Why I Preordered An Acer C720 Chromebook

A lot of people aren’t super into Chrome OS, but I personally think it’s a great operating system for netbooks. They’re light as hell on your resources and Chrome OS is arguably the most secure consumer operating system around.

So, why did I buy the Chromebook?

The Hardware

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The Chromebook has somedecent specs for the price (270 dollars after everything),

  • CPU: Haswell Celeron 2995U. 1.4GHz, dual-core, 2MB Cache
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3 (Soldered down…sorry kids. 4GB RAM should be enough for anybody)
  • Display: 11.6″ 1366×768 (16:9)
  • Disk: 16GB SSD (NGFF connector)

Now, this is not the most powerful device in the world. Intel really screwed up in my opinion when they left AVX and AES-IN instructions out of this CPU, but it’s still not weak at all. 4GB of RAM is definitely adequate for browsing and using many apps. A decent screen, and a SSD.

The hardware is really quite decent for a netbook, certainly for the price (comparable ACER notebooks are the same price). There’s also a really great battery life – 8.5 hours, and in my experience Chromebooks typically get as good or better battery life than advertised.

This is perfect for travel or going to my classes, which is 99% of the workload it’ll get.

The Software

Chrome OS is a really cool operating system. In my opinion, it’s the ideal operating system for a netbook. Whereas other operating systems will boot up taking 1GB of RAM, or more, just for the OS itself, ChromeOS (last I checked) boots with under 100MB usage. It’s a very stripped down and optimized Linux system, booting in just a few seconds. The hardware is completely dedicated to the operating system, so even though the specs aren’t very powerful, they’re not going to waste time on anything.

Chrome OS is easily the most secure operating system in terms of protecting the user from infection or exploitation. The Chrome sandbox on Linux is something I’ve written about in the past and I feel very confident in its security. As I’ve recently written about, Native Client apps, which allow for very low level and powerful programs to run on your Chromebook, are also placed into a sandbox.

On the topic of Native Client, I think it could be huge for Chromebooks. Right now many apps are glorified bookmarks – you click them, they take you to a site, and that’s it. Once Portable Native Client is released in Chrome 31 developers will have the tools to port projects that already exist over to ChromeOS with ease. LastPass has already started work on a Native Client binary plugin, and other projects can potentially be ported.

I’ll also be able to use my Chromebook to control other computers I own that run Chrome via the Chrome Remote Desktop plugin. That means that, should anything arise that my Chromebook can’t handle, I can simply control a system that I own that can handle the task.

The majority of the Chromebook usage is going to be Netflix, Google Docs, and Cloud 9 IDE, but I think I’ll have a lot of fun with it. I may at some point turn on Dev mode and start hacking at the low level stuff, but for the most part I just want a low maintenance system that I can take around with me.

 

Formally Introducing Chromebox – ChromeOS For The Desktop

Chromebox is the new desktop system by Google and Samsung that comes packaged with ChromeOS.

Let’s Talk About ChromeOS First

ChromeOS has been a widely misunderstood Operating System that’s been trivialized as a “toy” OS. I have to disagree – while ChromeOS may feel limiting its goals are admirable: provide a fast and secure device for users to browse the web on. And I must say it truly accomplishes that – even on my CR48 sporting a single core ATOM CPU I manage to do quite a bit with ChromeOS.

Is ChromeOS for the developer who custom compiles his own kernel and needs to boot into Windows to play games and yada yada yada? No, definitely not. ChromeOS is designed and targeted for specific users who simply want to get online. And the fact is that’s most of us. 90% of what I do is done in the browser and a very large chunk of the remaining 10% could easily be moved to the browser if I were motivated to do so.

So ChromeOS is definitely not the OS for everyone but before you dismiss it take a look at some “average user” you know and think about their usage habits. How limiting would ChromeOS really be for them?

Still, it remains to be seen whether or not ChromeOS is truly ready for mainstream adoption. This latest revision was a large overhaul, it’s hard to predict the future.

