back to article Review: The ultimate Chromebook challenge

Too slow, too expensive, too limited. That was the verdict of most hacks and punters on the early Google Chromebook laptops. Google has kept its shoulder to the wheel, though, and recently announced that 2000 schools are now using Chromebooks. Lenovo and HP have both recently jumped on the Chromebook bandwagon too, joining …

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Happy

Re: @jason 7

I thangyorrr!

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Re: @jason 7

Something pretty to log onto.

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Anonymous Coward

"the Samsung’s keyboard area has something of a MacBook look to it"

Well there's a surprise.

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Anonymous Coward

So they boot in 10 seconds and my iPad boots instantly. You would be better with a tablet with a keyboard cover if that's what you want.

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Just wondering

Does your iPad boot instantly, or does it return from sleep instantly? There is a difference.

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Anonymous Coward

Try switching your iPad off then booting.

You can close the Samsung Chromebook lid, and then when you open it, it will "boot" instantly. (Hint, like your iPad its not really booting just coming out of a standby mode - or just waking up the screen given stuff will be going on in the background).

Booting from cold takes about 6 secs and then a few more secs to login. Its soo quick to boot that I turn mine off rather than just close the lid.

For all the people who don't get Chromebooks, I suggest try using one for a while. As a second computer around the house, and for traveling its great. I had a tablet but found the lack of keyboard a real barrier to writing emails, or commenting on Reg forums.

And for all the folk wailing about its rubbish off line. Its really a Netbook. Clue is in the name. For me its an excellent cheap light second computer. I am waiting for the 14" HP Chromebook. This will be ideal for my parents who only ever use a browser on their current full fat OS computer.

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Re: Just wondering

Just rebooted my Mini 20 seconds, and the Minis are slow.

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The Netbook Market & Linux

In my experience, Linux users are hardly ever 'the target audience' we just get by tinkering 'possibly compatible devices' to work.

When I first put linux on my desktop, some parts didn't work (i.e. winmodem), this got sorted eventually.

When I first put linux on my new laptop, again there were some issues which eventually got sorted.

I guess we'll just have to continue tweaking to achieve the computing system we prefer.

The Samsung looks nicer and all, but I've had an Acer netbook since 2010 and I'm fairly happy with it. It didn't come with linux, but it wasn't a chore to install and everything works. The only thing I regret is no bluetooth, which would be handy

For me the netbook size and average price hit the 'sweet spot' and I hopeful that when my current finally dies the Chromebook may be an adequate replacement.

For some, bootup speed means an SSD, but if you want to work offline or have a decent selection of movies, an HDD is preferable, personally I go for capacity rather than speed, but a really nice solution would be an SSD for the os and an HDD for the data, but / and home are linux, and linux users make do.

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WTF?

Ah....oh dear....

Fancy a video chat? If you are using Google+ Hangout you’re in luck, it works brilliantly.

Unfortunately as a workaround that rather fails, as one of the key requirements for video chat is that you need someone on the other end as well.

I'm not a fan of Skype, but I'm forced to use it because every other bugger's got it. As most people are happily ensconced on FaceBum, getting 'em to sign up to Google+ en masse has got "impossible task" writ large upon it.

I'm still puzzled as to why anyone would want to buy a chromebook, given that a laptop which will happily work while not connected to Google and which will also work with all the Google services, if that floats your boat, can be had for around the same price.

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Go

Re: Ah....oh dear....

Well to be honest the Chromebook is for those that are just tired of -

"Fucking about!"

No need for AV.

Updates happen without you knowing it.

Take the Chromebook out of the box and within 10 seconds of switch on you are up and running.

If you mess it up you just reset it and log in again.

Hardly any settings to mess around with.

No need to learn CLI or other such dark arts.

Works just like Chrome..cos thats what you are used to.

No bizarre UI to get used to.

No worries about backups.

No need to call in the IT chappie/son to fix it.

Oh and it costs £200........

Lot of folks out there who are primed and ready for such an experience.

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Re: Ah....oh dear....

Whilst some of those are true, it's not entirely fair:

"No need for AV."

