Will a Chromebook be your next PC?

Will a Chromebook be your next PC?

Summary: You could buy a Windows 8 PC, good luck with that, a pricey Mac, or you could get the Google Chrome OS powered Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook.

The latest Chromebook may be just what you need for your next PC.

Sure, you could keep using Windows, although Windows 8 looks worse every time you look at it; or you could buy a Mac for big bucks; or you could buy a  Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook starting at $449 and have a great Linux-based desktop that you already know how to use.

What’s that? It’s Linux and that’s so complicated. Oh please. Get into the 21st century, Linux is easy enough for grandpa and grandma to use. And, besides if you know how to use the Chrome Web browser--you do know how to use a Web browser right?--then you already know how to use Chrome OS and a Chromebook. If you really want to have the full Linux shell command experience, you can have that too, but it’s purely optional.

The Chromebook 2012 Gallery

The new model Chromebook has been out for several months now. When it first came out I decided rather than review it immediately, I’d see if I could actually use it for my day to day work. I’m here to report to you today that yes, yes, you can use the Chromebook for a Windows or a Mac desktop replacement.

True, the Chromebook’s hardware numbers are nothing to write home about. It uses an Intel Celeron_867 Processor running at a mere 1.3GHz for a processor, 4GBs of RAM, and a 16GB SSD (Solid State Drive). For a display it has a matte 12.1-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800. It also has a 1 megapixel webcam and dual speakers on the bottom.

When it comes to ports, the 550 has a Gigabit Ethernet port, DisplayPort, USB, and a combo headphone/mic jack on the left. On the right side there’s a 4-in-1 card slot and a Kensington lock slot. And, on the rear of the PC you'll find a SIM card slot. For Wi-Fi, it supports the usual 802.11b, g, and n protocols. If you want you can also get a model that supports 3G for a $100 more. The whole systems weights in at slightly more than 3 pounds.

Put it all together and all you get is a lightweight, slow netbook right? Wrong.

This is the fastest booting computer I’ve ever seen. From dead cold to displaying the desktop takes 7 seconds. The next best is my late 2011 model MacBook Air, which takes 16 seconds. Windows? Please. It’s not even in the same ballpark.

I also put the Chromebook through its paces on FutureMark’s PeaceKeeper Web browser test suite. Here it scored only 1,888. This placed it second to Chrome 22 with a score of 2,131, but ahead of Firefox 15 with 1,675 and IE 9 with 1,347-- which were running on a Gateway DX4710 with Windows 7 SP1. This PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GBs of RAM and an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3100. Even on far slower hardware, Chrome OS kicks rump and takes names.

The Chromebook’s special sauce is Chrome OS. This operating system uses a thin layer of an Ubuntu Linux as a foundation for the Chrome Web browser. That’s all there is to it. Yes, you need an Internet connection to get it to work at its best.  But tell me, just how much work or play do you do on a computer these days without the Internet?

Yep, that’s right: In 2012, everything we do is locked into network connectivity one way or the other. As John Gage, a former Sun executive, once said, “The network is the computer.” Today, it really is.

Besides, what’s this? It turns out you can use a Chromebook without the Internet. Gmail and Google Documents will both work without a network connection now. It’s not perfect. You still can’t edit spreadsheets or view or edit presentations; but still, for a cloud-driven desktop, it’s really quite impressive what you can do when the nearest net connection is 50 miles down a dirt road.

Another really nice feature is that you can use a Chromebook for more than six hours on a single battery charge. I recently made it from Dulles airport, near Washington DC, to San Diego and my battery was still over 20% when I had to turn it off. I’ve never had any other laptop come close to that record.

So, can you use a Chromebook as a “fat-client” PC replacement? Yes, yes, you can. I’ve been using it that way for several months now on an almost daily basis.

