Monday, 9 September 2013

"It's Linux Jim, But Not As We Know It" - The Samsung Chromebook

If you have read this blog in the past you will see I have been a lucky Chromebook owner since Google dropped off a Cr-48 to me back in December 2010. Back then Chrome OS was relatively basic, but you got a hint of the potential with the only aspect really holding it back was the need to be connected to the cloud. Recent updates to Chrome OS ensures that it is still able to function as a workstation without an internet connection, thus increasing the appeal.

Samsung Chromebook in all its glory.

The Cr-48 still works fine, the battery life is still very good, in the 4-5 hour range, and every update just adds a little more functionality to it. The real issue with it is performance related as it can feel very slow and clumsy to use especially when accessing large documents via Google Drive, even accessing Gmail takes longer than you would expect. It had been my 'go-to' travel/commute/work laptop as long as I have had it and with the ability to tether to my phone meant I was never without an internet connection if I had a signal. However I needed something a bit more responsive and a new laptop was on the wishlist for going back to university this month.

Stay classy

I have been using daily for over a week now and have to admit that the Samsung is a much much better Chromebook than the Cr-48, especially in terms of responsiveness. In some respects it even outperforms my desktop, though I will not be playing Minecraft of TF2 anytime soon on the Chromebook. The machine is light, easy to carry around and thanks to the new Tuff-Luv case (the Personalised Ultra-Shell for 11.6" Ultra book)  it can safely get from A to B with little worry. The construction seems very good, certainly better than some much more expensive laptops I have owned in the past. The battery life is good for a days work, if you are tweak the screen brightness and keep the internet browsing to a minimum you can add a healthy amount of time unplugged.

The Tuff-Luv personalisation is better than my own

My only criticism is that from wake-up it can take the wifi some time to detect available networks, even when sitting next to the router. Once it detects the network it connects immediately, but for some reason it can spend what feels like an age searching for available networks. That is so far the only quibble I have with the Samsung and the boot up speed is ridiculous! Open the laptop lid and within seconds it is asking you to type in your password. If I need to pop online to check/reply to emails then I grab the Chromebook now. The keyboard is very nice to use, it is modified from your standard layout to optimise your experience with Chrome OS, but you can change individual button functions if you wish but so far I have left everything as standard.

Thanks to Google's sync process as soon as you login you will find yourself in your familiar Chrome setup. Very little feels foreign, except for how to open the apps. I still keep opening a new tab to open an app but in Chrome OS they are found via the bottom taskbar. Its a habit that I am finding hard to break as I move between Chrome on my Linux desktop and the Samsung, but in time hopefully that will change. I should also mention the noise, or lack of anyway. There is no fan whirring away in the background which can sound like a banshee piercing the night on some machines, except for the keys and touchpad clicks you would never hear a peep from this Chromebook.

Google Drive storage post-Chromebook

When I ordered from Amazon UK the retail price was £196 including free delivery to Ireland, that is already a very good argument to consider the Chromebook as a companion. This price also includes 100 GB of extra cloud storage for 2 years, which is worth $119.76 at current rates. So, if you have the standard 15 GB of Google storage now, then you will benefit from 115 GB once you get the Chromebook. Most of what I need to be able to do with the Chromebook is achieved via Google Drive, I am aware of various games, photo editing apps and video editing apps available in the Chrome Store but they are not apps I would need to rely on. I would hesitate to recommend the Chromebook to anyone who does rely on those apps and if there is anything you feel you could not do without then do a little homework and see if alternatives are available.

Overall I am very pleased with the purchase and looking forward to see how things work out. The real test will begin sooner rather than later as I start to rely on it to get work done and nothing decides whether or not it makes the grade then having to meet deadlines.

Peace.
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