Neither on Linux, and Windows 8 has it built it (and if it's like Security Essentials, it never bothers you anyway - it was only the stuff like AVG that constantly pesters you).

"Take the Chromebook out of the box and within 10 seconds of switch on you are up and running."

It's quick as things go - though I note my Windows laptop boots quicker than my Android Galaxy Nexus. Most laptops are slow because of the terrible slow hard disks, not the OS - they do much better with SSD.

"If you mess it up you just reset it and log in again."

Most Windows laptops offer this, though personally I dislike it, I'd rather fix things without having to have the only option as "reset everything to default".

"Hardly any settings to mess around with."

I'm not sure I've ever had to mess around with a setting on any recent OS.

"No need to learn CLI or other such dark arts."

What is this, the 1980s? I've not *had* to on other OSs.

"No worries about backups."

So it does an offline backup automatically, does it?

Yes, it's true that storing on Google is more reliable than the average person's hard disk, but this is not a *back up*. And it's not clear to me that managing an offline backup of Google is easier than the backup solutions for other OSs?

"No need to call in the IT chappie/son to fix it."

The laptop is physically indestructable? Most of my parents' IT queries are about Internet/browser related stuff, which would still apply.

"Oh and it costs £200"

Yes they finally got the price right - it made no sense when they cost more than a similarly specced laptop even with the Windows licence fee. Though note there are other low cost laptops too (and not just netbooks).

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Happy

Re: Ah....oh dear....

Mark, think you've got a little bit of denial going on there.

Chromebook offers a simpler far less fussy experience than Windows, Apple or Linux.

I was quite anti the idea but once you try it for a few weeks you realise a lot of people are farting around out there with gear that is way too high maintenance for what they need.

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Re: Ah....oh dear....

There is a slight difference between "press reset, log back back in and have all your documents synced"

vs,

Run Windows reimage utility on a laptop, wait an hour, reboot a dozen times, find the drivers, run 37,000 windows updates, reinstall office, call India to get the key recognized because you already installed this copy, download and configure all the other bits of software you need for a useful Windows machine

Then copy all your docs from a backup

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Re: Ah....oh dear....

Tried to sell an Android tablet to my parents (had a spare N8010 around last year). All went fine until the questions came:

+ Does <Prefered game x> run on it

+ Cousin y has software z, Does it run on this. I would like to do some stuff with pictures...

+ Can I print from it (No you can not, the frelling thing does not recognize the printer setup we have)

We never got to the "juggle the adapters" part (That is Note specific - the CBs have straight USB at least). And the Android tablet at least can run without the Internet. My parents have a really fast connection speed: 384kb downstream. On a good day, when all the neighbours are at church. Don't ask about the upload... So stuff like Google print is a "forget it".

Add in that Google will most likely again only accept CreditCard for payment as the do in the play store. And CC is somewhat rare in Germany because on the continent the Maestro debit card system works as well and you get the card "for free".

So currently it is a well locked down Win7 with a limited user for the parents and that works fine. Couple with good (if used) hardware for Desktop and Notebook and a once per year maintenance (26th Dezember is maintenance day)

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Re: Ah....oh dear....

What does Android do that Windows can not? Outside a phone that is?

Let's compare a N8010 and an Ativ500 without dock. Both Samsung, both Penables, similar size/weight. 2GB, Flash-based storage, WLAN only (Tethering through my smartphone)

Since both are penables and I do not use touch when I can use a stylus a lot of the "Win7 software is not touch ready" arguments (That ARE correct) do not count for my use case.

Pro Note:

========

The Note is cheaper (around 200€)

The Note can use a smaller "SSD" (32 vs 64GB) for similar amounts of free storage

Contra Note:

==========

The Note can NOT print directly to my Printer (Samsung Print does not support it). It can do so with a CUPS based printer system and an app - sometimes. CUPSprint does not always work, hangs on occasions and needs a Unix (or Mac box).

