back to article Review: The ultimate Chromebook challenge

Too slow, too expensive, too limited. That was the verdict of most hacks and punters on the early Google Chromebook laptops. Google has kept its shoulder to the wheel, though, and recently announced that 2000 schools are now using Chromebooks. Lenovo and HP have both recently jumped on the Chromebook bandwagon too, joining …

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  1. David Hicks
    Linux

    A couple of things

    Pretty sure it's not a series 3 Chromebook, the Samsung Series 3 was an older x86 line. It is an xe303 though.

    Also on the SD slot, if you get one of these -

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-3-1-USB-Multi-functional-Adapter-Card-Micro-SD-Card-SDHC-USB-UK-/181076395412

    And stick in a microsd card, then cut the USB side off the adaptor with nail scissors (it still works fine) you have a flush-fitting SD slot. I agree it's a bad design. Also you can then install Chrubuntu on the SD and you have a fully-featured little laptop with awesome battery life :)

    1. Al Taylor
      Alert

      Re: A couple of things

      Re. Series 3

      Well, that's what Samsung is calling the thing...

      http://www.samsung.com/uk/consumer/pc-peripherals/chrome-devices/chrome-devices/XE303C12-A01UK

      1. David Hicks
        Coat

        Re: A couple of things

        Weird, coulda sworn that was the case, the 3 series was a precursor to the 5s.... Oh well, been wrong before, I'll be wrong again!

    2. David Hicks
      Linux

      Re: A couple of things

      Reading that back, I'm not sure how the fella had such a tough time installing an alternate OS on the Samsung. There's a guide here - http://chromeos-cr48.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/so-you-want-chrubuntu-on-external-drive.html

      It's got some, err, hiccups at the moment (battery indicator in Xfce is a bit unpredictable in terms of whether it even runs or not) but combined with a half-length microsd adaptor it really is good. Beats the pants off my old eee901 with debian.

      1. John Phamlore

        People who buy Chromebooks for Linux are doing it wrong

        I don't get buying a Chromebook and installing another Linux distro on it.

        Instead of getting a Chromebook, in particular, Acer's, simply get the Acer equivalent Acer Aspire One. I got an Acer Aspire One 725-0687 for under 200 US dollars at Walmart for a holiday sale as opposed to the roughly 200 British pounds price being quoted for the Acer Chromebook. I don't have to worry about having to install only a hacked Ubuntu 12.04: I can install ANY Linux distribution I want, in my case, Debian unstable. Everything from wireless to suspend just works in Debian.

        1. David Hicks
          Linux

          Re: People who buy Chromebooks for Linux are doing it wrong

          I wanted it.to hack. I have something of an ARM fetish going on at the moment, so a chromebook with an exynoz SoC was exactly right.

          AFAICT there is no equivalent to that. It runs ubuntu at the moment but I'm sure I'll be able to debootstrap wheezy onto it sooner or later.

  2. Natalie Gritpants Silver badge

    "but the Acer has Caps Lock"

    THAT'S THE WINNING FEATURE FOR ME.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch
      Thumb Up

      Re: "but the Acer has Caps Lock"

      As I understand it, you can change the keymap behaviour so that it acts like a caps-lock key. But yes, I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE. Have an upvote.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: "but the Acer has Caps Lock"

      PRESS CTRL-SHIFT on the samsung and you get capslock, but it cancels when you press a none-letter key

  3. Montreux

    Why not a tablet?

    If the chrome books are only good for web browsing and light media consumption then I don't see the point of them compared to a tablet. The Nexus 7 and 10 being very good tablets.

    I have a laptop and a tablet. The laptop is used for real work on the go, the tablet for web browsing and media consumptions. The laptop is really at its best sitting on a desk when you need to type. The tablet is best in all other locations where you don't need to type much.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Why not a tablet?

      Has anyone heard of any plans to make a ChromeOS tablet out of interest?

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Why not a tablet?

      >If the chrome books are only good for web browsing and light media consumption then I don't see the point of them compared to a tablet. The Nexus 7 and 10 being very good tablets.

      In a word- a keyboard. I didn't read anything that said they weren't good for just entering some text, be it an email or a novel. You don't always need fancy formatting and DTP tools.

      1. M.D.
        Holmes

        Re: Why not a tablet?

        I don't see the need for a Netbook and I certainly don't see the need for a keyboard when you are using the device (as the original poster said) for " for web browsing and media consumptions"

        So, let's say it again. A laptop for serious content creation and a tablet for media/Internet consumption (including the odd email/El Reg Post/Tweet). I'm writing this on my iPad now and I do 99% of my posts to El Reg on the iPad.

        Personally, being a geek, I have 5 servers, a desktop, 3 laptops (two Linux & one MS) and an iPad. My partner has a laptop & a Nexus. My 70-odd year old parents use iPads - which does them for 90% of their needs - and an ageing laptop for occasional letters/printing.

        Don't see any requirement for netbooks. They have been overtaken by other (better) tech.

        However, for those of you who like being contrarians, I'm sure you will continue to insist that they are a most vital niche.

        1. Mark .

          Re: Why not a tablet?

          Well I don't see any need for an ipad, I can do posting on my Samsung N220. They've been overtaken by (better) tech. If I just want a touchscreen device, I have one that fits in my pocket.

          (What make of laptops and servers do you have? I mean, it's so important to mention iPad by name...)

          1. M.D.

            Re: Why not a tablet?

            >>(What make of laptops and servers do you have? I mean, it's so important to mention iPad by name...)

            For the same reason I say "Hoover" instead of "vacuum cleaner" of course

            ;-)

    3. Mark .

      Re: Why not a tablet?

