First Impression of Chrome OS and the CR-48

Yesterday I showed you the unboxing of my new toy courtesy of google, now that I have had a chance to play with it a little, I though I would share some impressions.

The Hardware

To some extent digging too far in to the pros and cons of the CR-48 hardware is a pointless exercise, the CR-48 is a prototype, is is not available for sale, the only way to get it is to apply and be accepted by Google as a tester. When Google does generally release Chrome OS it is expected that partners like Lenovo, Acer and others would develop hardware for it.   All that said a little about the hardware, Google describes it like this:

“It’s ready when you are, booting in about 10 seconds and resuming from sleep instantly. There’s built-in Wi-Fi and 3G, so you can stay connected everywhere, and a webcam for video chat. The vibrant 12-inch LCD display, full-size keyboard and oversized touchpad let you enjoy the web comfortably. And at just 3.8 pounds with over eight hours of active usage and a week of standby time, it’s easy to take along for the ride.

What did we leave out? Spinning disks, caps-lock key, function keys, and lap burns.”

I am seeing boot up times of about 15 seconds, the lack of a caps lock key is really of no concern to me (it just means I won’t enable it accidentally as I tend to do on my PC) and the search button that replaces it is actually pretty useful.

The trackpad is well interesting, last year around this time when I got a Lenovo Netbook, the biggest challenge for me was that it’s only (built in) mouse option was a trackpad.  The CR-48 is the same with a trackpad only (it does have a USB port if I get desperate and need a mouse though that is not a practical option on the go).   The trackpad on the CR-48 has some quirks.  First to click (there are no mouse buttons), you actually have to push the trackpad down, not tap it (the best comparison is it is the difference between using a touch screen device like and iPhone, and the Blackberry Storm where you actually have to push the screen to click).  The other quirk is to scroll with in a page you need to use 2 fingers, overall I find that easier then the Lenovo where you drag a specific spot on the trackpad, but I have to train myself to do the 2 finger drag which is taking some time.  I had to search the help to find out that to right click, you click the mouse with two fingers instead of one.  Overall not the most intuitive mouse gestures in the world for me.

The battery life seems to be as advertised or better, while I have not had the chance to really abuse it yet, it showed 13 hours of life when fully charged, and after a few hours of use still shows 8 hours remaining, I am sure under heavier usage it will be a little less.

There is not much else to the hardware as you can see it is a pretty bare bones machine, with a built in webcam and microphone, the only two connectors available are a single USB port, and a VGA port.

Chrome OS

If you have used the Chrome Browser, for the most part you are familiar with Chrome OS. When you first turn on the machine, after accepting the license agreement you are simply prompted to log in with a google account, both gmail, and Google Apps for Domains accounts are supported.  Since I am already using Chrome on my PC, and I Sync my settings, bookmarks, extensions, apps, etc. When I logged in to Chrome OS with that account, the browser had all of my settings.  This meant I was really able to pick up and do anything I could do in the browser on my PC in seconds.  There is also a guest account options (Chrome incognito mode) which allows you to let someone else you your machine, without gaining access to any of your data.

The trick is, you have to get over the inexplicable urge to minimize the browser, since it can’t be done (remember the Browser is the OS), so anything you want to do must be done in the browser.  This sent me off to the Chrome Web Store to see what was available.

Tweetdeck for Chrome gives me for the most part the twitter experience I am used to on my desktop, I found a decent VNC Client.  I use LogMeIn for remote access to a couple of machines, which works fine in Chrome, and since I moved my blog to WordPress I can blog through the web interface, or use a plugin like ScribeFire. I am still testing IM solutions mainly looking for a good Skype client, I found one that worked fine for chat, but not for audio or video calls.  I am sure as I continue to use the machine I will get a better handle for what other apps, and plugins are available for things I normally do with an installed app on my PC.

I have only used the wifi so far, I have to test the Verizon 3G service and see how it works out, I also am interested to see if they give you a decent way to track your usage to your 100MB monthly free allotment, and the options to pay as you go.

I am not a Chrome OS fan yet, I have not written it off yet either, I am not sure I have concrete thoughts yet on if it is a better tablet, a complement to a tablet, simply another option, or a passing fad.  I don’t really know if I can reach that conclusion as the Android tablet market is first really starting to take shape, and will not really take off until Honeycomb is available.  The iPad which is dominating the tablet space will get a new version next year as well, surely to include cameras, and who knows what else.  We are also yet to see what hardware and price point Chrome OS will enter the market at.  In the mean time here are a some other perspectives on Chrome OS.

Gmail Creator Paul Buchheit: Chrome OS Will Perish Or “Merge” With Android

In Defense Of Chrome OS

Why Chrome OS Will Succeed

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