Chromebook succeeds if you like Google
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Friday, January 04, 2013
1/04/13 at 4:33 AM
Google loves to try wacky experiments. You may have heard of some of its higher-profile projects, such as the self-driving car and the ultra-high-speed Internet for those lucky ducks in Kansas City.
Then there's Google's more down-to-earth experiments. Well, relatively speaking. From the description alone, the Chromebook is almost mad-scientist territory - a laptop computer that only runs an Internet browser.
I've spent a week with the Samsung version of the device, and while it's certainly quirky it's not as ridiculous as you might expect.
For starters, it's a sleek device. Samsung's Chromebook doesn't even weigh a full 2 1/2 pounds, and it's remarkably thin. The build quality feels reasonably sturdy, too, so you won't be sacrificing anything on the physical side.
At first glance the software seems like Windows, with frequently used icons on the bottom and overlapping panes over a customizable background. But other than the occasional file folder, all of these windows are the Chrome browser.
Obviously, Chrome runs just fine on a Chromebook. Websites pop up quickly and scroll smoothly. Nothing ever taxed the system, although that could be due in part to the stripped-down operating system.
The Chromebook doesn't just plop you on the Internet and call it a day. Beyond a surprisingly helpful tutorial during setup, the device comes loaded with Google Maps, Google +, the word processing service Google Docs, the cloud storage service Google Drive, music, movies and books through Google Play, and more.
You might notice a theme running through that list. Yes, you can do a number of interesting things with the Chromebook thanks to Google's services, but you have to be happy working within Google's ecosystem. I think the services are fine, but people looking for different or more complex choices will be out of luck.
You can also download Chrome apps, but the selection doesn't come close to those on iOS or Android.
What can you do offline? Not much. You can save and edit documents you've stored on the device or play movies and music, but Google Play defaults to streaming and you'll have to plan ahead to download them.
Even many of the apps don't like to work offline; "Angry Birds" has only a small set of levels here.
But the $250 price tag makes many of these restrictions much easier to live with. Most tablets and laptops in that dollar range are spectacularly awful; the Chromebook is much more usable by comparison.
The Chromebook won't replace your main computer. In fact, it's probably best to think of it as a tablet with a keyboard attached. If you don't mind the quirks and working with Google Inc., it's not a bad media consumption device.
$250 for Wi-Fi-only, $330 for 3G
Pros: Easy to use, light, sturdy,
Cons: Limited offline use, few
apps, not as functional as traditional
Original Print Headline: It's half laptop, half Internet browser
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
CHRISTOPHER SMITH/Tulsa World