      If I'm watching media, a laptop sits on my lap or a desk, angled perfectly. A tablet either lies flat, or you have to hold it the entire time. Or you spend extra on a stand, basically trying to turn it into a laptop, except one that only works on desks and not laps.

      If I'm web browsing, that means typing too, which a touchscreen is a right pain for anything except trivial short Twitter-like material. You can spend extra on a keyboard, basically trying to turn it into a laptop, except one that only works on desks and not laps.

      What advantage does a tablet have? Touchscreens have their uses, though most of the time on a 10" device or larger, I'd rather a touchpad (the thing about phones/smaller tablets is that your hand is the same size as the device, and a touchpad would be no point, as it'd be the same size as the display - on a large screen, you're having to move your hand the entire distance as a display, which is more time and effort than moving a finger across a small touchpad). A laptop with a touchscreen would be the best of both worlds, but with a choice of only one or the other, I'd rather a laptop, even when I'm just using the web or watching videos.

      "I have a laptop and a tablet."

      So if you're going somewhere, you have to decide if you're going to work or do web/media, or lug both around? If you're web browsing, and decide to type something, do you then have to get your laptop out?

      1. mmeier

        Re: Why not a tablet?

        Just like a notebook gets carries around in a notebook bag many tablets are used in a book-case. And those have the stand (if needed) included. Some others like the Surface have the stand in the unit itself. I.e the Note 10.1 and it's soon to come replacement Lenovo TPT2 have such a case (add on) as did the EP121 (part of the package)

        If I am browsing on any of the above I write mail with the WACOM stylus and let Windows (1) translate it. No need for a keyboard for what I do without a table. Works fine in the lap or the cradle of the arm. Telling the unit what to write also works for the EP121 (Nuance Dragon Natural) and likely will for the TPT(2). Windows internal speach recognition is also nice. Granted speech is not a tablet-only feature.

        Tablet PC are smaller/lighter than a similar powered netbook/ultrabook if I do not need the keyboard. And 90+ percent of the time I do not. I do keep a BT keyboard in the attache case (or the notebook bag in case of the EP121 since that needs a charger to get over the day - TPT2 won't). And for most browsing/media consume stuff I do not need the keyboard.

        Add in that Windows has software (as part of the OS in MS Journal, Part of office in OneNote) that can translate handwriting into text in a "batch mode" so I can even write lengthy concepts in handwriting and tell Windows "translate the stuff" when I am done. Depending on your handwriting and what the stuff is needed for simply mailing the draft around often is enough(3)

        Same for check-reading documents in Word, Powerpoint or PDF format. The software supports hand written notes and handwriting->text. Where once before one would print out stuff and use colored markers you can now use a tablet pc.

        10-13'' tablet pc are similar sized to a sturdy legal/A4 pad or writing board and can replace it if you have good, mature software for it. Windows does tablets since XP and the software is extremly mature, stabel and capabel.

        About the only thing I do NOT use - is touch. One of the "not good enough" criterias on the Note 10.1 was that touch could not be completely switched off. Palm recognition on Wacom is good but not perfect (and eats cycles).

        (1) Or Android but HWR there is Win-XP level currently

        (2) The S10-3 could run Dragon at high CPU load

        (3) Everyone uses Windows around here anyway

        1. Mark .

          Re: Why not a tablet?

          Well yes I have nothing against hybrids - you get the best of both worlds with a device that has a stand and keyboard, but can also be a pure tablet too. Though as I say in my original comment, a lot of the tablet stand/keyboard add ons don't work very well at all on a lap, as far as I can tell. There are hybrids that do work better (ASUS Transformer style ones), but then those are as much laptops as they are tablets.

          Even with those hybrids, there do seem to be compromises - whilst the tablet-only part is lighter than an ultra-portable laptop, the combination of tablet and keyboard is usually slightly heavier (I think because being a tablet makes it top heavy, so you need the extra weight in the keyboard to make it work right in laptop mode).

          And yes, fair point about handwriting recognition with a stylus - I've yet to try this, so if it works well, it's good to hear (though, even if it's perfect, I can still type much faster than I write...)

          1. mmeier

            Re: Why not a tablet?

            Agreed, a good 10 finger typist is faster with a good keyboard than he is with a stylus and handwriting-recognition. I am not a 10 finger typist :) But it is on the list of things to learn right after cooking and before scuba diving.

            The hybrids are actually not my thing. I prefer an external Bluetooth keyboard. That way I can adjust distance freely and use whatever space is available. And I can keep the tablet unit in a book case/sleeve. With Atom units that is all I need for the workday, with core-i units I currently need a charger

            The only "dock" I am currently interested in is the one from Lenovos Helix that allows "tablet plus" mode giving 10h operation time for a core-i tablet at less than 2kg(1) AND has a WACOM system unlike the Duo11 That unit has a detachable tablet part that seems to work and does something a simple BT keyboard can not do like having a second battery (unlike the Ativ 500 dock)

            As for hybrid/convertible weigh: It depends on the hybrid. The Sony is actually very light (1.3 / 1.5 kg without/with sheet battery and sleeve) while the Fujitzu units are monsters that go well past 2kg when equipped with two batteries. The Ativ 700 falls in the middle at 1,8kg for the unit. If I had to get a unit today it would be a Sony Duo11 with sheet battery and sleeve (around 1200€ for the i3. And then use it in tablet mode only :)

            (1) Given Lenovos track record with battery endurance recently I believe them the 10h

      2. M.D.

        Re: Why not a tablet?

        >> "I have a laptop and a tablet."

        >So if you're going somewhere, you have to decide if you're going to work or do web/media, or lug both around? If you're web browsing, and decide to type something, do you then have to get your laptop out?

        ----->

        Sometimes I actually find myself having days where I'm not working: for which I have a leisure-focused, consumer geared tech, that for me is a tablet.

