Last week I purchased a Chromebook, (the cheap Samsung one not the £1050 job announced yesterday, I haven’t completely lost my mind) and I think it’s a really really awesome little laptop.
I’ve been met with intrigue and derision in roughly equal measures since starting to walk round the office campus with it this week. Let me tell you why I understand the sneers, why I like it and why it works for me.
Since 2005 I have been exclusively a Mac user. I had an iBook, then the first aluminium Macbook and then last year I bought an iMac to replace it, reasoning that since I was moving house and travelling way less I didn’t need the portability.
I haven’t really looked back, the iMac is astounding but I have occasionally been crippled by not having something proper to do stuff on when away from home.
Another laptop was out of the question, either too expensive (Apple) or too horrendous to contemplate (HP/Dell/Lenovo designed monster). Plus, I disliked the idea of having two devices that did the same thing. An ideology that also governs my purchase of camping and outdoor gear by the way.
For a while I thought that tablets were the answer but they never really quite delivered. I borrowed an iPad and although it was handy for sitting at home poking around the web and for throwing in a weekend bag for a train journey it wasn’t actually very good for doing work on.
The 10 inch size I did not get on with either. It was AS BIG as a laptop and as much hassle to cart around but it was less functional.
I did like the iPad in itself though and bought a 7 inch nexus tablet to try a different form-factor. Lasted about 5 days. The screen on it wasn’t that much bigger than the screen on my phone which had a permanent network connection so the 7 spent more and more time in my pocket and I donated it to my wife in the end never to be seen again.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve got a shitty old phone, get a Nexus 7 to complement it. They are excellent and they fit in your pocket but if you have a recent smartphone and a PC at home you have exactly the same thing already.
I actually gave up thinking about it and tried to convince myself that I had the iMac at home, and a shitty, heavy, very non-portable HP Windows laptop at work and probably could manage without in between.
I couldn’t. What I needed was something cheap, small and lightweight with a proper keyboard I could do a full days work on occasionally and use round the house ad-hoc in-between.
Enter the Samsung Chromebook
It’s a small, cheap lightweight laptop with an almost full-size keyboard and an SSD drive. It boots up in about 7 seconds, charges in an hour and gives me 6 hours of use.
Sounds perfect no? Why the derision? Well, you have to be into Google and their ecosystem because it only really runs one application, the Chrome web browser.
In summary, if you can’t do it online, in Chrome then you can’t always easily do it with a Chromebook.
It only comes with 16GB of storage, and a very budget ARM processor but you do get given 100GB of Google Drive access for two years included with it and you don’t often need CPU to browse the web!
I really really like it. In fact it’s so good that I often find myself thinking “why is this 1080P HD Vimeo movie jerking a bit” before remembering I’m on a fucking Chromebook, it feels so capable you forget it isn’t something more powerful (like a macbook air).
I’m not going to lie, it feels cheap. It is not a solid aluminium mac, but it does not cost a lot of money and it’s very very light.
So far I have used it everywhere that I used the iPad and Nexus 7. On the couch, train, sat on the bog, in my head-office, in bed, in the garage and I’ve done a full days work on it without compromise.
Google Docs is great for reports, there is an SSH client for Chrome OS and I can just fire up OWA for email and Lync.
£225, it just cannot be argued with. Big fan at the moment. It has properly filled a niche for me.