As a self-diagnosed tech addict, it’s rare that there’s a gadget creating buzz around the blogosphere that I really don’t want. In this case, my lack of purchasing desire stems not from a disinterest in the product itself, but a combination of price and a lack of some key features I’m looking for in a computer that can connect to the cloud on the go.
The Chromebook is one of those computers that just about anyone and everyone can put to good use. It connects to the Web, has a powerful and lightweight OS, and is more than capable of doing about 90% of the things I need to get work done. The other 10% are things I would be doing at home on my primary desktop computer anyway.
So why am I sitting here not wanting to throw my money at the screen every time I see a commercial for one of these? Here are some of my reasons:
The Chromebook is backed by Chrome OS, a powerful and capable glorified browser. Yes, it has a great offline mode, but Chrome OS isn’t exactly the robust and full-featured OS you might expect on a computer that runs north of $300.
Granted, the latest revision of the Chrome OS features a much more capable offline mode allowing for document editing, light photo editing, etc. The problem still stands that the Chromebook’s power relies on the cloud more than anything else. This cloud comes at a price.
For the cost of a Windows laptop with a more powerful processor, I would expect to get more value from a Chromebook than is currently being offered. Yes, the keyboard is fantastic and the battery life is certainly fairly good, but it isn’t enough to warrant the asking price.
In an era where the smartphone world is beginning to cross over to 4G LTE, the latest edition of the Chromebook is still tied to limited 3G connections. While I can certainly appreciate the dependability and wide-spread support for 3G in the U.S. and across the world, my biggest concern comes with having to pay for what amounts to a limited connection on a computer that depends on the Internet to operate. Wi-Fi is always an option, but what’s the point of having a laptop that requires an Internet connection if you have to be tethered to Wi-Fi to do any serious work?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why 3G was selected as the wireless option for the book. 4G LTE is still somewhat exclusive to large cities and still hasn’t been made available to many locations around the World. I get it.
That said, I’m still in the old school of unlimited wireless. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can eat through gigabytes of data while listening to Pandora, downloading and uploading documents, hanging out on Google+, and even just browsing the Web. Half of the services Google offers are bandwidth hogs, and for that reason I generally don’t do much online work on the road. I enjoy having a laptop that can do everything I do online in an offline capacity when I’m between Wi-Fi locations. Chrome OS has come a long way, but it isn’t there just yet.
Powerful, but Not Powerful Enough
This is more of a personal downside. While I appreciate the advantages many cloud-based services with things like light photo editing, I still find myself needing something extra to get the job done. On my MacBook and home PC, I rely on GIMP for my photo editing. It’s a powerful program that I appreciate quite a bit. Unfortunately, it is a bit too much for the Chromebook.
Video editing is almost impossible on the Chromebook. Yes, there are some sites out there that will offer you some basic video editing features, but that does little good with the type of work I do. If I’m going out of town on business and need to edit a video, I’m forced to choose a laptop to take with me and the Chromebook would lose out every time.
The Chromebook is a great option for people who don’t have a desire or need to own a computer that does anything more than browse the Web. My grandparents would have loved the Chromebook for its simplicity and function. The power user may marvel at the novelty of a cloud-dependent OS, but at the end of the day I don’t see the Chromebook doing much more than gathering dust after a few weeks.
Let’s be honest here people, how many of you still use your Netbook for anything more than an IRC monitor? Now a nettop box… that’s a different story.
If I were to select any of the current Chromebooks, it would have to be the Samsung Series 5 550 ($449). It’s presently the most capable of the lot, and it stands to reason that it will run the Aura update very well. Aura is nice, and if anything could change my mind about the Chromebook, it would be seeing the OS take a slightly sharper turn in that direction.
Again, I do want a Chromebook. What I don’t want is to have to pay as much (or more) than I would for a full-featured Windows laptop with better specs. I can always install the Chrome browser on that.