Having been on the fence about Chrome OS for quite some time, I finally took a plunge and got a Samsung Chromebook. I chose Samsung based on several criteria. The laptop has to be lightweight and has enough power to do my work online. The work activities include reading and writing email, taking notes using Evernote and drafting blog entries either on Evernote or directly on WordPress. Last but not least, this notebook has to have a low-price. This last point is very important due to my plan to have it stand-by in my car, so I can use it everywhere I go and if it’s stolen or damaged. I won’t cry too much over it. A good price point of laptops under $300 or lower would be best.
After some searching, the only way I could get the best bang for the buck based on the criteria I have would be to get a Google Chrome OS notebook instead of a Windows notebook.
Here’s a quick comparison of several Chromebooks with similar price points from Amazon.com:
The major specs of all these four notebooks are very similar, the only obvious difference is the price and weight. I definitely did not want any notebook more than 3 pounds and that automatically eliminate the last two from the list. So between Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch) and Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6-Inch, 2GB) or Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6-Inch, 2GB & 32GB SSD) (not shown in the comparison table) it was a pretty tough choice to make.
I went with Samsung based on the weight, form factor, and customers’ rating. I don’t think you can go wrong with either choice though. These may be the two (or three) best chromebooks in its price range.
As expected, the unit is very light. At 2.38 pounds (1.08 kg), it’s the same weight as an 11-inch MacBook Air. Yet it doesn’t feel it’s cheaply built so it’s very convenient to carry around. In fact, my typical usage would be I set a personal hotspot from my cell phone, then connect the Chromebook to it and I’m good to go.
The size is also very compact. Here’s a quick size comparison with a 13-inch MacBook Pro 2013.
With only 10 seconds to boot up, Chrome OS boot time is lightning fast. Most of the time you probably would use sleep mode anyway so it’s instant “on” when you open your laptop.
As far as application is concerned, many of the Chromebook apps are available as a Chrome Extensions, so whatever you may need, if they’re not installed by default just search for it on the Chrome Web Store. There are quite a few very good applications found on the Chrome store are available for free.
When fully charged, the battery can last a little more than 6 hours, but I found that this is a bit exaggerated. The reality is going to be much less depending on how you use your laptop.
The feel of the keyboard when you type is nice although it’s a bit on the lighter side. However, compared to other notebooks in its price range (including Windows based notebooks), this one beats the competition.
What’s Not to Like
Keyboard shortcut is counter-intuitive (e.g., CTRL-ALT Up-Arrow for Home), especially if you’re already used to the shortcuts on Windows and Mac OS, but this may be just a matter of getting used to it.
I found the battery’s drained a bit too fast even when in a sleep mode. My MacBook Pro can be put on stand-by mode for almost a week with its battery still on 100%. I’m not going to test exactly how many days for each battery to be depleted, but it’s just to give you an idea. That the Chromebook’s battery does not last long even in sleep mode.
The last Wi-fi connection is not saved. Every time you login, it doesn’t know which network you connected to last so you have to manually re-pick which wifi you want to connect to before you can use the computer. It’s not a deal-breaker but rather a small annoyance to me.
Big Brother Watching?
When you use your notebook for the first time, you have to agree on the fact Google tracking your activities using the device. Microsoft and Apple might be doing the same thing, but the fact that you have to be connected to use this Chromebook gives a stronger feeling of “being watched.” This might not be a big deal for most people, but it’s always good to be aware about this.
It’s very important that you know what to expect from this machine. It’s very capable for most users, especially if you’re a heavy Google Apps user and always on the go, but don’t expect to do something that requires extensive graphic or photo editor such as Photoshop or Lightroom (yet). I use this Chromebook to do email, take notes via Evernote, surf the web which includes online shopping and blogging. As my emergency notebook, it serves the purpose. And just for that, this notebook can simply be the best chromebook laptop for its price.
This Chromebook review is very specific from my experience with Samsung brand. Hopefully it will help others to make a decision whether a notebook with Google Chrome OS is (or is not) suitable for them.
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