Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Google Cr-48 Laptop. A Review...

Yep, I am one of the lucky ones.

On Thursday of last week I came home to a package on my front steps. Not expecting anything (and not noticing and weird markings or wires) I immediately opened the box to find a brand new Google Chrome Cr-48 Laptop.

For those that don't know the Cr-48 is Google's first lap that runs the ChromeOS. Before now ChromeOS only lived on machines internal to Google and to rough versions found on the Internet. But this was the first devices built exclusively for the ChromeOS.

First, what is ChromeOS?

The big deal with ChromeOS is that it is basically a browser OS. Using it, you have to forget everything you know about how Windows, Mac, Linux or anything else because this is different. Everything takes place in the browser. There is no minimizing to a desktop or programs to install.

Here is a short video about how ChromeOS and the laptop work.

I live in Google so this was an easy process for me. I have been using the device exclusively (except at work where I can't) the entire time I have had it. There are some definite pros and some pretty big cons. Here are my impressions so far.

Probably, no not probably, definitely the easiest machine to set up. Since I live in Google and use Chrome all the time, across many machines, I am already used to the fact that no matter what I do on one machine (install an extension, make a favorite, change a look) it is all synced to all my other machines automatically. Booting up this machine was like setting up sync just as I have done many times before. I booted (which took about 2 seconds) and was asked to sign in with my Google Account. I did, took my picture, connected to my home wireless and all within the span of about 2 minutes my machine was ready to use. All my extensions, customizations, apps, everything was already there waiting for me. No mess, no fuss. If someone else (say my wife, who also uses Chrome on her regular machine) signs in, the same would be true for her. There is also a guest account which gives the user the Incognito feature which saves nothing they do, which can come in handy. But this system makes it so anyone can sign on to any machine and have access to all their stuff, no matter what machine it is. That is huge...

Portability. The design is basic. The machine itself is light and the keys are of a good size. There are no buttons for the trackpad (which took some getting used to) and there is an integrated webcam. I traveled this past weekend and used the device and it was handy. Not a netbook and not a laptop either. It is just different. There is also the 3G built in from Verizon which is nice (but with a 3G iPad I also carry with me everywhere, I don't see myself using this feature just yet.)

Fast, Fast Fast. When you close the lid the machine automatically goes to sleep. When you open the lid it takes about 1 second for it to wake up and for you to get going again. Boot up takes just seconds, type your password and you are in. No more waiting for the OS to load or anything silly. And since everything is in the cloud and the OS is easy to update it should stay fresh for the life of the machine, which I predict will be a very long time. 

It is still a little weird. Yep. Still weird. It takes some getting used to. If you download anything it can be a challenge to locate it but a quick scan of the help file told me the keyboard shortcut. I had a problem using a USB flash drive and there does not appear to be a way to get the files there. I would like to see the option to save to my GDocs, perhaps that is coming. There are no file browsers so it just takes some getting used to to figure out how it all works.

Buggy. It is still so new there are some bugs. And I expected that. My biggest issue right now is if I install apps or make any changes on any of my other machines, when I go to my Cr-48 things are synced right up. But, if I make any changes on my Cr-48 they aren't making it out and syncing to my other machines. I am sure this is just a bug and will be fixed but, come on. The syncing is what makes this machine rock. I would think it would work out of the gate.

Apps? Most of the apps in the Chrome Web Store aren't apps. They are bookmarks. Thats a bummer. I wish many of these sites would create new stuff like they do for other devices that use apps. The apps that are actually apps are really, really buggy, like more than normal. The Tweetdeck app, for example has a very long way to go. It works but I miss many of the features I find in the desktop version.And some sites for that matter don't even work at all like Netflix (but that is the fault of Netflix, not the device.).

Slow, Slow, Slow. Don't think you are going to play WoW or do any heavy video editing on this machine. The Atom processor is nice but it is slow. Takes a while to do things. There is slight keyboard lag which gets annoying for a fast typer but I have gotten used to it. Even connected to a very fast network at home it still takes time for the pages to process and load. I am a little bummed about this stuff but in terms of an Internet computer it works just fine.

3 Things For Google To Figure Out:
What am I gonna do with my iTunes? I would go exclusively to a Cloud machine but with over 50gb of music and video that is gonna be tough. I hope Apple and Google can figure things out and make the 2 talk to each other. Not a deal breaker for me. Just something that is much needed.

Speed? If Google is gonna sell this as is, it really should be faster. Faster processor and faster browsing times are a must. But again, this is just the first the line of this type of machine. I have no doubt it will get better.

Apps. Again, the Web Store is brand new. Still lots to figure out there but, apps are supposed to be applications not bookmarks. Lets get some really cool things in there, and fast.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I know I am lucky to have one of these machines. I want to think this like getting my hands on an original Apple (but that might be over thinking it.) I have been looking forward to ChromeOS for while and I think this device has lots of potential. No matter what machine you go to, you would have all your stuff, period. Easy from an administrative end and from the end user. And I truly believe these could turn in to disposable computers.(I really could see these being sold in convenience stores like some cell phones are now.) Because there really isn't anything to the hardware and because anyone can use any machine the costs could come way, way down and this might help access issues and fit into ever tightening school budgets.

Will I be able to give up all my Windows based machines just yet? Nope. But the Cr-48 Laptop is well on it's way to being a good replacement...eventually.
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