Earlier this year, Google announced it was rolling out a new device; one that would attempt to harness the power of the web and make it the center of the device’s power rather than the device itself.
The Chromebook was pitched, in my mind, as a next generation PC; one that relied on the Web rather than the machine to do the heavy lifting.
I was in the market for a new machine this spring, and was instantly interested in the Chromebook. I bought mine in August, so I’ve had about three months of using it; enough time to be able to give a real review of it and what it’s like to live your online life mostly in the cloud.
The first thing you’ll need to get used to is the lack of programs on your machine.
The Chromebook runs one program. Chrome OS. That’s it. You open pictures in new tabs/windows, write documents using Google Docs or Microsoft’s Skydrive (essentially Office in the cloud).
Google Docs is my preferred service; mainly because I’ve sold my soul to Google, but also because I’ve found it extremely functional once you get used to it. It IS different from Word, but will do everything that program does.
That’s the same situation for Google’s spreadsheet, presentation, form, drawing or other Office-esque programs. Each can be sent/downloaded as standard file formats; and word docs can be sent/saved as PDF’s.
Chromebooks come with 16 GB of hard drive space; but it’s not intended to actually store stuff on.
Think of it more as a place to put files while you upload them somewhere else. Of course, the big file you’re probably wondering about is music and pictures.
My music, all of it, lives in the cloud with Google Music. It took roughly three days to upload all of it, but I can now listen to my entire collection anywhere I go.
I highly recommend that; especially with Google getting ready to launch its own music store. Pictures are stored (for me) either on Facebook or Flickr.
So, what’s it like, living in the cloud?
I’ve found it much simpler.
I don’t have to wonder where I stored a file. It’s all in my Google Docs.
I don’t have to worry about what happens if my machine crashes and dies because everything I need is stored online.
My Chromebook’s operating system updates a few times a month, so I don’t have to worry about it slowing my machine down. I can access all of my documents from any machine with an Internet connection.
There are downsides, of course.
I’ve been able to make my Chromebook my primary computer because I don’t do any video or photo editing. If you work heavily with either of those, then making a permanent move to the cloud isn’t the best of ideas.
Chromebook is not supposed to run Photoshop or video editing software, so if your job entails a large amount of this, something like the Chromebook will not be suitable as a primary machine.
My OS does crash on a regular basis. The difference between that and if your OS were to crash is that for me, it’s like my browser crashing. I simply reload the pages and go back to where I left off.
Is it annoying? Hell yes. Is it fatal? No. The positives far outweigh the negatives in my mind.
I have little doubt I’ve left out something you have questions about. Please ask in the comments, I’ll answer them there!
I love my MacBook Pro! #thatisall
I’m sure we’ll all be making the transition to life in the cloud soon, @MattLaCasse . At least as far as documents go and I can’t wait until that happens.
Sadly, the chromebook wouldn’t work for me as a primary traveling computer. Too much creative suite usage and of course the ocasional video game. Okay, okay. Too much video games and the occasional creative suite usage.
Hard drives are surprisingly expensive right now. Thailand is under water. : /
You’re a brave man @MattLaCasse – I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around Chromebook, especially since I do a lot of video editing. Most of my docs are synched to the Cloud but I’m not ready to completely let go yet. :)
@Tinu I don’t blame you Tinu. As I said, I don’t do a lot of video or photo editing, and what I do can be done in picnik or another web-based photo editor. They’re relatively cheap; mine cost about $440 w/ shipping from amazon (I got the wifi only version). Use it for casual browsing and word processing to get a feel for it. I thought it’d be a huge change, to be honest. I’ve not found that to be the case for me, probably be different for you though with editing factored in.
Really nice review Matt.
I have concerns about the cloud having critical data and not having it backed up on a physical hard drive elsewhere. Say I want to change clouds?
That said very slick technology and so glad you are a renegade like me without a Mac.
I like Chrome but use mostly Firefox so I can block ads and unwanted java scripts and networks. I use No Script so on new websites I unlock the website but leave the ad networks and tracking nets disabled.
@HowieSPM I can see that concern. I’ll NEVER argue against having your data backed up at home. With terrabyte drives as cheap as they are, no reason not to have one just in case.
I used Firefox exclusively before I switched to Chrome and I’ve found there are the same extensions and apps to do what you’re talking about. The biggest thing for me is that if my computer crashes, it’s NOT a big deal. All the data I was working on is likely recoverable, and if the machine up and dies or I drop it and break it, all I have to do is buy another and log in. Huge peace of mind factor for me.