        I have an idea while NOT working, I may make a note of it - and even email myself the note. What I won't do is try to (a) work constantly and (b) try to type/create anything of substance on a netbook interface. When working, I have both with me and find that no chore ;-)

  4. Paul Shirley

    Netbook 2.0?

    Really pleased you tested replacing the OS.

    Google should be able to stop Microsoft doing to Chromebooks what it did to netbooks. Removing the MS taxes (software license+increased hardware requirements) might bring the cheap netbook market back to life, for those of us prepared to replace the OS.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Netbook 2.0?

      So you admit the market for such a device is so tiny that it can only exist by piggybacking on hardware produced for a different market?

      is there any (other) reason that Ubuntu, or Red Hat or any other big player in the Linux space hasn't produced a Linux netbook?

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: Netbook 2.0?

        ...perhaps for all the same reasons MS shouldn't have produced a tablet?

        Those of us wanting just the hardware without the OS are always going to be a tiny minority. However the general public happy with limited functionality are also getting the same better deal without the MS tax, an overhead that destroyed any price advantage netbooks had.

    2. Julian Bond

      Re: Netbook 2.0?

      So what's the Acer like with Win7 Home Premium installed on it?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm...

    I'll save Eadon the bother:

    Why all these free adverts for Google?

    Oh, hang on, it's a fair review of Google's software, rather than of MS' so it's not an advert, it's a fair review.

  6. JDX Gold badge

    Multiple accounts?

    Does anyone know how ChromeOS handles people who, like me, have multiple google accounts? I have my personal gmail account, but my business stuff is also g-apps powered so I have a jdx@mydomain.com login too... I think these days its the same architecture underneath.

    1. RachelG

      Re: Multiple accounts?

      Haven't used this latest version of chromeos, though i doubt it's worse. In the original, when you turn on, or log out, you find yourself at a login screen where you use your google login. So switching is a matter of logging out, then logging into the other. I expect current chromeos would be the same, but don't actually know that.

      Which means having both active on the screen at the same time probably isn't going to work.

    2. jason 7

      Re: Multiple accounts?

      I currently have three Google accounts on my Samsung.

      My main account. A Google Business Apps account and a junk account to let people play around with when I demo it.

      All work independently.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Multiple accounts?

      It would seem that you options are setting up a multiple user profiles (not great for working between accounts) or launching incognito windows to access the web services of your other accounts (no saving passwords or history).

      https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/chromebook-central/nhITKi0YI38

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Multiple accounts?

        On Chrome browser you can indeed login to multiple accounts at once... it's a bit flaky but WAY better than it used to be.

        But I was wondering more about the machine login... and how tightly integrated your google login id is to the OS. If you can simply do "login to another account" from the browser/gmail that would be fine.

  7. mmeier

    To sum up the benefits: They are cheap

    On all other parts of the system the guys at Samsung must have been working really hard to build a ARM based unit that has less duration then their Atom-powered ATIV500 (That adds a battery-eating WACOM digitizer) and weights more than that unit + a BT keyboard and can do less if I loose the net

    What's the benefit of using this instead of the ATIV500 and the Google apps in a browser?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: To sum up the benefits: They are cheap

      >Samsung must have been working really hard to build a ARM based unit that has less duration then their Atom-powered ATIV500

      The power consumption advantages of ARM over x86 are most evident when the system is sat doing nothing - so is suitable for smartphones. When the CPU actually has a job to, Intel's new Atoms have some tricks up their sleeve- not least a more advanced fab process and a more efficient memory controller. Note that the test in this article was looping a 720p video. The battery benchmarks for using it as a word processor (i.e write something, stare into space for ten minutes, write a few more lines, get bored, check emails, wander off for a coffee) might give different results.

      Actually having the same system on both ARM and x86 allows power consumption per task comparisons, something that has been done before between Win RT machines on ARM and x86

      1. mmeier

        Re: To sum up the benefits: They are cheap

        The ugly thing is - Intels new Atoms (Baytrail) are not yet out while the Chromebook uses the A15 ARM (the most current version). The Ativ 500 and all other Atom based tablets currently for sale use an aging Cedartrail Atom with known problems in step up/step down and GPU throtteling. I have chossen the ATIV as a low end (endurance and price-wise) unit that is also Samsung AND has an extra battery eater in the inductive stylus. Pay a bit more and you get even more endurance (TPT2 is 10.5h)

        Wake/Sleep times for Win8 units with SSD are fast enough to map a softkey to "sleep" and press it when you go for a coffee and the tasks you described will actually get the CPU/GPU combo to throttle down nicely. For a real battery eater with CedarTrail switch between "low GPU" and "high GPU" loads or use stuff that produces peak loads on the CPU (voice recognition does fine)

        1. Mark .

          Re: To sum up the benefits: They are cheap

          Nitpick: The Ativ 500 (and all current x86 Atom tablets) use Clover Trail (which isn't that old, it's the current generation). Cedar Trial was the older one.

          1. mmeier

            Re: To sum up the benefits: They are cheap

            Thanks, juggle them around the wrong way about 50 percent

  8. Irongut

    12s... enough difference to negate a feature

    "The C7 takes 22 seconds to start, the S3 just ten. I’d argue the 12 seconds difference is near irrelevant in the real world"

    Except my Win7 desktop can boot in under 25s so the Acer has lost that supposed Chromebook feature. That's with an HDD, if I fitted an SSD to my desktop it would be faster.

    I still don't see the point of these things. They aren't a capable laptop/desktop replacement and a smartphone/tablet can do everything they can. Why do Google produce ChromeOS as well as Android?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: 12s... enough difference to negate a feature

      I still thought Google had designed/stipulated ChromeOS to only run with SSD.

