If you've been reading my stuff for a while, you'd know that I was one of the thousands of early Chromebook adopters, being sent one of Google's Cr-48 laptops back in December of 2010. I've also used many of these devices since the unveiling of the official first model about two years ago at Google I/O. Since then, I've tried, tested, and used four different Chromebooks. It has taken me sometime to formulate a concrete opinion about the units, but I have since decided that these aren't just toys anymore: they're real, usable, and affordable for what they are capable of. Needless to say, Google has hit a home-run with the latest rendition of Chrome OS, and the current line up of Chromebooks satisfies almost every sector of the laptop buying market.
For the past three months I have been rocking Samsung's Model 3 Chromebook. It is perhaps the fastest, cheapest, and most versatile Chromebook I have ever used. As Chris Zeigler of The Verge put it a couple of months ago with his review of the device, "it's $1000 worth of design made with $100 worth of materials." This holds very true for the entire unit. While there are some tiny annoying creeks in the device, the unit looks and feels like a solid laptop that should cost a lot more than it does. The keyboard is also incredible. It has the same amazing feeling of a MacBook Pro keyboard, without the $1200 price tag. What's more, the unit, weighing in at a paltry 2.2 lbs, is extremely easy to tote around in a backpack or briefcase (or purse if you're of the female classification). Overall, the device is very solid.
At the end of the day, while I enjoy some good design and a device that is easy to bring with me, the thing that either makes or breaks a notebook computer is functionality? Can I get done what I need to get done without hassles on my laptop? Is it reasonable to use it as a main-device. For most people I'd say yes. You can get everything done without any problems, but for others, the Google model of computing can be an endless headache that results in a thrown Chromebook.
Here are some of the things I need to be able to do (or want to do) with my laptop that can make or break the experience:
- Access the Internet (the Chromebook is MADE to do this as a primary function)
- Be able to freely check my email whenever I need to (Gmail)
- Create and Edit documents with some word processor (Google Drive)
- Be able to constantly access and edit a calendar of events (Google Calendar)
- Able to do my homework (everything for MyMathLab is on the web, thankfully)
- Read news and collect RSS feeds to stay updated with the world (Feedly, my Google Reader replacement)
- Listen to and manage music collection (Google Play Music)
- Watch movies and TV shows on Netflix (Netflix for Chrome OS)
- Edit and manage my websites (Wordpress)
- Graph polynomial, rational, exponential, trigonometric functions (Desmos Graphing Calculator)
Recently, I purchased a more spec'd out Chromebook: the Acer C7 with 4 GB of RAM, 320 GB HDD, and 1.1 GHz Dual-Core Intel Celeron Processor. For my needs, and for everything I said I want to be able to do, this is more than enough power. And for the price I was able to snag it for ($219), it more than satisfies what I need. It is worth mentioning that you can still pick one of these up on Amazon and get free shipping on it if you use Amazon's Prime service.
Listen closely... are you listening? Good. Do yourself a favor, and try one of these suckers out for an extended period of time before you jump into anything crazy like, say, buying a Chromebook to replace your main laptop. I did it because I knew I was able to. Don't do it just because I told you to. It can be a scary thing making the big jump from a traditional desktop experience to a Chromebook. All the same, for the low price, high power, and versatility with web apps, you simply can't go wrong.