A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I'd taken possession of my very first Chromebook – the Asus C300, reviewed here – and how I was going as close to "all in" as possible for a time to really get a feel for it. After a couple of weeks immersed in Chrome OS I'm not afraid to say how surprised the experience has left me.
Surprised in a good way. Even though I spend most of every day using Google Chrome browser on OS X to write posts for Mobile Nations, there's always the safety net of the collection of native apps that I've built up over the years to take care of specific tasks. But with just a Chromebook in hand I'm honestly amazed at just how much you can actually get done. For most people, most of the time, these little laptops are all the computer they'll ever need.
This isn't going to be a review of the Chromebook I'm using, nor is it any kind of review on Chrome OS. We've been there. But I will start with the things I don't like, and then end on a high note! The biggest gripe I have right now is the hardware. I completely understand you have to make sacrifices on the hardware front to get the price point some of these machines are hitting. But it's still tough to adjust to if you've used a high end Windows PC or Mac.
For me, it comes mainly down to the screen and the RAM. The display on this Asus just isn't that nice to look at, there's no other way of saying it. It makes editing photos more difficult just because it looks washed out and it's pretty low-res. I'm looking forward to trying out the Toshiba Chromebook 2 in particular with a 1080p IPS display.
Having used this Chromebook with 2GB of RAM I'm absolutely convinced that we need more selection with 4GB in. Chrome browser on my MacBook Pro can still bring things grinding to a halt with a ton of tabs open, especially if one of those tabs is streaming music, and that has more beefed up internal hardware. It happens, but it happens too early and too often. The battery life however, that isn't anything to gripe about. 2 days of use and still not done, I'll take that. I would also like more options for on-board storage. I'm not connected all the time and when the internal storage is less than some of the SD cards I'm shooting pictures with on my camera, it's limiting.
I am sold on Chrome OS, though. It's been a learning curve – and will continue to be going forward – but on the whole there were Chrome apps available that would do at least a half-decent job compared to what I'm used to using on Mac. Pixlr is a great, and free, photo editor that did what I needed it to do. I still prefer Photoshop, and I couldn't be happier when Adobe announced its Creative Cloud plans for Chrome OS. I can't get it yet, but as a Creative Cloud subscriber I will be as soon as I can get my hands on it. Remote Desktop back to my Mac works well, but I'm not s big fan of remote desktop, period. That's just me.
The most impressive thing is that aside from needing to edit a few videos – and really, a Chromebook is not the machine for that – I've not really been desperately missing anything from my Mac. We use Slack and Trello to organize and communicate and I use OneNote, and, since all are web based, all are there on a Chromebook. I've found a great little plain text editor called Writebox that I've been using in place of Byword on OS X to write offline without distraction. Likewise with StackEdit, a nifty Markdown app.
I'm not going to list every single Chrome app I've been trying out, but work hasn't been an issue, video editing aside. And I'll admit to being more than a little pleasantly surprised that you can offline Google Play Movies & TV content on a Chromebook. That sure came in handy on a recent trip, but some more internal storage would be nice. And since my music is in Plex or Deezer anyway, getting at that isn't an issue. Oh, and how good is the new Pocket Casts web beta?! If you didn't sign up to try it yet, definitely do.
I could be here for hours, but ultimately I've come out of this with a distinct fondness for Chrome OS. The OS is so much more than I imagined it could be and it's quite enlightening to see how much we do, and can do with the web. I'm definitely going to be looking at checking out that Toshiba Chromebook 2 when it eventually hits the UK sometime early next year. I'm not getting rid of my Mac, not at all, but I'll be taking a Chromebook out with me a lot of the time now. Microsoft in particular should be worried. I can't see any one glaring reason you'd buy a cheap Windows laptop anymore.
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