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Valeyard

      Re: Netbook market

      Iwas looking at these a few weeks ago after a comment on the reg article about the demise of netbooks

      The OpenSuse site has instructions fo rinstalling it on these, but there are some issues like trackpads not working, no sound etc, which is a shame

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Netbook market

      You can get one of these to run linux but it's not pretty and not very practical. The thing with these chromebooks is you aren't the target market. The market is the people who bought netbooks because all they wanted to do is browse the web and check their emails and play the odd game here and there.

      Google will never ship them with a Linux OS or make reference to Linux because they know it confuses and scares people which is why they've been smart and played the long game,

      People laughed at the first wave of these machines calling them nothing more than a 'dumb terminal' and useless without the Internet, but thanks to eroding the market share of Firefox and Internet explorer (via good marketing campaigns and some shady tactics bundling the browser with other software) your average punter is starting to associate Chrome with the internet which will help these sell.

      I know a few older people who bought netbooks to browse the web and check emails and they just didn't like the slow performance and the constant need to fight with XP just to be able to use the machine. They ended up putting the netbooks in a cupboard and buying iPads because they just worked and were hassle free.

      Chromebooks are hassle free and there will still be a large number of people who just want a machine with a keyboard that lets them browse the web and check emails. Some of the apps in the store including Gmail work offline so Google are slowly but surely turning this into a dark horse

      1. jason 7
        Happy

        Re: Netbook market

        Everyone I have shown my Chromebook to has gone "oh wow, this is sooo cool!"

        Several of my tech buddies have said "this is the solution for my parents!"

        Several in my small business network are interested in it too.

        All Google has to do is really start pushing it. I think they also need to smarten up and simply the whole Google Apps/Docs thing. It's a bit fuzzy at the moment.

        Oh and it runs linux. Just...(adopts ObiWan Kenobi voice and arm gesture)...not the Linux you are looking for!

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Netbook market

        Exactly - these aren't notebook replacements, they are tablets with a keyboard

        They are also (at least in the USA) 1/4 the price of Microsoft's surface and seem to do pretty much the same.

        The Samsung is also 1/5 the price of a mac book air if you just want to hang around in starbucks looking cool - you an always buy an Apple logo sticker for it

        1. jason 7

          Re: Netbook market

          I had a couple of those Apple logo stickers that you used to get with iPods (dunno if you still get them).

          I stuck one on my toilet seat.

          Can often hear a chuckle from the toilet when guests come round.*

          I call it the iPlop!

          *Its a small flat so don't imagine I sit there with my ear to the door.

          1. Sir Sham Cad

            @jason 7

            iThrone?

            1. jason 7
              Happy

              Re: @jason 7

              I thangyorrr!

              1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

                Re: @jason 7

                Something pretty to log onto.

        2. Frumious Bandersnatch

          Re: Netbook market

          Exactly - these aren't notebook replacements, they are tablets with a keyboard

          Not really. Not without touch-based UIs, which Chromebooks don't have.

      3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Netbook market

      >Remember netbooks, MS killed that market

      Eh? Okay... are you sure it wasn't the originally low specs and shoddy Linux distro on the first EEE PCs that put people off? The netbook was small and cheap, suitable for quickly checking emails and browsing the web if you could find a Wi-fi hotspot. Since then, smartphones can do the same but in more places, due to a 3G data connection, and tablets can do the same but do it better- because the screens can be rotated through 90º and often boast better resolutions. I used a netbook for as a data logger for a temperature probe, but guess what OS the supplied drivers and software were for? Oh yeah, that's right...

      True, MS would rather sell you a more expensive version (as would Intel and their chips), but first they get flack for selling XP at low cost to netbook OEMs, then they get flack for not offering a cheap 'Starter Edition' of Win 8....

      > I just wish this hardware came with Linux

      Why? Just download it and install it yourself- if it did come with Linux, the chances are it wouldn't be the flavour you want anyway. Google commissioned and marketed these machines for their own reasons- there is nothing to stop penguins doing the same for their reasons, through Kickstarter perhaps. If you believe the demand is there, why don't you do it?

      1. jason 7

        Re: Netbook market

        I always thought single core atoms, 4200rpm HDDs and 600 pixel depth screens killed Netbooks.

        They always felt like parts bin specials to me. I see a lot of customers with them and not one has ever said "oh I adore my netbook!"

        Usually it's "bloody thing, only good for taking on holiday and then it packed up half way through...."

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. 1Rafayal

      Re: Netbook market

      Did MS really kill the netbook market? Or did the emergence of tablets kill off the netbook market?

      I am fairly sure that MS didnt really have any sway over manufacturers when it came to putting Windows on them, if it did then I would bargain they would have preferred Windows 7 go on these devices as opposed to Windows XP.

      I guess the netbook market allowed manufacturers to get rid of their existing Windows XP stockpiles - thats just an assumption on my part, not a fact.

      Another side of the argument would be why would manufacturers prefer to install XP on these devices instead of a Linux? Again, would MS really be that interested in expanding the XP user base when they were trying quite hard to get people to move on?

      1. mmeier

        Re: Netbook market

        Actually the last generation of Netbooks like Lenovos S10-3 came with Win7 and overlapped the 1st gen Android tablets with Android 3. So the "stockpile of XP" was likely not the cause companies build them.

