Google Acer Chromebook Review

At first glance I didn’t think much of the new Chromebook’s by Google. I, like many, went out and purchased a netbook years ago when they were all the rage. But hoping that Google had done as much with Chromebook, as much as they had with my beloved Android OS, I figured I’d give it a whirl. This is my impression.

The unboxing was just as familiar as any laptop I’ve opened (which has to be in the 1000′s by now) it was nothing too spectacular. The laptop itself was something different though, 11.6″ in screen size, thin, and light weight. It bore the Acer logo on top with Google’s “Chrome” logo in the top left corner. Much like the glowing “apple” on a Mac, everyone will know you’re using a Chromebook when its lid is up.

I plugged in the neat little power adapter, which now sports prongs right on the block, instead of cable coming out of both ends. This makes cable management easier, and makes it less likely you’ll lose the mickey mouse power plug and leave the charging block useless. Anyway, moving on! Pushing the power button was exciting, here I was anticipating a few minutes of “first time startup” followed by minutes of initial settings and “first time setup.” But much to my surprise in less than 8 seconds the unit was booted and asking for the WiFi network to attach to. There were maybe 3 setup screens, asking for my google account, and some other information. All in all it took about 2 minutes and the computer was ready for its first use.

After the initial setup I was in, the desktop was clean and clear of icons (which I struggle to maintain with a windows PC.) The layout is easy and familiar with your icons in the bottom left, and time/settings in the bottom right. The screen resolution is clear, crisp, and beautiful for a laptop that was only $250 before tax and shipping. Clicking around I was very surprised by the power this seemed to have for only having a Celeron processor and 2GB of ram. But then again, its only powering a web browser. That was more than enough to churn through any game I played, or any website I browsed. (Keep in mind every application is a web application)

As far as the applications go, I was able to find any app that met my needs. You have Google Drive – for storage, Google Docs – for an “office” replacement, Picasa – for Photos, Gmail – for email, and so on. Using the Chrome OS wasn’t unpleasant by any means, but it was reminiscent of browsing the web all day. The part that threw me for a loop was looking at the laptop settings. Even the settings are located in a Chrome Browser tab. Its odd changing hardware settings in a browser page.

The hardware is good, no… great for the price. The battery lasted a decent 4.5 hours with my “lite use test” and about 3.5 hours with some “intense use.” The touch pad was responsive but was a little awkward to click, having the “clicker” combine with touch pad space. Occasionally you’d move the mouse mid click but you do get used to it, and its easily remedied with a USB mouse. The laptop I purchased had a 320 GB hard drive. But for those of you who don’t know, the unit is based on “cloud computing.” Basically Google expects you to save all your information in the cloud, so an internet connection is almost always required. There should be a new Acer C7 being released with a 16gb SSD, but its currently in the works. The laptop never did get too hot, it did get warm, but nothing to worry about. The size is perfect for anybody on the go, light weight, and performed amazingly.

What about viruses you ask? Chrome has a special “boot” that detects any anomalies in the OS, and reverts back to the known good if detected. Google even recently offered Pi million dollars ($3.14m) to anybody that could “hack” Chrome OS. In a week, nobody walked away from the event with the money. Google put its money where its mouth is, and come to find out, its big mouth can keep on talkin’.

At the end of my time with the ChromeBook I left satisfied, but happy to return to Windows. The $250 laptop was impressive, but as an IT administrator I wasn’t fully able to do my job. The App’s available don’t particularly sway to the business crowd. I was able to find some tools, like Chrome RDP, that helped me quite a bit. But all in all this unit is geared towards students, kids, or internet crawlers. And at the price of just $250, you can’t really go wrong.

For those of you looking for a larger, higher performing, ChromeBook. Be sure to check out the ChromeBook Pixel. Its a larger format with 4 times the horsepower and rivals the build quality of Apple’s MacBook.

Mikel Reber
Perfect Computing, Inc