PS touch vs. GIMP is like pitting a Roman Centurion against a BAOR Centurion

SNote vs. MS Journal - see above

Polaris vs. MS Office (or even OO/LO) is not really fair either

PDF reader/annotators on Win are a lot better as well. There is one Free one on Android that handles more than one open PDF at a time

Can not buy software on Google Play since it only accepts CC. I am living in civilized germany - no need for CCs here

Equal

=====

Access to my NAS

Access to the Internet

Endururance in my typical use

So what ARE the benefits of Android vs. Win8 on a TABLET(5)? On phones one might argue Android has more apps than WP7/WP8(1). Both are equally easy to program(2) and the chance of getting software I need for my hobby on Windows is at least equal (Web-based) or better (3). Google Apps work on FF / Chrome under Win just fine (4)

(1) Since I keep a smartphone for the Tethering only and use a tablet pc for the rest a minor argument for my use case

(2) Due to more experience Windows 7 compatible software is easier to write for me. Java and Swing

(3) Pen and Paper RPG character generators are often Win-only or JAVA-Swing apps.

(4) And the browsers are a bit more stable

(5) I do not care about "Open Source", "GNU", "Linux" etc. One rarely has the time to really look at other peoples code / fix it, many OOS software systems lack in usability (The good ones are typically done by a company / have a company as a main contributor so the main difference is price)

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Re: Ah....oh dear....

Windows licency fee for a typical OEM is 20€. Not much "extra" on the price. And that is before one accounts for the money the OEM gets for installing "demo versions" of tools like McAffee. The "Huge extra cost of Windows" has been de-bunked more than once. Even the 20€ are easily eaten by the costs of tailoring a distribution to the hardware or the other way round. So no matter how often the PinguBoys spread their lies - they remain lies!

And "Windows running hotter" and "needing more hardware" is another famous story. With about as much truth as Peter Ustinovs version of Nero or Kirk Douglas Spartakus(1). Out of the box Susie or xBuntu eat as much memory etc. as Win7 or 8 if given the same tasks and using ALL features of your unit(2). And OOB is what Joe Average uses. If we go to mobile devices it get's uglier since hibernation works a lot better on Windows. Linux gets 10-15 percent less endurance on mobiles.

(1) Those two at least where good movies

(2) Granted, running a modern graphics adapter in 2D only or VESA emulation WILL reduce power consumption. As will not using parts of the hardware at all and running in "shell mode".

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FAIL

Of course Samsung innovates...

look at that, its nothing like an Apple product.... oh, hang on...

Ignoring the blatant coping of designs in Korea, i think Google might bring Chrome to the party about 2 years and the iPad to late.

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Re: Of course Samsung innovates...

shiny aluminium and rounded corners aren't an Apple invention

In fact I think deHaviland should sue Apple for copying the comet

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Re: Of course Samsung innovates...

Strange. For something that is dead Netbooks, even with Linux, are readily available. NEW!

Amazon offers me a Acer Aspire One D270 for 199€. Order till 18:00 Berlin time and it will be here tomorrow.

Or if you prefer a better quality: Asus F201E-KX065DU with Ubuntu for 279€. Same terms

As an alternative I could go for a mini-notebook with AMD CPU from Lenovo

Lenovo IdeaPad S206 (With FreeDOS, 200€)

And so on. Quite a few "dead" units around. Without Windows.

So much for an other FUD from sector Eadon

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Pint

iPad?

I'm duty bound to point out that the Samsung Chromebook is £170 cheaper than an iPad.

If it was my money I'd buy a Samsung Chromebook and a 16GB Nexus 7 and spend the remaining tenner on beer.

But that's just me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: iPad?

I'd buy the Chromebook, forget the Nexus 7 and spend the remaining £170 on beer.

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Pint

Re: iPad?

I'd forget the Chromebook AND the Nexus 7 and spend it all on beer.

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Pint

I wish someone would do a chromebook capable of either logging in to either google or to a local server. The Mac Mini seems ideal as you can download the server addons from the app store. Then after you get your Mac server you could add macs for the rest of the family for a couple of hundred quid a pop. Thin client see.

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Anonymous Coward

Gonna be getting myself on of these.

Been curious about Chromebooks for a while, and slightly nervous about when it;s offline, it being as useful as Oscar Pistorius's Playstation..

However I have since has a tinker one one, and REALLY like it. it's light and fast, and uber-useful.