        Nor was MS what killed them. The pre-installed Linux where exotic distributions and often not all that good ones. A netbook with Suse or xBuntu preInstalled MIGHT have sold decently IF it had enough memory, harddisk and screen resolution and supported hardware. 1024x600 resolution isn't all that great for doing anything more complex in landscape mode. The hardware in many of them had no driver support outside the distributions they where delivered with (WLAN was extremly problematic and with Netbooks that's a big problem)

        And when the units had matured the triple slam came and killed them:

        iPads and 1st gen Android tablets with A3 that could do the surfing/reading/short writing better (lighter, better screen-resolution, lighter, longer runtime)

        Smartphones that could do the mail/news stuff better

        Used notebooks for decend prices and good spare (batteries) supplies like the X60/X61 series from IBM and a general drop in prices for low end notebooks (Better screen resolution etc)

        Few netbooks survived, mostly AMD based units that had better capabilities to start with.

    5. 1Rafayal
      Windows

      Re: Netbook market

      To comment on this line:

      "...I might take a look at a Chromebook myself. I just wish this hardware came with Linux...."

      If I were to be pedantic, ChromeOS is a Linux.

      But then again, Eadon is rarely a pedant...

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the Samsung’s keyboard area has something of a MacBook look to it"

    Well there's a surprise.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So they boot in 10 seconds and my iPad boots instantly. You would be better with a tablet with a keyboard cover if that's what you want.

    1. frank ly

      Just wondering

      Does your iPad boot instantly, or does it return from sleep instantly? There is a difference.

      1. Dana W

        Re: Just wondering

        Just rebooted my Mini 20 seconds, and the Minis are slow.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try switching your iPad off then booting.

      You can close the Samsung Chromebook lid, and then when you open it, it will "boot" instantly. (Hint, like your iPad its not really booting just coming out of a standby mode - or just waking up the screen given stuff will be going on in the background).

      Booting from cold takes about 6 secs and then a few more secs to login. Its soo quick to boot that I turn mine off rather than just close the lid.

      For all the people who don't get Chromebooks, I suggest try using one for a while. As a second computer around the house, and for traveling its great. I had a tablet but found the lack of keyboard a real barrier to writing emails, or commenting on Reg forums.

      And for all the folk wailing about its rubbish off line. Its really a Netbook. Clue is in the name. For me its an excellent cheap light second computer. I am waiting for the 14" HP Chromebook. This will be ideal for my parents who only ever use a browser on their current full fat OS computer.

  12. Teiwaz

    The Netbook Market & Linux

    In my experience, Linux users are hardly ever 'the target audience' we just get by tinkering 'possibly compatible devices' to work.

    When I first put linux on my desktop, some parts didn't work (i.e. winmodem), this got sorted eventually.

    When I first put linux on my new laptop, again there were some issues which eventually got sorted.

    I guess we'll just have to continue tweaking to achieve the computing system we prefer.

    The Samsung looks nicer and all, but I've had an Acer netbook since 2010 and I'm fairly happy with it. It didn't come with linux, but it wasn't a chore to install and everything works. The only thing I regret is no bluetooth, which would be handy

    For me the netbook size and average price hit the 'sweet spot' and I hopeful that when my current finally dies the Chromebook may be an adequate replacement.

    For some, bootup speed means an SSD, but if you want to work offline or have a decent selection of movies, an HDD is preferable, personally I go for capacity rather than speed, but a really nice solution would be an SSD for the os and an HDD for the data, but / and home are linux, and linux users make do.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge
    WTF?

    Ah....oh dear....

    Fancy a video chat? If you are using Google+ Hangout you’re in luck, it works brilliantly.

    Unfortunately as a workaround that rather fails, as one of the key requirements for video chat is that you need someone on the other end as well.

    I'm not a fan of Skype, but I'm forced to use it because every other bugger's got it. As most people are happily ensconced on FaceBum, getting 'em to sign up to Google+ en masse has got "impossible task" writ large upon it.

    I'm still puzzled as to why anyone would want to buy a chromebook, given that a laptop which will happily work while not connected to Google and which will also work with all the Google services, if that floats your boat, can be had for around the same price.

    1. jason 7
      Go

      Re: Ah....oh dear....

      Well to be honest the Chromebook is for those that are just tired of -

      "Fucking about!"

      No need for AV.

      Updates happen without you knowing it.

      Take the Chromebook out of the box and within 10 seconds of switch on you are up and running.

      If you mess it up you just reset it and log in again.

      Hardly any settings to mess around with.

      No need to learn CLI or other such dark arts.

      Works just like Chrome..cos thats what you are used to.

      No bizarre UI to get used to.

      No worries about backups.

      No need to call in the IT chappie/son to fix it.

      Oh and it costs £200........

      Lot of folks out there who are primed and ready for such an experience.

      1. Mark .

        Re: Ah....oh dear....

        Whilst some of those are true, it's not entirely fair:

        "No need for AV."

        Neither on Linux, and Windows 8 has it built it (and if it's like Security Essentials, it never bothers you anyway - it was only the stuff like AVG that constantly pesters you).

        "Take the Chromebook out of the box and within 10 seconds of switch on you are up and running."

        It's quick as things go - though I note my Windows laptop boots quicker than my Android Galaxy Nexus. Most laptops are slow because of the terrible slow hard disks, not the OS - they do much better with SSD.

        "If you mess it up you just reset it and log in again."

        Most Windows laptops offer this, though personally I dislike it, I'd rather fix things without having to have the only option as "reset everything to default".

        "Hardly any settings to mess around with."

        I'm not sure I've ever had to mess around with a setting on any recent OS.

        "No need to learn CLI or other such dark arts."

        What is this, the 1980s? I've not *had* to on other OSs.

        "No worries about backups."

        So it does an offline backup automatically, does it?

        Yes, it's true that storing on Google is more reliable than the average person's hard disk, but this is not a *back up*. And it's not clear to me that managing an offline backup of Google is easier than the backup solutions for other OSs?

        "No need to call in the IT chappie/son to fix it."

        The laptop is physically indestructable? Most of my parents' IT queries are about Internet/browser related stuff, which would still apply.

