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February 23, 2011

A Glimpse into the Future of Computing: My Chrome OS Notebook

I got a call from my parents about a month ago to catch up and at the end of the conversation my mom casually told me I had a package waiting at home for me. I thought nothing of it till she added, “I think it’s from…Google?” Three months after I signed up to test Google’s latest and greatest experiment, a new OS revolving around Chrome, they had finally sent me a free notebook.


Since the tech giant announced they were building an operating system that was just a browser back in 2008, I’ve been obsessed with the idea. After all, what do you use your computer for that can’t be done in the cloud? Word processing? I’ve moved almost exclusively to google docs for all note taking and paper writing needs. Consuming media? While I love my iTunes music collection with a passion, more and more I find myself turning on Last.fm or going to Pandora for my listening needs.

Our computers have slowly been making the transition from locally stored content to cloud based computing ever since the Internet began to be utilized by consumers and the time has finally come to make the final step. Chrome OS is Google’s way of telling the world, “You don’t need anything but a browser, and we’re going to build an entire operating system to prove it.”


Execution: Hardware 

The Chrome OS notebook is by every standard a gorgeously minimalistic machine. Opening up the cleverly unboxing the Chromebookdecorated packaging, it looks like a piece of slate. The entire machine is complete washed black and has no logos of any sort. The grippy surface seems classy and durable at the same time and the keyboard is phenomenal. Really, one of the best typing experiences I’ve ever had.

Weight and dimensions wise I have to say Google hit it perfectly. It’s light, think netbook feel, but also solid. As my friend kindly noted the second he opened it up, it seems like something out of Steve Job’s production lines.

There are some faults with the design however, mainly the screen and touch pad. It’s not that either are particularly awful, they both work as needed, but they are far from the superb quality of say…the keyboard. I’ve struggled multiple times with the touchpad registering unwanted clicks and refusing to move. The screen, while above the quality of many netbooks and bright when needed, lacks some of the HD resolution my main laptop possesses. The lack of a backlight keyboard is also troubling, especially when you take into account the already dark nature of the hardware.

Execution: Software

The actually intriguing aspect of the notebook, the OS, works fairly well for a beta product. I have yet to encounter major…or minor bugs for that matter and it seems close to release candidate ready. Booting up the laptop takes about 10 seconds and waking up from sleep is literally instant. It’s so gratifying to come back to my dorm room, grab it, open it, and it’s on. Given, connecting to my router is a 2-3 second endeavor even once the browser is open, but still….it beats my Dell which takes 20-35 seconds to get to my log-in page.

Many people will complain about the lack of Office or VLC media player but as someone who has largely gone to the cloud prior to receiving the Chrome OS notebook, I was right at home. Occasionally I may stumble on a file i need to download and have to switch to my other laptop but that’s expected; it can’t all be easy living in the cloud when most technology is still largely based around local storage.

It’s important to keep in mind that Google doesn’t expect Chrome OS to replace Windows and Mac OS. The platform is meant to work with netbooks that lack the computing power to do much other than browse the web. If there is one thing that I have taken away from my experience with Chrome OS it’s that we are moving towards an Internet based computing world, and it’s happening faster than you think. How long until Netflix all but demolishes the DVD player? When will smartphones give up on large amounts of storage in favor of streaming media from the cloud? Google realizes this is our inevitable future and has dedicated itself to being the first to experiment…and I have to say, I’m loving it.

Notebook rating: 8/10

Chrome OS execution it beta: 7/10

Chrome OS from a concept perspective: 10/10