I write my stories in Google Docs; check my e-mail with Gmail;  IM, talk and video-conference to my friends and co-workers with Google Talk;  track my personal bills with Quicken Online; manage my business expenses with QuickBooks Online; play music from Google Play; and tinker with my photos in Picasa. I can also, unlike any other version of Linux, watch Netflix movies as well as Google Play videos.

Apple fans have a phrase they used to use all the time before iOS Wi-Fi became troublesome and Apple decided to replace Google Maps with Apple Maps. The phrase was: It just works. Guess what? The Chromebook just works.

The Chromebook also works without you needing to patch the software, add an anti-virus program, or clean out the fossilized remains of programs you’ve uninstalled. As an associate of mine put it recently, “It requires no maintenance." Exactly so.

Yes, you can update it, and I recommend that you do, but it’s your choice. There’s very few bad bad zero day exploits out there for Chrome, unlike say Windows, where they show up like clockwork every month.

Does this sound too good to be true? Try it for yourself. You can install Chrome OS on a virtual machine to play with it, or you can also rent a Chromebook for $30 a month. I think you’re going to find that you may just decide that instead of a Windows PC or a Mac, a Chromebook might be your next computer.

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Topics: Linux, Browser, Google, Hardware, Laptops, Networking, Operating Systems, Samsung, PCs

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  • Sheesh

    >>Sure, you could keep using Windows, although Windows 8 looks worse every time you look at it

    You really are just a bitter and twisted old man aren't you? I bet you sit by your window and yell 'get off my lawn' at kids. Just what did Microsoft do to you???
    • Would not recommend it to my worst enemy

      No, thanx.
      • Right!

        Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is dreaming!!! lol

        No Chrome book over 49.99$ will sell... lol

        You can get a cheap Acer 15" Laptop for 349$ With Windows 7 so... Forget the Chrome Books Steven lol...
        • Yes, but...

          Yes, but that cheaper Windows laptop will be virus-vulnerable, frastratingly slow to boot and use, get slower and more crash-prone over time, require separate anti-virus software, will require active maintenance of the OS and of all apps (all separately with different methods and interfaces), will require active user-originated backup if any backup is to be had at all, laborious effort to synchronize across machines that will never get EVERYTHING, laborious effort to transfer files and apps to a newer machine from this one when it's lost or broken or outdated, etc.

          By contrast for just $100 more you get an effectively impregnable machine that is lightning fast and will only get faster over time, updates itself and all apps automatically, "backs up" all files and apps and settings, easy to sync or transfer to a new machine -- just enter your username and password and it's all there - all your favorites, email, calendar, apps, music, photos, document, applications, preferences, settings, desktop picture, etc. They way things SHOULD be.
          • Clueless idiot!!!

            My Windows 7 laptop is incredibly fast, boots even faster, doesn't get slower or more crash prone, hasn't crashed once since I've had it, doesn't require maintenance, and updates itself automatically. You truly are as stupid as the day is long. I doubt you could find your butthole with a lubricated funnel.

            Chrome OS is not impregnable at all. It's just irrelevant and useless, and nobody pays it any attention, including the malware makers. So take your lies and BS and take a hike. Nobody with any sense is going to buy a Chromebook. That is why they're massive failures. Only Microsoft hating twats like you and SJVN would buy a Chromebook.
          • Microshit fanboy!!!

            "My Windows 7 laptop is incredibly fast, boots even faster, doesn't get slower or more crash prone, hasn't crashed once since I've had it, doesn't require maintenance, and updates itself automatically."

            Consider yourself lucky... Or magician.

            "You truly are as stupid as the day is long. I doubt you could find your butthole with a lubricated funnel."

            You're an idiot and you just proved by this comment.
            Patryk Poblocki
          • adding up the buyers or CrapBook...

            2 including your buddy, the author...
          • Sorry.

            Say it over again and over again and over again all you like. What he says is true.

            "My Windows 7 laptop is incredibly fast, boots even faster, doesn't get slower or more crash prone, hasn't crashed once since I've had it, doesn't require maintenance, and updates itself automatically"

            The world must be full of magicians. Thats how Windows 7 works. Sorry, but true.