        "Oh and it costs £200"

        Yes they finally got the price right - it made no sense when they cost more than a similarly specced laptop even with the Windows licence fee. Though note there are other low cost laptops too (and not just netbooks).

        1. jason 7
          Happy

          Re: Ah....oh dear....

          Mark, think you've got a little bit of denial going on there.

          Chromebook offers a simpler far less fussy experience than Windows, Apple or Linux.

          I was quite anti the idea but once you try it for a few weeks you realise a lot of people are farting around out there with gear that is way too high maintenance for what they need.

          1. mmeier

            Re: Ah....oh dear....

            Tried to sell an Android tablet to my parents (had a spare N8010 around last year). All went fine until the questions came:

            + Does <Prefered game x> run on it

            + Cousin y has software z, Does it run on this. I would like to do some stuff with pictures...

            + Can I print from it (No you can not, the frelling thing does not recognize the printer setup we have)

            We never got to the "juggle the adapters" part (That is Note specific - the CBs have straight USB at least). And the Android tablet at least can run without the Internet. My parents have a really fast connection speed: 384kb downstream. On a good day, when all the neighbours are at church. Don't ask about the upload... So stuff like Google print is a "forget it".

            Add in that Google will most likely again only accept CreditCard for payment as the do in the play store. And CC is somewhat rare in Germany because on the continent the Maestro debit card system works as well and you get the card "for free".

            So currently it is a well locked down Win7 with a limited user for the parents and that works fine. Couple with good (if used) hardware for Desktop and Notebook and a once per year maintenance (26th Dezember is maintenance day)

            1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

              1. mmeier

                Re: Ah....oh dear....

                What does Android do that Windows can not? Outside a phone that is?

                Let's compare a N8010 and an Ativ500 without dock. Both Samsung, both Penables, similar size/weight. 2GB, Flash-based storage, WLAN only (Tethering through my smartphone)

                Since both are penables and I do not use touch when I can use a stylus a lot of the "Win7 software is not touch ready" arguments (That ARE correct) do not count for my use case.

                Pro Note:

                ========

                The Note is cheaper (around 200€)

                The Note can use a smaller "SSD" (32 vs 64GB) for similar amounts of free storage

                Contra Note:

                ==========

                The Note can NOT print directly to my Printer (Samsung Print does not support it). It can do so with a CUPS based printer system and an app - sometimes. CUPSprint does not always work, hangs on occasions and needs a Unix (or Mac box).

                PS touch vs. GIMP is like pitting a Roman Centurion against a BAOR Centurion

                SNote vs. MS Journal - see above

                Polaris vs. MS Office (or even OO/LO) is not really fair either

                PDF reader/annotators on Win are a lot better as well. There is one Free one on Android that handles more than one open PDF at a time

                Can not buy software on Google Play since it only accepts CC. I am living in civilized germany - no need for CCs here

                Equal

                =====

                Access to my NAS

                Access to the Internet

                Endururance in my typical use

                So what ARE the benefits of Android vs. Win8 on a TABLET(5)? On phones one might argue Android has more apps than WP7/WP8(1). Both are equally easy to program(2) and the chance of getting software I need for my hobby on Windows is at least equal (Web-based) or better (3). Google Apps work on FF / Chrome under Win just fine (4)

                (1) Since I keep a smartphone for the Tethering only and use a tablet pc for the rest a minor argument for my use case

                (2) Due to more experience Windows 7 compatible software is easier to write for me. Java and Swing

                (3) Pen and Paper RPG character generators are often Win-only or JAVA-Swing apps.

                (4) And the browsers are a bit more stable

                (5) I do not care about "Open Source", "GNU", "Linux" etc. One rarely has the time to really look at other peoples code / fix it, many OOS software systems lack in usability (The good ones are typically done by a company / have a company as a main contributor so the main difference is price)

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Ah....oh dear....

          There is a slight difference between "press reset, log back back in and have all your documents synced"

          vs,

          Run Windows reimage utility on a laptop, wait an hour, reboot a dozen times, find the drivers, run 37,000 windows updates, reinstall office, call India to get the key recognized because you already installed this copy, download and configure all the other bits of software you need for a useful Windows machine

          Then copy all your docs from a backup

        3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. mmeier

            Re: Ah....oh dear....

            Windows licency fee for a typical OEM is 20€. Not much "extra" on the price. And that is before one accounts for the money the OEM gets for installing "demo versions" of tools like McAffee. The "Huge extra cost of Windows" has been de-bunked more than once. Even the 20€ are easily eaten by the costs of tailoring a distribution to the hardware or the other way round. So no matter how often the PinguBoys spread their lies - they remain lies!

            And "Windows running hotter" and "needing more hardware" is another famous story. With about as much truth as Peter Ustinovs version of Nero or Kirk Douglas Spartakus(1). Out of the box Susie or xBuntu eat as much memory etc. as Win7 or 8 if given the same tasks and using ALL features of your unit(2). And OOB is what Joe Average uses. If we go to mobile devices it get's uglier since hibernation works a lot better on Windows. Linux gets 10-15 percent less endurance on mobiles.

            (1) Those two at least where good movies

            (2) Granted, running a modern graphics adapter in 2D only or VESA emulation WILL reduce power consumption. As will not using parts of the hardware at all and running in "shell mode".

  14. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    FAIL

    Of course Samsung innovates...

    look at that, its nothing like an Apple product.... oh, hang on...

    Ignoring the blatant coping of designs in Korea, i think Google might bring Chrome to the party about 2 years and the iPad to late.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Of course Samsung innovates...

      shiny aluminium and rounded corners aren't an Apple invention

      In fact I think deHaviland should sue Apple for copying the comet

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. mmeier

        Re: Of course Samsung innovates...

