My Google Chromebook has arrived: First impressions after an hour

Summary:My Google Chromebook landed via FedEx just about an hour ago. Naturally, I couldn't resist firing that puppy up. Now this isn't a full-blown review, but immediate impressions of what I liked and areas that are going to take some work to get used to.

My Google Chromebook landed via FedEx just about an hour ago. Naturally, I couldn't resist firing that puppy up.

Now this isn't a full-blown review, but immediate impressions of what I liked and areas that are going to take some work to get used to. The ultimate judge of this thing will be handing it to my 7-year-old daughter. To her, the browser is the operating system.

Gallery: Google's Chromebook: A brief tour

Here's a stream of consciousness review. Engadget also served up a first take (looks like the FedEx truck came at the same time):

Hardware:

  • The actual hardware is non-descript and feels like it's rubberized. The casing feels like something cut from Batman's rubberized outfit.
  • The keyboard is simplified, but that could be jarring to some folks. For instance, the first thing I looked for was a print screen key. If you blog, print screen is your best friend. I couldn't quite find this function, but downloaded a free screenshot app for Chrome. It kind of worked.
  • Printing. Hooking up a printer requires Google Cloud Print, which is in beta. The instructions were to go to a Windows PC go to www.google.com/cloudprint, fire up the Chrome browser there and hook up Cloud Print under options. The problem is that Cloud Print wasn't an option. A few searches indicated that the Cloud Print option is in Chrome 9. The issue: I have the latest Chrome and it's version 8 and change. Figuring this Cloud Print thing out ate up a good 20 minutes of my first hour. In fact I still don't have it figured out. Update: Google Cloud Print works well when set up. Update: Biggest item is that you need a developer build of the Chrome browser for the PC attached to the printer.

Software

  • Chrome OS is basically a browser. If you know how to use Chrome, there's nothing shocking with this Chromebook.
  • The app screen obviously promotes Google items such as Gmail. Getting started is much easier if you have a Google account. There is a guest mode I haven't played with much.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity was a piece of cake. In addition, the Verizon connection works nicely, but you have to give a credit card number just for the free 100 MB a month service.
  • The Chromebook fires up very quickly. You almost giggle when you close the Chromebook and open it again.
  • If you live in Google Docs---I use it at work---the Chrome OS is easy. If you're used to saving docs on a local drive and going through folders you're in for a rude awakening.
  • Why is that a rude awakening? We're conditioned to be able to poke around on an OS via file folders, start menus and application lists. With the Chrome OS you live in the browser window. There may be an ability to save on a local drive, but not entirely sure.

Bottom line: For a long-time PC and Mac user, the Chromebook is almost too simple. I want to poke around and see the innards of this PC. I almost feel caged by the browser window. What's under the hood on this thing?

On the surface, that feeling is pretty illogical. I live in a browser at least 80 percent to 90 percent of the time so what's the big deal? It's that 10 percent where I want to roam through settings---even though I don't know what half of them are for.

One thing is clear. This Chromebook is truly a network computer. For some folks that may be a tad jarring. I'm going to give this pup a few days, hand it off to some family members and return with further ideas. The big question in my mind is whether this Chromebook will change that initial feeling of unease after a few days.

Topics: Browser, Google

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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