Obligatory cloud reference: CR-48 and Google’s Chrome OS

By , December 21, 2010 7:19 pm

This post was begun in my kitchen, something not too impressive in today’s connected and wireless world. In fact, my laptop since college – a long-in-the-tooth Dell Inspiron – has let me type posts in kitchens, at friends houses, on interstate busses, and on airplanes. (With varying levels of connectivity, admittedly, but I could at leas type the post at those places.) What makes this post unique is it’s the first I’m typing on my tester hardware of Google’s CR-48 netbook, complete with Google’s Chrome OS operating system.

What does that mean? First and foremost, it means I’m working in the ‘cloud,’ without any local file storage. If the computer isn’t online, either via WiFi or the included Verizon Wireless connection (which I have yet to get working) I’m SOL. For working at my apartment or a coffee shop, that isn’t an issue. If I’d had this netbook on my trip to Minneapolis, would the Verizon connection have worked on the bus? I don’t know.

BetaNews has a pretty good 7-day breakdown of one reviewer’s experiences with Chrome OS, and is worth reading if you want a really in depth look at what this machine could mean. After the break, I’ll go into some of my impressions after 36 hours.

Still with me? First, lets go through a few things I like.

The hardware itself is lovely, with the exception of the less-than-stellar trackpad. I don’t think it’s awful, as some reviewers have stated, but I definitely don’t think it does the rest of the laptop justice. The keyboard is a pleasure to type on, the matte black finish is sexy, and the logo-less design makes me feel like I’m operating on a very fancy computer. I also like that, above the number keys, Google has included frequently used keys (forward, back, volume,¬†brightness, etc) instead of function keys. The screen is solid, not mind-blowing but better than I expected, and the computer starts up and shuts down very quickly. I haven’t worn out the battery, but it’s currently at 65% and claiming 4+ hours, which is pretty good by my book.

The OS has real promise. Upon logging in, it immediately synced my bookmarks, browser preferences, and extensions, meaning setting things up took almost no time at all. Part of that was, admittedly, because there’s not much to set up – no software to install or whatnot. I did spend some time playing at Google’s Chrome OS Getting Started page, but didn’t feel like I needed to.

Audio plays pleasantly loud, and I’m currently listening to a Sara Bareilles steam on Pandora, with no real noticeable slowdown.

That said, the computer isn’t a speed demon to begin with. Loading new pages takes longer than it feels like it should (a totally subjective measure, I admit) and I don’t think it’s the Internet connection, since other computers in the house are fine. Once a page is loaded, everything responds as it should, but loading flash-laden pages like Pandora or YouTube takes (subjectively) too long. The WiFi connections themselves don’t blow me away, as I’ve disconnected from connections that I feel like should be in range. Maybe I’m just expecting too much of my apartment’s wireless router, though.

There’s also currently a dearth of applications at Google’s Chrome Web Store. I’ve played around with a few, and they show off the promise of the OS, but nothing that blows me away. I’m also experiencing some frustration working with my @fridaythang.com email address, since some of the services expect an @gmail address. It hasn’t prevented me from doing anything, and Google has said they’re working on those kinks and expect them to be gone by early 2011, but it’s been a frustration I’ve experienced on my Android phone and now on the Chrome OS.

For example, I’ve read reports that Google Docs works offline on the Chrome OS. If it does, I haven’t been able to figure it out, and/or the @fridaythang.com account means I can’t get it to work yet.

Lastly, and perhaps my biggest stumbling block of finally getting rid of the PowerPC PowerMac in my bedroom, Chrome OS is unable to connect to network file shares and, indeed, has no file browser at all (as of yet). This isn’t something huge numbers of home users will probably need to do, but – for me – being unable to listen to 30+ gigs of music or watch 500+ gigs of TV shows and movies is a deal-breaker. I’m really enjoying the CR-48 for remote work, and plan to gladly continue using it at coffee shops and when I’m on trips, but I’m not yet convinced how permanent a place it’ll take in my computer rotation. (I have too many computers, I know…)

I’m still experimenting with settings and learning new things about the OS, so please feel free to tell me if you’ve heard anything exciting I might have missed, or have any questions about my experiences.

2 Responses to “Obligatory cloud reference: CR-48 and Google’s Chrome OS”

  1. Joe says:

    It doesn’t sound like you can run a powerpoint (or any) presentation without a connection, which seems like a huge drawback. Does it have any onboard storage that you can access and temporary keep a few files?

    And being a windows user for so long, I wouldn’t know what to do without a “Windows Explorer” of sorts :p

    • Rebecca says:

      The CR-48 does have 16 gig internal memory, but no comprehensive way to access it. That is, you can right click to download files, and upload files to sites like flikr or whatnot, but offline access for GMail and Google Docs (or whatever) aren’t working for me. Some game demos I tried do work offline, so it’s obviously possible to get offline docs working, and I’m keeping my fingers it’ll happen sooner than later.

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