        Strange. For something that is dead Netbooks, even with Linux, are readily available. NEW!

        Amazon offers me a Acer Aspire One D270 for 199€. Order till 18:00 Berlin time and it will be here tomorrow.

        Or if you prefer a better quality: Asus F201E-KX065DU with Ubuntu for 279€. Same terms

        As an alternative I could go for a mini-notebook with AMD CPU from Lenovo

        Lenovo IdeaPad S206 (With FreeDOS, 200€)

        And so on. Quite a few "dead" units around. Without Windows.

        So much for an other FUD from sector Eadon

  15. Al Taylor
    Pint

    iPad?

    I'm duty bound to point out that the Samsung Chromebook is £170 cheaper than an iPad.

    If it was my money I'd buy a Samsung Chromebook and a 16GB Nexus 7 and spend the remaining tenner on beer.

    But that's just me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iPad?

      I'd buy the Chromebook, forget the Nexus 7 and spend the remaining £170 on beer.

      1. Toothpick
        Pint

        Re: iPad?

        I'd forget the Chromebook AND the Nexus 7 and spend it all on beer.

  16. Kevin Reilly
    Pint

    I wish someone would do a chromebook capable of either logging in to either google or to a local server. The Mac Mini seems ideal as you can download the server addons from the app store. Then after you get your Mac server you could add macs for the rest of the family for a couple of hundred quid a pop. Thin client see.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gonna be getting myself on of these.

    Been curious about Chromebooks for a while, and slightly nervous about when it;s offline, it being as useful as Oscar Pistorius's Playstation..

    However I have since has a tinker one one, and REALLY like it. it's light and fast, and uber-useful.

    1. Kaltern

      Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

      Did Oscar play his PS with his legs then?

    2. jason 7

      Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

      The thing is I feel a lot of folks think that internet connectivity is still as it was in 2001.

      How often in any one day are you away from some form of internet connectivity when you actually WANT to do something?

      Its really not that often. I have the broadband at home. I have my 3G tethering on my phone. I have access to BT hotspots and most public places worth their salt have wi-fi available, even trains. The only place you might struggle is on a plane. But the google docs still work offline. It caches all your recent stuff.

      But FFS folks there are some occasions you can just switch off. Trust me the world can go on without you for a few hours.

      1. mmeier

        Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

        There are some parts of the world where the Internet is slow (below 1MBit downstream) and 3G has broad cells that are actually crowded AND slow. And we are not talking "middle of nowhere" but rather "wealthy suburb of a larger, industrialized city". Problem is back when fiber was layed there was little to no interest in it so there is none. And the industry is on the other side of the city - as is the telecomunications hub etc. So this part of the town is "end of line" for most stuff

        Not too uncommon in germany. LTE is slowly coming but either not yet there or VERY costly and size-limited to low to be useful. The result is a self promoting loop. No broadband => No IT industrie (despite good traffic links and low prices) => IT workers settle somewhere else => Even less interest in broadband....

        1. jason 7

          Re: Gonna be getting myself on of these.

          Well in my travels I find that connectivity is generally pretty good and not 2001 like at all.

          I must say you don't really need 20Mbps connections to get by on a Chromebook. 1-2Mbps works fine.

  18. Fuzzy Duck
    Thumb Up

    i've got the samsung

    and it's great - come on - it is what it is..great for surfing whilst sat in front of the telly. chrome os needs some tweaks but you get 100Gb of google space and its cheaper than a macbook air or ipad - and i'm a long time mac user but their prices are a joke.

  19. Nelbert Noggins

    ...but the Acer has Caps Lock and Search keys

    So in the Samsung picture... the big key where caps lock would normally be is what? Yes... that big key with the magnifying glass on it.... like the little key on the Acer that is used to search....

    Do many people still use caps lock? It's a serious question because I can't even remember the last time I needed caps lock...

    The search, ctrl and Alt keys can be remapped in the settings... so you could revert the search key to caps lock, even make the ctrl/alt keys swap or be search, or disable all keys.

    I got my Chromebook because it was a cheap, light, silent and decent arm chip based laptop with driver support for linux, so never intended to use it as a Chromebook. I actually use it more than a tablet or my laptop, as a chromebook when on the sofa.

    Of course the Acer will be easier to install Linux on, it's an intel chip, but there is little available with a recent Arm chip as a finished product that is simple to install Linux on, even less in laptop form.

    As for all the people who haven't tried one saying it's pointless, try using one first. I never expected to use it as a Chromebook, but once I started using it became my main sofa device.

    1. jason 7
      Happy

      Re: ...but the Acer has Caps Lock and Search keys

      Must admit I hadn't noticed it didn't have a Caps Lock key.

      So I guess it's not that important. Folks will be moaning about the missing Scroll Lock key and the fact you can't buy twin-tub washing machines any more next.

  20. Sergey 1

    So, when do we get a decent ARM-based linux laptop with a usable size screen?

    Samsung chromebook could be close, but resolution isn't great, and neither is native linux support...

    ...suffered an Atom-based netbook for a while - oh joy...

    Want a quad core 1.7 GHz ARM with 4G RAM and 1600x1080 screen please!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Met all expectations

    Samsung Series 3 joined a stable of PC/Mac/Android/iOS devices three weeks ago. To date very impressed. Fast on & completely silent.

    Has handled almost everything flawlessly. Bluetooth Motorola Xoom K/B & mouse. Logitech wireless mouse. Read/Write to SD Cards & external hard drives via USB (FAT32 & NTSC). Dell 30" monitor via HDMI. Only failure has been a Samsung monitor with HDMI/DVI but displayed in low resolution.

    Run Multiple Accounts. Zero updates & maintenance. Have yet to try some of the offline stuff for Gmail & Docs.

