Why, you might ask, is a review of the Samsung Chromebook on my bike blog. I needed some way to update my blog, as well as provide informtion to several other sites tracking my trip. The Chromebook is lightweight, last a long time on one battery charge, and will interface with the internet. As a reference, my Chromebook is a non-3G model manufactured in Feb. 2013.
The Samsung Google Chromebook is not a laptop or desktop PC. If you are looking for a new PC then
look somewhere else. The Chromebook is primarily a duplicate of the Chrome browser window that you use on your PC. It has limited internal memory capabilities (16gb + SH card port), no options for downloading software, and no CD/DVD drive. It can perform some Google processes offline: gmail, docs, sheets, and slides to name a few.
Chromebook runs on the Google Chrome operating system which is not the same thing as the Google Android operating system used on cell phones and tablets. As a result, there are applications that will run on Android that will not run on the Chromebook. Also, the Chromebook does not have a touch screen.
When considering a Chromebook you should ask yourself: how much of what you do on your PC comes from internal programs. The next question is: can internet programs be used instead of the internal programs. For example:
- Do you have WiFi instead of a cable internet connection?
- Can Google Docs/Sheets/Slides be substituted for Microsoft Word/Exel/PowerPoint?
- Can Google Hangout be used instead of Skype?
- Can Pixlr Editor be used instead of Photoshop?
- Can Mint.com replace Quicken?
- Can Drive or Skydrive take the place of internal data storage?
- Do you have a wireless printer that works with Cloud Print?
- The supplied power cord has a very (read really) small pin that plugs into the Chromebook. The pin just plain looks like it and/or the Chromebook could be easily damage. Also, as a proprietary pin size, a replacement could be difficult to find.
- The keypad has good tactile feel, individual keys seem to be the same size as my full size PC, and there is adequate support under the keys when typing with a heavy hand.
- There are no ‘F’ keys along the top, no ‘Home or End’ cursor position keys, no ‘Delete’ key, and no ‘Caps Lock’ key (see note below on Caps Lock). To delete information the cursor must be put at the end of the text and then ‘Backspaced’ away or the texted hilited and the ‘Backspace’ key pressed. In contrast, there is a ‘Search’ key, ‘Forward & Backward’ browser keys, and ‘Refresh’ key.
- The touchpad seems to work very well, and there is a crisp tactile feedback when pressing down to complete an action. Note: pressing one finger down equates to the left mouse button, pressing two fingers down equates to the right mouse button, and stroking the touchpad with 2 fingers equates to rolling the mouse wheel up or down. In my case I don’t particularly enjoy using touchpads so I am using a Logitech wireless mouse with a nano USB2.0 connection. The mouse synced and began working as soon as the USB2.0 receiver was plugged in and the mouse turned on.
- The unit appears to pick up my wireless modem signal very well; I carried the Chromebook outside the house, on the other side of the garage, about 100 feet about from the modem and still had a very good WiFi signal. I am using a Linksys Wireless N Gigabit router.
- I fully charged the battery, then put the unit away; the battery showed 80% capacity after 3 days.
- From a full shutdown condition the unit was up and running, including adding the password, in 18.5 seconds. If the cover was closed the unit restarted in 5.4 seconds after the cover was opened.
- My unit, with charger, weighs 3.01 pounds, and a rough ‘home’ test showed the battery lasting just over 6 hours while doing browsing and updating internet files. At the five hour mark the bottom of the unit was barely warm.
- Opening the closed unit is not necessarily easy. The case is ‘slick’, and the narrow opening slot makes it difficult to get a good grip. Granted, this is a minor thing, but make sure to have good control over the unit so it is not dropped. Perhaps a 1” lip on the right of the bottom and a 1” lip on the left of the top instead of a lip completely across the slot would have simplified things.
- There is one USB2.0 & one USB3.0 port; the USB3.0 port is backwards compatible to USB2.0. I have tried various 2.0 and 3.0 devices in each port and all seem to function properly.
