This weekend I’m testing a Chromebook. Google claims it’s faster, provides a better secure web experience, and is more efficient than using a traditional desktop or laptop for accessing the internet. I don’t have the thing long enough to determine whether security is an issue, so I can only speak to its usefulness as a tool to access the internet. And I’ll add the disclaimer that I had to use this in guest mode, so that I have not been able to try all features.
First, as a laptop I’d give it a low grade. The screen doesn’t pivot far enough, so that when literally sitting atop my lap I found I had to bend my knees to get the best viewing angle – not exactly comfortable. However, this isn’t an issue limited to this particular machine; my husband’s old HP had the same problem.
The weight is also an issue, as it’s quite heavy given its dimensions; ounce for ounce, this thing is WEIGHTY. The battery is relatively like an anchor. The up-side is that the battery life is impressive; I’ve used it sporadically for 1-1/2 days and have made barely a dent. If Acer and Samsung can accommodate a lighter battery this would take care of the first problem I mentioned above.
The keyboard is nontraditional. When I tried to set on caps-lock for the ‘weighty’ above, my habit is to hit the key above SHIFT – but it turns out to be a new-browser-tab key. Likewise, I still haven’t located DELETE and END; in contrast, the BACKSPACE key is in the right spot. I’ll have to mess around a bit more to get accustomed to the keyboard. Nevertheless, the keyboard is wonderfully responsive so I can type at my normal pace without skipping a letter – this is definitely better than my old Acer which made me look like I could not type a complete sentence.
My dog wanted some attention while I was surfing and pawed at me – hitting the OFF button. This proved to me that the OFF button is just a little too easy to hit accidentally.
I found the touchpad annoying and the select click difficult and sometimes unresponsive at first, until I realized that I ought to click low on the pad. It took little more than minutes to experiment and play with the scroll feature (two fingers dragged on the pad) and the cursor positioning (same as usual; a finger on the pad). For people who don’t want to fuss with a touchpad, there’s a USB port which can accommodate a mouse. But I’m not crazy about touchpads (never used them on my Acer and Dell laptops without uttering expletives), and I have yet to become frustrated and switch to the mouse.
Ah – just found the END key!
As for the core experience, I first had some trouble getting a wifi connection. I can see this would be an annoyance to the types of users who would be interested in the Chromebook, because my home network didn’t even show up on the list of available networks until I refreshed. Even my husband’s crummy HP was configured off the shelf to refresh the list immediately. After I refreshed and my network appeared, I was easily able to connect.
I’m not familiar with Chrome, but had little difficulty figuring out what to do – it seems intuitive to me, though I’d be interested in hearing feedback about others’ experiences on this point. The responsiveness to requests was acceptable, the search very simple to use, and multiple tabs on par with Firefox and easier than IE.
Over all, my Chromebook experience is positive. It does what it claims: surf the web without a lot of bells and whistles to distract and annoy.