Beta testing is always a fun experience since you get to be one of the first to try — usually for free — a newly developed product. I was lucky enough to be one of the chosen few back in December of 2010, when I was provided with a then-new Cr-48 Chromebook computer from Google.
The first distributions of the Chromebook did have some problems, but during the testing process, the company did a fairly good job of fixing, patching, and repairing the OS, creating a user-friendly product. Like any new product, a handful of annoyances remained, but Google’s noted tenaciousness addressed them with revisions that potentially made the Chromebook a true competitor in the marketplace.
The first of these necessary changes centered on the Chrome OS’s look and how it functioned. To address this issue, Google altered the appearance of the OS to look and function more like the extremely popular Android. In the article I wrote back in April, 2012, New Google Chrome OS: Admission of a Mistake?, I explained how much I liked the changes Google had made. I believed at the time, and I still do today, that Google has finally mastered the OS, which is now extremely intuitive and easy to use.
The second biggest hurdle that Google had to overcome was pricing. In the beginning, Google intended to price its Chromebooks in the $400 to $700 range. However, for whatever reason, the only company that seems to be able to sell its devices at such a premium price is Apple. Therefore Google, along with its OEMs, had to rethink its price point. To that end, it listened to those who were testing the units and to those participating in the Google Cr-48 forums who steadfastly believed that a realistic pricing point was between $200 to $250.
With this in mind, Google, along with Samsung, have introduced a competitively priced Chromebook — the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 — for $249.99. This price point, along with its included features — an 11.6″ screen, an ARM 1.7 GHz processor, 2 GB of memory, 16 GB of onboard storage, automatic updates (to keep the OS fresh and working properly), free Go-Go passes for up to 12 connections (while on flights that support Wi-Fi for up to two years), 100 GB of cloud storage space to house all of your stuff, and an amazing assortment of applications — have made the Chromebook more desirable to consumers.
Google and Samsung didn’t stop there, however, but also added more functionality to the system. They did this by adding or improving the standard hardware. These improvements included designing the Chromebook with a larger touchpad, a Web-enabled keyboard (with full-sized keys), an SD slot for additional storage, as well as HDMI and USB 3.0/2.0 ports. Add to this a headphone/microphone plug and remember that it all comes in an enclosed, compact package weighing in at only 2.4 lbs with 6.5 hrs. of battery life.
So, yes, I believe that the Google Chromebook computer has something to offer the marketplace, and I know that after reading my glowing hardware analysis, one would think that I am an advocate for the Google Chromebook computer. One might even think that I would stand on the rooftops and shout these Chromebook attributes with joy. However, I must admit that I haven’t really given the Chromebook much thought since, like most of you, I have been consumed with the tablet computer revolution. This means that I’ve been looking at anything with a keyboard as, for a lack of a better term, old-fashioned. In fact, I generally only use a Windows-based computer to type my posts for LockerGnome.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has tried to type using the keyboard on a touch screen computer, since typing anything over 20 words with a touch screen can be laborious and time-consuming. I know that some have overcome this obstacle by purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard for use with their tablet computers, but no matter how you look at it, we are right back where we started. The Chromebook is a different type of computer, but with a keyboard for typing anything that requires more than 20 words.
Even Microsoft seems to believe that the consumer needs a keyboard since one can still purchase a keyboard for its latest Surface computer, which is powered by Windows 8. So if the user needs a computer with a keyboard, I believe that a potential buyer of a Chromebook should focus on Microsoft’s newest Surface computer, along with the products from its OEM partners. These units use a stripped-down version of Windows 8 called RT and will have a beginning price point in the neighborhood of $600.
However, in comparison, it is my opinion that the new Samsung Series 3 Chromebooks are going to offer consumers a lot of bang for their buck. True, the Chromebook does not offer touch screen technology, but it is convenient, lightweight, very portable, and extremely easy to use. In fact, the only limitation I see is that an Internet connection is needed to store and retrieve stuff from the cloud.
With this in mind, let me share something I have discovered about my computer habits. Until recently, I had been using Microsoft Word to compose my writing for LockerGnome, but for some unknown reason, Word was not working very well when I copied and pasted my creation over to the blog’s built-in word processing program. In fact, I was receiving admonishments from the editor here at LockerGnome for what was seen as a large amount of garbage being added to the articles.
To resolve the issue, I purposely started using Google iDrive to compose my blog articles. This has completely eliminated the problem with the blogging word processing program, with the added advantage that I can now work on my Google documents from anywhere. Once I realized this, my interest in the Chromebook, with its semi-full-sized keyboard, returned.
For those reasons, as well as the fact that it sports a retail price of $249.99, I find it to be a very attractive alternative to meet most of my computing needs. If you have had a chance to use a Chromebook, please share your experiences with us.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Scott Beale