standards:||ENERGY STAR Qualified , EPEAT Gold|
|Manufacturer Warranty:||1 year warranty|