Last week Google was kind enough to provide me a Chromebook. I had been eyeing one for some time, but I had no reason why I would need one. I have a laptop, smartphone and a tablet. So what would a Chromebook add? Well, now I know.
TL;DR: I kind of love the Chromebook!
Reasons are actually pretty obvious. It is a laptop but it is light, small, cool, quiet and has incredible battery life! Especially the last aspect is a main selling point for me. Also, I am a laptop guy. I need to Alt-Tab, Ctrl-T, CTRL-W and use ESC to feel productive and preferably on a physical keyboard. This is why a smartphone and tablet always feel like a second best thing to me. I use those when I can’t use my laptop. But my laptop is more heavy and I need to carry a power supply with me (mind you I’m talking about Dell and Lenovo, Macbook Air users probably have different mileage). With this Chromebook I only needed to plug in it once, in three days! So it felt like using a laptop but with smartphone battery life. Also the instant sleep on close and instant on function is something I really love.
There are enough USB ports, a SD card reader, HDMI output and a 3,5 inch jack.
Apart from that it is fast enough and I can do about 95% of everything I normally do on a laptop. Most things are done in the browser anyway. And there even is a ssh client, which makes it even better.
The less good
The trackpad is probably the worst part of this laptop Edit: actually after a week or so, and figuring out 2 and 3 finger mouse gestures, it is actually pretty amazing.
But, see above, I am a keyboard user. And the keyboard is OK, I do miss keyboard back-light though. And yes the screen could be a bit bigger, but that is always the case, for every laptop I have ever owned. It did crash on me once, but I might not be a typical user. I did have to google how to reboot it though.
Editing a document (in Office and not Google Docs), using GIMP, downloading torrents, or editing podcasts is not possible. There is a file browser but it doesn’t really allow for external programs to edit files. So it is very much a tool for consumption, less for creation. Unless, that is, of course, writing blog posts 😉
The worst part is probably that without Wi-Fi it becomes pretty much unusable. But what do you expect?
Note: I understand very well how Google tries to push the user and their data into using their ecosystem (mail, docs, storage etc.) but if you know what you’re doing it’s fine and you are not limited by it. The Chromebook is the culmination of everything Google is trying to do. From a browser (Chrome!), to Office in the cloud, to Google Music to Google Hangouts to Google Photos and more. The Chromebook ties it all together.
The first thing I googled when I got it, was how to put Linux on it. But that seemed not that trivial so I thought let’s give it a shot. And here is the thing, I have not used or even opened my real laptop since I got the Chromebook. This is huge. I get it now.
The Chromebook is an eye-opener for what I actually use/value/need from a computer.
For me that is a physical keyboard, a browser, a ssh client and a lot of battery life. This is probably the first computer I own where I don’t know the CPU or amount of RAM. So things change. And a Chromebook might be just the right kind of change.