Ovi's Blog on technology and the web

Chrome notebook and really working on the web

It’s been over a month since I got the Chrome notebook and I wanted to share my thoughts on it so far. Before I even get into it, I think I should mention that just the idea of a web-browser-only computer I was already sold on since the Chrome OS was announced and I’ve already begun preparing my own laptop for working primarily on the web since then. So when the Cr-48 came, in a way, I was completely ready for it! Now, on to the review.

Setup

The initial setup was painless, taking about 5 minutes. I open the laptop lid, the Google Chrome logo shows up and about 10 seconds later is a screen to sign in with my Google account and start the short setup process. As I started using it, about 15-20 minutes later in, I notic my preferences and bookmarks are synced from my desktop install of Chrome. So now I’m good to go, no further setup needed.

Web-app mindset

The next step I took was thinking about how I could replace some of my Windows-based apps with web equivalents. This is what I came up with:

  • Music – My last.fm account came in handy for listening to my library of music online
  • Documents – I finally decided to give Google Docs a shot and am really liking it so far even though I still need to get used to the idea of keeping ALL my documents online
  • FTP and code editor – Even though I still primarily use Dreamweaver on my Windows desktop, I did try out Kodingen in the Chrome Web Store which looks very promising although currently is somewhat buggy
  • Photo editing – in case I need do something quickly, Pixlr looks like it can do the job which I also found in the Chrome Web Store, I haven’t come across an opportunity to use it though
  • Additional tools - For dev testing websites I think Adobe Browser Lab is a good alternative to using the actual browsers themselves

Of course, for specialty apps that I use, like Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and After Effects, there are no alternatives to replace with. But even if there were, I wouldn’t want to use them on a 12-inch screen anyway. And video games also, but there are only a couple I’m currently playing on my PC, most of the time I’m playing them on the XBox.

Field testing

After I had it setup the way I wanted, it became my main computer for pretty much everything I did. While using it, a few things came to mind:

  • It works well as alternative to a home desktop machine where the desktop is the source machine and a Chrome laptop is secondary along with other mobile devices that serve their own specific purposes. It seems to becoming the trend already with primarily-reading devices like the iPad and Kindle.
  • Wireless is available pretty much everywhere now. All the places I went to, when I thought about using the laptop, I managed to find a wifi spot. The only issue I had is that it would sometimes disconnect where there appeared to be weaker hotspots.
  • Tabs work well fullscreen since it is a small screen, but when I eventually connected to my large monitor at home, I got the urge to have multiple windows pulled out which is what the desktop version of Chrome is great for.
  • I understand this is just a test unit, but the the two biggest issues I ran into were: the poor processing power which started get frustrating at times while trying to just watch a video; the instant on sometimes required reconnecting to the network which took a little bit of time.

Final Thoughts

I could see why Google’s taking its time and testing out the product before bringing it to market. Coming out with something by the end of this year would allow them not only to fine tune and fix issues, but the additional technologies it needs to work well can catch up to Google’s big picture idea. One would be Verizon’s 4G network which could be built in as the alternative to wifi. The other are more and better web apps that will be developed and eventually featured in the Chrome Web Store along with Google better-preparing their own web apps with more features to package with the final product.

What will probably be the ultimate selling points above other laptops would be speed and simplification. The instant-on works very well and Chrome is the fastest web-browser available, tie that in with good internet and it’s a winner. And simplifying the laptop makes a lot of sense: eliminating the annoying parts that come with a desktop OS, focusing on a clean, unobtrusive interface, and even cleaning up the keyboard layout. Cost may also be a factor as it seems like it could be considerably lower than other laptops since there’s no licensing fee for the OS and could potentially require less processing power.

Originally published January 26th, 2011