Chromebox – The Specs

  • Intel® Core™ 2 Celeron B840 processor
  • 16GB Solid State Drive
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Built-in dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • 6 USB 2.0 ports
  • 2x DisplayPort++ Output (compatible with HDMI, DVI, VGA)
  • DVI-I single link output (compatible with VGA)
  • Bluetooth 3.0™ compatible
  • Kensington™ key lock compatible

It’s no monster by any means. You won’t be playing Crysis on this thing. But 4GB of RAM, a SSD, and a pretty nice dual core CPU is more than enough for browsing. I mean, seriously, 4GB of RAM is actually a ton considering. And that dual core will handle 720p Flash very well, hell it’ll even play 1080p video. ChromeOS is also one of the few Linux based operating systems that is supported by Netflix and the hardware looks absolutely fine for that.

Chromebox – The Look

The hardware is small. It feels very HTPC to me. Sleek and minimalist – very in keeping with ChromeOS.

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The new ChromeOS 19 UI is a far stretch from the previous UI. It’s far more conventional and, of course, that means it’s more comfortable for your home user. The new ChromeOS UI contains a taskbar, launcher, and the ability to detach and move tabs/ windows.

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So What Can I Do With This Thing?

ChromeOS has come a long way. It’s got a built in media player, offline Docs editing, offline Gmail, and, of course, access to all of Google’s cloud-based services such as Google Music.

Anything you can do in Chrome you can do in ChromeOS. And that’s a surprising amount.

So What Can’t I Do With This Thing?

The Chromebox comes with a mere 16GB HDD. This isn’t a storage device, you’re not going to keep your thousand photos and videos on it. But, that’s not really the idea. The idea is to keep your data online via Google Drive and the Chromebox simply acts as a conduit to those services. Maybe that’s not your thing.

Is ChromeOS For Me?

Honestly, there is no single operating system for every user. But if you find yourself spending all of your time in the browser and you’re looking for a system that’s going to get you online instantly in a secure manner, yeah, I’d say you should go pick up a Chromebox.

And Then There’s Price

The Chromebox lands at $329.99 from Amazon. A quick search on Amazon for “desktop” between 300-350 shows me computers with similar specs (but includes other hardware) for virtually the same price. This is nice to see, one of the largest complains for the Chromebooks was that the price was too high.

A lot of people feel that they’re getting a “lesser” OS, that it’s less capable and therefor worth less money. I disagree. As of ChromeOS 19 I think it is very easy to call it a fully featured operating system.

The price seems fair but I’m inexperienced as I’ve never purchased a desktop. Perhaps a bit high as it doesn’t come with peripherals.

Conclusion

It only seems right to wrap this up. I think Chromebox is pretty cool and I know a few people that could definitely benefit from a secure system like it.

What Google needs to focus on is getting Docs up to speed so that it’s a real competitor to Word. Getting NativeClient to be more mainstream would be a huge boon to ChromeOS as well. And I, personally, would love to see a proper (free) Cloud IDE that would allow remote storage through Google Drive or Dropbox.

I predict Chromebox will not do too well. It’ll see a quick spurt of people buying it up but, unfortunately, there isn’t enough appreciation for the niche product nor is there the willingness to even try to adapt.

Chromebooks Just Got A Big Update

I happen to have one of the Google CR-48’s that Google gave out. It’s running ChromeOS Beta channel and it’s pretty great (except it’s falling apart.) I’m personally a fan of ChromeOS as a lightweight and secure OS that just serves to get you on the web. It’s not a full desktop OS that I can program on (my biggest issue) and the hardware is pretty slow (single core ATOM kill me) but the principal is great.

Today we see a big update. The new (Aura?) UI has just moved to the OS and I think it’s a direct reaction to users feeling “locked” into the browser. The new UI has actual movable Windows and a more classic desktop.Image

I think that this more traditional desktop environment will make transitioning to ChromeOS a lot easier for some users.

Personally, I didn’t mind it before. My CR48 is too weak for a ton of windows anyways. We’ll see if this new UI is what ChromeOS needs to start being treated like a “real” OS. Hopefully I get to try this new UI out soon but I think CR48’s haven’t gotten the update yet.

Sources:

https://support.google.com/chromeos/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2586116