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Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

Did Oscar play his PS with his legs then?

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Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

The thing is I feel a lot of folks think that internet connectivity is still as it was in 2001.

How often in any one day are you away from some form of internet connectivity when you actually WANT to do something?

Its really not that often. I have the broadband at home. I have my 3G tethering on my phone. I have access to BT hotspots and most public places worth their salt have wi-fi available, even trains. The only place you might struggle is on a plane. But the google docs still work offline. It caches all your recent stuff.

But FFS folks there are some occasions you can just switch off. Trust me the world can go on without you for a few hours.

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Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

There are some parts of the world where the Internet is slow (below 1MBit downstream) and 3G has broad cells that are actually crowded AND slow. And we are not talking "middle of nowhere" but rather "wealthy suburb of a larger, industrialized city". Problem is back when fiber was layed there was little to no interest in it so there is none. And the industry is on the other side of the city - as is the telecomunications hub etc. So this part of the town is "end of line" for most stuff

Not too uncommon in germany. LTE is slowly coming but either not yet there or VERY costly and size-limited to low to be useful. The result is a self promoting loop. No broadband => No IT industrie (despite good traffic links and low prices) => IT workers settle somewhere else => Even less interest in broadband....

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Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

Well in my travels I find that connectivity is generally pretty good and not 2001 like at all.

I must say you don't really need 20Mbps connections to get by on a Chromebook. 1-2Mbps works fine.

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i've got the samsung

and it's great - come on - it is what it is..great for surfing whilst sat in front of the telly. chrome os needs some tweaks but you get 100Gb of google space and its cheaper than a macbook air or ipad - and i'm a long time mac user but their prices are a joke.

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...but the Acer has Caps Lock and Search keys

So in the Samsung picture... the big key where caps lock would normally be is what? Yes... that big key with the magnifying glass on it.... like the little key on the Acer that is used to search....

Do many people still use caps lock? It's a serious question because I can't even remember the last time I needed caps lock...

The search, ctrl and Alt keys can be remapped in the settings... so you could revert the search key to caps lock, even make the ctrl/alt keys swap or be search, or disable all keys.

I got my Chromebook because it was a cheap, light, silent and decent arm chip based laptop with driver support for linux, so never intended to use it as a Chromebook. I actually use it more than a tablet or my laptop, as a chromebook when on the sofa.

Of course the Acer will be easier to install Linux on, it's an intel chip, but there is little available with a recent Arm chip as a finished product that is simple to install Linux on, even less in laptop form.

As for all the people who haven't tried one saying it's pointless, try using one first. I never expected to use it as a Chromebook, but once I started using it became my main sofa device.

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Happy

Re: ...but the Acer has Caps Lock and Search keys

Must admit I hadn't noticed it didn't have a Caps Lock key.

So I guess it's not that important. Folks will be moaning about the missing Scroll Lock key and the fact you can't buy twin-tub washing machines any more next.

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So, when do we get a decent ARM-based linux laptop with a usable size screen?

Samsung chromebook could be close, but resolution isn't great, and neither is native linux support...

...suffered an Atom-based netbook for a while - oh joy...

Want a quad core 1.7 GHz ARM with 4G RAM and 1600x1080 screen please!

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Happy

Met all expectations

Samsung Series 3 joined a stable of PC/Mac/Android/iOS devices three weeks ago. To date very impressed. Fast on & completely silent.

Has handled almost everything flawlessly. Bluetooth Motorola Xoom K/B & mouse. Logitech wireless mouse. Read/Write to SD Cards & external hard drives via USB (FAT32 & NTSC). Dell 30" monitor via HDMI. Only failure has been a Samsung monitor with HDMI/DVI but displayed in low resolution.

Run Multiple Accounts. Zero updates & maintenance. Have yet to try some of the offline stuff for Gmail & Docs.

Will buy the original Chromebox at £249 next week to hang off the Dell monitor as main Web & Email device. Flip to PC as required.

As mentioned in previous posts, there are excellent Kindle eBooks on all of this from Tony Loton (C H Rome) & Michael Miller. Masses of web articles & Google's own sites. Not for everyone but worth a look & dirt cheap.

HP 14 Pavilion Chromebook looks interesting, apart from black fingerprint finish & large vent, presumably connected to a fan. Availability & price in UK to be determined. If ever.

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Anonymous Coward

I cannot believe....

That people are prepared to spend $200/$300 of their own money to purchase a tool that allows a creepy American corporation to spy on their every move. Do people have no sense of self worth anymore? Google should be paying users to use the bloody things.

In addition, the device in question does not even run most of the programs that people use on a daily basis

Finally, Chromebooks also ensure a complete and utter lock in to a single vendors services.

These things are a disaster!!

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Facepalm

Re: I cannot believe....

So you haven't actually used one then?

I have. It works!

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Mushroom

Re: I cannot believe....

I struggle to see what the difference is between letting Google look down your dress by using a Chromebook or letting Apple or Microsoft or Amazon do the same by using an iPad/iPhone or WP8/Windows RT device or Kindle Fire. Or Google again through your Android phone or tablet.

Anyone who buys a Chromebook is more than likely already using Google's cloud services or they wouldn't have bought one. If privacy from sneaky corporate types is a priority I'd suggest using pen and paper over any sort of connected gadget.

I'm not going to dignify the argument that Apple or Microsoft or Amazon are somehow more trustworthy than Google.

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Re: I cannot believe....

There you have it. Democracy & free speech in action. Very erudite.

Will probably change my real name to "self worthless".

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Coat

Re: I cannot believe....

Low cost, low maintenance, decent quality (new Samsung) web device. Had mine for a month and love it. Much prefered to my tablet for anything over and above basic web browsing, and for once I have a device with a trackpad that's a dawdle to use. Pretty much does what it says on the tin and I suspect will only get better given the Chrome update cycle and Google's clout in the apps dept.

If you think that any of the other vendors out there (Apple, Microsoft et al) do not exploit tracking data etc. to the max then you are either incredibly naive or in the pay of one of the others.

Pick your camp and take your chances, I'm pretty confident that my web activity, as no doubt is the vast majority of people's not worth the time and effort to spy on. go on face it, it's bloody mundane!

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Linux

OK, now how easy is it to wipe the Google cr@pola off?

and stick a sensible Linux on instead?

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Re: OK, now how easy is it to wipe the Google cr@pola off?

What you mean delete Linux and put Linux back on it?

Hmmmmmm?

On a side issue I find it funny that Linux could well get its time in the sun desktop wise through the Chromebook but it just wont be the vision of linux the fanbois always dreamed of.

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Alert

Re: OK, now how easy is it to wipe the Google cr@pola off?

Page 3, last couple of paras.

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I'd almost take the Acer

If only the keyboard wasn't so badly laid out. I'd have to swap the HDD for a SSD of course, but at least that's easy to do. The Samsung keyboard looks fine but for the ten billionth and second time I will not buy a netbook with no Ethernet socket!

My original HP Mini may be glacially slow but it still does the job for now and has taken a fair few knocks... the Ethernet port has happily returned to life after an accidental bath in glycol coolant so hopefully someone will have produced a usable replacement by the time it properly dies on me.

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Re: I'd almost take the Acer

Plugable's USB Ethernet Adapter at £18 works fine. No drivers to install. WiFi at 5GHz & 2.4 works great with better range than iPad 4 or iPad mini. Rock solid.

The perfect mobile device has yet to materialise.

For me, the Chrome OS concept is proven & works but horses for courses.

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Re: I'd almost take the Acer

Yeah, I know I could use a USB/Ethernet adapter - but as I've said before, the whole point of a netbook for me is that it's a fully fledged and fully functioning self-contained computer that's small and light enough to easily carry in one hand into some of the more awkward places that IT equipment (particularly networking gear) gets shoved - I definitely don't want to be clambering through some dodgy loft hatch with cables and adapters hanging out of my laptop and in any case the chances are it'd have got knocked off and lost in the boot of the car or crushed under a heavy server or something before then anyway.

For all the space they take up, and the truly negligible cost of the things, I'm just not going to buy a device that doesn't have one.

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