            Why you just cannot live with that fact, I dont know, but the fact is that its your comments that show you seem to have lost your mind over this.
          • Mr. Hammack

            ZDNet's James Kendrick is not a "Microsoft hating twat". More here:

            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Honesty

            Come on, be honest. Wat person, that is using Windows 7 van take your comment seriously. You may like Microsoft but thats no reason To lie.

            I liked Windows 7 THE first month. After that, THE Same thing happend as with all Windows verslons i ever USD. IT tot slower and Buggier Every day.
          • Clueless is right.

            Your description of Windows might fit 98/Me, but nothing they've put out since, and it certainly doesn't describe Windows 7.
          • Yes. but..

            With Windows you can actually run all the software you have accumulated over the years, as well as the Chrome browser, which is my favorite browser by the way.
          • The school where my wife works has 20 of of them.

            And if you like them, they will be avaliable soon. Turns out they aren't as useful as advertised, so away they go. Flimsy and buggy is how they're descibed.

            The rest of your reply is hogwash. You just described Windows 95, not Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7.
            NoMore MicrosoftEver
          • I dont want to be insulting.

            I just dont see the tech model that Chromebook is after being the kind of IT model the public should be buying into.

            Its just one more "new" computing method that begs you to turn to the cloud to make your device work with any efficiency.

            I just dont see it. While I suspect SJVN is correct you can get by with one of these things, long term its not any kind of security answer. If the world was full of Chromebooks the hackers would not roll over and die. We have to get this singular issue burned into our minds. Windows may well be flawed, but its largely because of what Windows offers and how its designed in order to offer that, andthe fact its so broad based in use. If you have any other OS with the same user base in the future, half the eqution is right back in place again. Then it all comes down to what you gave up to get what you now have.

            Love it or hate it; Windows means versatility and power to the user.
        • Sure, with a 3 hour battery life, and a big weight to lug around....

          and the maintenance headaches that come as part of Windows.

          It is simple - the big advantage of Chrome is zero maintenance - the only maintenance you will ever need to do on it is to switch it on. It is a question of how much your time is worth. If your time is worth something, then get a Chromebook as a second machine if you already have a PC or Windows laptop, or if you don't need specific Windows applications, you can ditch your Windows PC or laptop and replace it with a Chromebook.

          For example, my employer provides me with a Windows laptop, and pays IT staff to maintain it, so I don't need to buy a PC or laptop to run Windows work apps, and I wouldn't want to do so in my own time anyway.

          It basically boils down to how much your time is worth. If you have time to burn and you have to scrimp and save in order to knock $50 off the sticker price for a heavy weight laptop with a 3 hour battery life, and your employer doesn't think you are worth supplying with a computer and apps to do your office work on, then you should definitely get a Windows PC or laptop.
          • Another lying tw@t!!!

            You don't have to maintain a Windows laptop dumbass. There is no advantage to Chrome OS. It's completely useless and irrelevant, in spite of Microsoft hating douche nozzles like pushing it.
          • You don't have to maintain a Windows laptop??

            It will just run perfectly forever???!!
          • No maintenance on Windows?

            Wow, you really don't have a clue, do you?
          • Maintenance

            I have had to already fix my wife's Windows 7 laptop twice, once, it required a complete re-install of the Windows system.

            That's in a home system. For enterprise use, the Sysadmin's I know have to regularly reformat/reinstall (usually a Ghost image write).

            Windows still isn't a really good choice for security.

            That said, I still wouldn't recommend a Chrome Book for most folks. A Linux system that exists on a non writable memory system would be much better than the Chrome Book systems I have seen. A 7 inch Android tablet would probably serve the same target market, and do a better job. Chrome Books only advantage is a keyboard.

            Sorry, Steven. Google's Android really shows up Google's Chrome OS.

            That's just how it is.
          • adding up the buyers or CrapBook...

            3... so maintanance is your strong point!!!