For the last hour I have been testing a Google Chromebook made by Samsung.
At $249 there is not so much you can complain about. It is a decent piece of hardware for a super low price. If the competition is say a MacBook Air for $1000, which is what the hardware resembles, the price is unbeatable. But is it a MacBook Air? That’s the problem. It is far from it. The Chromebook is a solution if you are both addicted to Google Products and are broke. Otherwise it is much better to get a MacBook Air, a Windows PC, an Ubuntu PC, an Android tablet or an iPad mini.
Now if you, like me, find glass keyboards only a temporary solution in your life, a price to pay for the lightness of an iPad or an Android tablet, but an inconvenient way to write a post like this one, then you need a real keyboard. And if you need a real keyboard until now your choices were a PC, a Mac, a Linux (Ubuntu) PC. As of this week you can add a Chromebook to the list, especially if you are on a budget. Because the Chromebook has a real keyboard, it’s simple, light and fast, it opens and shuts like a MacBook or better. But while the MacBook Air is a machine that can work in standalone mode and online, the Chromebook is practically useless when it’s not online. The Chromebook is all you can ever do with the Chrome browser in one PC. Plus a very limited set of functions that do not require you to be online. The Chromebook is a cloud based device where the cloud is Google.
On the bright side, as a cloud device, the Chromebook comes with a 100GB Google Drive which is like the biggest Dropbox you have ever encountered, and it does have an SD card reader that allows you to upload any type of files to your Google drive, most commonly pictures and videos to the cloud. Also it has an ARM processor which is the processor type that tablets and mobile devices use and different companies license from ARM. This processor consumes much less power and the Chromebook runs fanless and cold which is phenomenal if you’re fed up with how the Macs burn your legs after some time.
Conclusion, if you are already a fan of Google products and are on a budget go for it. Otherwise get an Intel based PC if you like Microsoft or a Mac, or reflash your Windows machine with Ubuntu. All those choices will give you many more functionalities that are unavailable in a Chromebook like for example, iTunes, photo editing programs, video editing programs, and so on.
Now the question is, why not build a Chromebook that runs Android? I would love that, to have access to the Android app eco system, to be able both to type and touch the screen. I would like to see exactly the same hardware with Android, maybe there’s a hack for that. I could not find it. What I did find is a hack to make Ubuntu run on a Chromebook. Will try that next.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars