Merely two days after I apply to test drive a Chrome OS notebook, one arrives in the mail! It was packaged inside a very happy box.
The contents were minimal: One laptop, one battery, one charger, one single page instruction card and one business card from Intel.
The exterior of the laptop has been detailed by plenty of others, so I won’t get into that. gdgt.com already has a decent page on it.
But before I started to really use it I wanted to poke around inside. Looking over the external didn’t yield anything interesting: Just a few screws. Oh, and this?
To the right of the battery connector was a tiny black piece of tape-like material. Peeling it away revealed a small switch. For the sake of curiosity I flipped it.
Uh oh. Apparently the switch controls something memory related. (note that there’s no hard drive in the Cr-48, just flash memory).
I turned the computer off and turned the switch back, hopeful that I might not have totally destroyed Google’s gift. Thankfully, it seems to have a way to reset itself.
I had to re-enter my wireless password and login credentials, but otherwise the notebook was back to “new.” Not that there’s much of a difference – one of the things Google is trying to tout here is how easily one can change computers and still keep all of one’s “stuff” in order.
Despite taking out all the bottom (and behind-the-foot) screws the laptop would not come apart, at least with gentle amounts of pressure. I wasn’t keen on continuing further without first having a few days of experiencing the OS, so seeing the Atom Inside will have to wait.
On the actually-using-the-product side of things, I’ve really enjoyed it so far. The keyboard is unorthodox, but mostly suited to a browser-only experience. The F1-F12 are gone in favor of a set of laptop+browser specific keys. Unfortunately, the page-up/down keys are forgone in favor of ALT + Up/Down. Similarly, the delete key is hidden. I didn’t see any way to get home/end functionality, which unfortunately are necessary for any real writing in my common usage of computers.
I was surprised to see that Chrome OS is really nothing but Chrome. No file browser, no terminal (EDIT: Yes there is! Press CTRL+ALT+T for a very limited terminal), no desktop, just a web browser. For most users this is enough, since I suspect that the majority of computer users in the world use a web browser, a word processor, and a chat client or two, all of which can now have counterparts that exist in the browser. I think it would have great potential as a writing laptop were it not for the loss of the dedicated home/end/delete keys.
After using the Cr-48, it almost seems silly that netbooks attempt to be full computers. Google’s beta laptop instead seems to be what netbooks should have been from the start: a platform for all the thousands of browser apps, big and small, that make up the vast majority of common user’s tasks and games, without any of the complications or cruft of an entire operating system dragging its feet around.
ChromeOS is certainly no Windows/Ubuntu/OSX replacement, but with both WiFi and cellphone-network enabled internet as options, I think it will be a great little thing to bring around, from cafes to traveling. Certainly better than my powerhouse HP Envy, after all, since I’m not going to be playing much Starcraft 2 while drinking soup and coffee or touring Belgium.
Instead I’ll be reading email and the paper and reddit, or any number of things that I do on computers most of the time, all from a browser that just happens to be an operating system.