I am continuing my long-term testing and usage of my new Chromebook. Last week I talked about general usability and noted that in general, there are no usability issues. The Samsung Chromebook 300 series is a nice little package that is great to carry around, good battery life and feels pretty much just like a regular notebook … only smaller. Just for your edification, I thought I would provide you a picture of my chromebook next to my iPad for size comparison sake.
So, what about those longer-term issues? Those little things you find only after using for a month?
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I also bought one of these little babies for my wife. She is a heavy computer user, but technically, well … let’s just say you would not classify her as a savvy user. She utilizes her computer 95% of the time for email and web browsing. Anything that is slightly out of the ordinary will bring her to a grinding halt. One of the motivations for me to get her one of these machines is that she has a tendency to attract viruses and malware which slow her machine down very quickly. I am then forced to backup, reformat her drive, reinstall the O/S and put all of her “stuff” back on. By the way, this happens even with the latest and greatest Anti-virus software installed.
So, I replaced her Dell 1501 Notebook with this Samsung Chromebook 300 Series. There were several things that I wasn’t sure would go over well, so here is a run down of those items:
- Screen Size: Her old notebook had a 15″ screen … the new Chromebook, only an 11″ screen. I have asked her several times how she feels about the smaller screen. In general, I get the impression that she hasn’t even noticed that it is smaller. Her only complaint was that the screen is “too bright”, which we took care of by adjusting the brightness settings using the controls on the top row of the keyboard.
- Keyboard Size: She had taken to using a separate full-sized keyboard and mouse with her old notebook. This was primarily because she had trouble with the touch pad on the Dell getting in the way when she was typing. I was concerned that the same thing might be an issue with the chromebook. Well, after nearly a month of use, she hasn’t mentioned the touch pad being an issue once! Wow! This really kind of surprised me.
- Mouse: As mentioned above, she has used a mouse with her notebook previously. She had a nice Logitech Keyboard/Mouse combo that worked great with a single USB dongle on her notebook. We didn’t move the keyboard to the chromebook, but I thought I might as well put the mouse on the notebook with the dongle. That hasn’t worked out as well. The mouse works, but it is really slow. There is no adjustment software on the chromebook and no way to put a mouse driver from logitech on there, so it looks like down the road, I will have to buy a bluetooth mouse and pitch the logitech dongle. As I said in the earlier review, I have a bluetooth mouse on my chromebook and it works great.
- Differences in operation (No more outlook, etc): This was initially something she complained about, but she has gotten use to Gmail pretty quickly and I haven’t heard any complaints in a couple of weeks. I will say though, that Gmail is not the “prettiest” email client out there. For all the nice looking things the Google does, I am surprised that Gmail is as “plain jane” as it is. I’m sure they could do better.
- Other: One of the things to keep in mind with a chromebook is that it is a browser … nothing else. If you want to run something that doesn’t run in a browser, you are out of luck. So I was surprised when I found that one application my wife used which came from (of all places) COUPONS.COM did not work on the Chromebook. It seems that they actually install an application (either Mac or PC) on your system for printing purposes. We have a network printer installed (via Google CloudPrint/Google Groups) and it works fine, but COUPONS.COM doesn’t seem to want to use that. It has something to do with the fact that they don’t want you printing out unlimited coupons (OK, OK). But, now that she has a Chromebook, she is no longer able to use that site … at least not from her Chromebook.
That is a rundown of the things that I anticipated might be issues. And this little machine comes out looking pretty good at that!
One thing I hadn’t anticipated that ended up being a positive is that it is such a small and easily transportable device, that she ends up carrying it around the house much more than she ever would have done with her notebook. The Chromebook is probably 1/5 the weight of her old notebook. I came into the kitchen the other day and she had it setting on the counter while she was making cookies. Rather than writing down or printing out a recipe, she just carried the CB over to the counter and used it as a portable recipe file. Pretty cool. I have also caught her in various other locations in the house with the system on her lap rather than being where she always parked her notebook (on the kitchen table).
We have also utilized the built-in web cam to do video conferencing via “Google Hangouts”, which is really pretty cool! Skype isn’t available (again, doesn’t run in a browser), but I like Google Hangouts even better than Skype, so if you haven’t tried that yet … you should … even if you don’t have a Chromebook!
She loves this new computer. And, to paraphrase the old saying: “When Mamma’s happy, everybody is happy!”. Ok, that isn’t quite the saying, but you get the idea.
That about wraps it up for this installment of the Chromebook Review. I will have one more segment, which will be focused on my experiences with the Chromebook from a long-term perspective.