I had my first experience with Google’s new Chromebook this weekend. At first glance the boxy gray plastic unit looked like it would feel heavy, though it was surprisingly light. The keyboard and screen felt a bit clunky to me; the same way the old heavy ThinkPad’s felt to me in early 2000.
Pressing the Chromebook’s power button instantly turned the machine on and I was almost immediately within the Chrome browser. I decided to try to emulate a typical day in my life at the office. I visited my websites and logged into to the CMS. Everything worked just as it does as if I was using Chrome on my desktop, but then I hit a snag. As a website manager I don’t have any way of uploading files to my websites, such as Drupal or WordPress Modules. While in WP I could at least update modules, but unless you’re using a Drupal 7 based site you’re stuck. Also, with no console, I couldn’t even log into one of our web servers if I needed to restart a runaway process.
Work definitely won’t get done on a Google Chromebook, so I decided to move onto something more casual, such as budget planning with the wife. While I had no way to upload a file to my Google Docs I was at least able to view and edit them from within the Google Docs site. This was fine for the most part as my wife and I keep our budgets within a very simple file we originally created in Excel. While it has calculations that reference other sheets within the document everything was ported over to Google Docs just fine. Unfortunately our resumes always seem to lose a lot in translation, so I’m not sure I’d want to rely on that to use as a submission if we’re ever job hunting.
Next I decided I’d have some fun and see what kind of games I’d have the option of playing. Since the Chromebook is nothing more than a browser this left me with all the many free to play cheesy flash based games. I first tried Iron Grip: Marauders and then Astro Empires. Neither is designed to compete with your desktop games, but they provide a fun way to pass the time and are free.
It’s hard for me to give an overall rating of this device. On one hand if all you do is want to surf the internet, playing browser games, emailing friends, watching YouTube videos and Facebooking, this device is great. Grandma will love it.
However, if you actually even think about doing anything else, such as applying to job websites where you need to attach your resume, use any business software or need utilities for web operations, then this device is probably not for you. I know many people like to say they only fall into the first category, but I don’t know anyone who actually only uses the internet to read and watch things. Most people I know require some interaction with others, even if only through digital means, and the Google Chromebook just isn’t designed to deliver this.
You have more options and capabilities on a smart phone such as the Droid or iPhone than you do on Chromebook, and because of that I see no reason to recommend one, unless you have excess money you just want to spend on a new toy.