- I haven’t tried the HDMI slot, and according to posted information the USIM slot is non functional since my unit is not a 3G model.
- I found the overall appearance to be nice and clean looking. Sure, the exterior is made from silver colored plastic which will probably wear and scratch with use, but overall I felt it was substantial enough for my use. Again, keep in mind that this is a $250 internet browser tool, not a $1,500 PC or high end netbook.
Thoughts When Using:
- When I initially set the Chromebook up for WiFi I was asked to input my router access password. The unit always asks for a router access password whenever it is powered back up. If the lid is closed while the unit is on no password is required when the lid is opened up.
- Chromebook has certain Apps (Google Chrome, Gmail, Google Search, YouTube, and a Tic-Tac-Toe App box) featured on the bottom left of the screen when first started up. You can ‘right click’ on any App and ‘pin’ it or ‘unpin’ to the bar. Any App not ‘pinned’ to the bar must be accessed through the App box. The good news is you can arrange the Apps in the App box by clicking and moving them from screen to screen or within an individual screen.
- The bottom right side of the screen features the time, WiFi signal strength, and battery capacity. Clicking in this area brings up additional status items. If you need a ‘Caps Lock’ key go into ‘settings/keyboard settings’ and change ‘Search’ to ‘Caps Lock’.
- I was able to read a 64GB SHXC SanDisk memory card and a 16GB SanDisk USB3.0 flash drive without any problems. Chromebook will save information on the card/drive if the program/App you are using has a ‘Save’ feature.
- Chromebook reads fairly large .mp4 video file and .mp3 music files from memory cards/3.0 drives very quickly and calls up the appropriate player automatically.
- Files can be moved from the internal storage to the memory card or flash drive using ‘Drag & Drop’ or ‘Copy & Paste’. Files moved from memory cards/3.0 drives to Chromebook go pretty quickly; files moved to memory cards/3.0 drives from Chromebook can be somewhat slow.
- All information saved to the card/drive was readable from a USB2.0 port on my PC. The SHXC card sticks out the side of the case about ⅜” so some care is required when handling/storing the Chromebook.
- The processor speed is more than acceptable for my purposes, and I have had 3-4 browser windows open at one time with all appearing to work just fine. YouTube seems to function well and so does Google ‘My Music’ & ‘My Movie’ Players. The speakers work well and have adequate volume and sound quality; a earphone plug in is available for privacy. Keep in mind, this is a $250 browsing machine, not a $1,500 PC with a professional audio system.
- All but one browser based program/application that I typically use works on the Chromebook (including Netflix after the most recent update). The one app that I do miss is called ‘Safe In Cloud’ but am able to use my Android phone as a substitute. According to reports, a lot of the Android apps available through Google Play are not available on the Chromebook. In general, I have managed to find replacement apps that will work.
I have only had my Chromebook for two weeks so I have very little information regarding long term product reliability. I use the Chromebook daily for browsing, updating blogs & Facebook, working/altering various websites, and keeping my financial information up to date. In the past few weeks I have not used my laptop PC at all, and I have now put it away. I do have a desktop PC for doing the heavy lifting, but even that PC has not been used much lately.
My wife has begun using my Chromebook because of its size/weight and portability and now wants one of her own. I may end up purchasing a second one so I can have mine back.
Update 2/16/2014: My Chromebook has held up very well, and a year has gone by. Matter of fact, it has worked so well that my wife now has one of her own. We probably use our Chromebook 70-80% of the time. We do have a desktop PC for any heavy work, but more and more of our ‘stuff’ is done on the internet with cloud storage.
On the 68 day bicycle trip across the US & Canada the Chromebook did everything I had hope for and more. It appears to be reliable, I was able to log onto the internet frequently enough during the trip to provide blog updates, I was able to edit pictures for posting, and the battery would last several days depending on my usage.
I am currently planning an 11 week bicycle trip this summer (Montana – Alaska), and my Chromebook is definitely on the ‘items to take’ list.