    Will buy the original Chromebox at £249 next week to hang off the Dell monitor as main Web & Email device. Flip to PC as required.

    As mentioned in previous posts, there are excellent Kindle eBooks on all of this from Tony Loton (C H Rome) & Michael Miller. Masses of web articles & Google's own sites. Not for everyone but worth a look & dirt cheap.

    HP 14 Pavilion Chromebook looks interesting, apart from black fingerprint finish & large vent, presumably connected to a fan. Availability & price in UK to be determined. If ever.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I cannot believe....

    That people are prepared to spend $200/$300 of their own money to purchase a tool that allows a creepy American corporation to spy on their every move. Do people have no sense of self worth anymore? Google should be paying users to use the bloody things.

    In addition, the device in question does not even run most of the programs that people use on a daily basis

    Finally, Chromebooks also ensure a complete and utter lock in to a single vendors services.

    These things are a disaster!!

    1. jason 7
      Facepalm

      Re: I cannot believe....

      So you haven't actually used one then?

      I have. It works!

    2. Al Taylor
      Mushroom

      Re: I cannot believe....

      I struggle to see what the difference is between letting Google look down your dress by using a Chromebook or letting Apple or Microsoft or Amazon do the same by using an iPad/iPhone or WP8/Windows RT device or Kindle Fire. Or Google again through your Android phone or tablet.

      Anyone who buys a Chromebook is more than likely already using Google's cloud services or they wouldn't have bought one. If privacy from sneaky corporate types is a priority I'd suggest using pen and paper over any sort of connected gadget.

      I'm not going to dignify the argument that Apple or Microsoft or Amazon are somehow more trustworthy than Google.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I cannot believe....

      There you have it. Democracy & free speech in action. Very erudite.

      Will probably change my real name to "self worthless".

    4. Killing Time
      Coat

      Re: I cannot believe....

      Low cost, low maintenance, decent quality (new Samsung) web device. Had mine for a month and love it. Much prefered to my tablet for anything over and above basic web browsing, and for once I have a device with a trackpad that's a dawdle to use. Pretty much does what it says on the tin and I suspect will only get better given the Chrome update cycle and Google's clout in the apps dept.

      If you think that any of the other vendors out there (Apple, Microsoft et al) do not exploit tracking data etc. to the max then you are either incredibly naive or in the pay of one of the others.

      Pick your camp and take your chances, I'm pretty confident that my web activity, as no doubt is the vast majority of people's not worth the time and effort to spy on. go on face it, it's bloody mundane!

  23. paulc
    Linux

    OK, now how easy is it to wipe the Google cr@pola off?

    and stick a sensible Linux on instead?

    1. jason 7

      Re: OK, now how easy is it to wipe the Google cr@pola off?

      What you mean delete Linux and put Linux back on it?

      Hmmmmmm?

      On a side issue I find it funny that Linux could well get its time in the sun desktop wise through the Chromebook but it just wont be the vision of linux the fanbois always dreamed of.

    2. Al Taylor
      Alert

      Re: OK, now how easy is it to wipe the Google cr@pola off?

      Page 3, last couple of paras.

  24. AJ MacLeod

    I'd almost take the Acer

    If only the keyboard wasn't so badly laid out. I'd have to swap the HDD for a SSD of course, but at least that's easy to do. The Samsung keyboard looks fine but for the ten billionth and second time I will not buy a netbook with no Ethernet socket!

    My original HP Mini may be glacially slow but it still does the job for now and has taken a fair few knocks... the Ethernet port has happily returned to life after an accidental bath in glycol coolant so hopefully someone will have produced a usable replacement by the time it properly dies on me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd almost take the Acer

      Plugable's USB Ethernet Adapter at £18 works fine. No drivers to install. WiFi at 5GHz & 2.4 works great with better range than iPad 4 or iPad mini. Rock solid.

      The perfect mobile device has yet to materialise.

      For me, the Chrome OS concept is proven & works but horses for courses.

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: I'd almost take the Acer

        Yeah, I know I could use a USB/Ethernet adapter - but as I've said before, the whole point of a netbook for me is that it's a fully fledged and fully functioning self-contained computer that's small and light enough to easily carry in one hand into some of the more awkward places that IT equipment (particularly networking gear) gets shoved - I definitely don't want to be clambering through some dodgy loft hatch with cables and adapters hanging out of my laptop and in any case the chances are it'd have got knocked off and lost in the boot of the car or crushed under a heavy server or something before then anyway.

        For all the space they take up, and the truly negligible cost of the things, I'm just not going to buy a device that doesn't have one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'd almost take the Acer

          AJ

          I understand & agree with you. Comment about Ethernet Adapter was mostly to inform the total audience.

          Vendors should include all the usual "bells & whistles", plus non protuding SD Cards etc. However, your usage scenario implies that a wireless solution would be ideal. The less cables & clutter the better.

  25. John 62

    trackpad right-click

    "There are still a few Chromebook idiosyncrasies knocking about, though, like a right-click of the trackpad seldom actually doing anything. If you want to open a context menu to create a folder, change the desktop wallpaper or correct a misspelling in Docs, it’s a two-fingered click on the trackpad you need. Right-clicking only works if you are using a USB mouse."

    As a MacBook owner, I would contend that this is the ONE TRUE way. Though, with tap to click and tap-n-drag disabled by default on Apple's trackpads, it's a wonder anyone would want to use them, I always find myself wondering why the trackpad won't respond to taps when I log out or when I'm in the Apple store.

  26. Adze

    Hmm...

    ...is there anything a Chromebook WILL do that an Asus X401A won't? There's pretty much everything that a Chromebook will do in the Asus and a lot more that a Chromebook won't, apart from cost you £20 less in the UK natch.

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