Way back in 2007, I was probably one of the first people in America to buy an Asus Eee PC. My MacBook was my home computer, and it cost a huge chunk of my salary at the time. I couldn't see myself taking it anywhere; I'd be terrified to lose the damned thing because my whole life was on it. I was looking for a super-cheap computer I could bang around town with, something durable but lightweight that I could use to Slog from interesting locations. I used the Eee for a few years, but it basically had all the problems that people attribute to netbooks: It was slow, it was stupid, and it was way too small. In the years since, I've never found a netbook that really appealed to me. They started running Windows almost exclusively, for one thing, and that's always seemed like too much OS for what I needed in a portable computer. Basically, I just needed something portable that could play nicely with the internets.
And so, enter the Cr-48. There's been a learning curve in figuring out how to operate a computer that is all browser. For the majority of my life, I have used computers with files and desktops, and so my interactions with computers all naturally flow toward that model. It's been easy enough, and I have been pleased to discover that this thing is a blogging machine. If I want to put a photo on a post, I just save it to the computer's memory card and scoop it up from the same place seconds later. Desktops can get cluttered (most people's computer desktops look a lot like their real desktops) and this is a much leaner, more efficient system for blogging.
I like, too, that nothing of mine is really on this computer. If I were to loan it to a friend, they'd log into their Google Account and they couldn't access any of my bookmarks or passwords. This is the netbook I was looking for, years ago. If Google manages to convince their partners to sell Chrome OS machines for $300 or less, I think there's definitely a place for Chrome OS in the computing market. It's an impersonal computer, a cheap, quick-and-dirty machine to whiz around the internet, perfect for public computers and beaters. (Seems to me that people who have problems with Chrome OS should also have problems with Android phones. The login process is virtually the same and, if anything, there's less personal commitment to Chrome OS because it's not tied to a device at all. And the same people who have problems with that should have a problem with having a Google Account at all.) More random, scattered Chrome OS thoughts are after the jump.
Unlike other reviewers who have Cr-48s, I haven't had problems with Chrome OS handling Flash. It watches YouTube fine, and I'm streaming Pandora as I type this. I haven't even seen or heard a single skip or stutter. The hardware is a trickier proposition: The trackpad is too big and too skittish. Even with the trackpad sensitivity turned way, way down, I find my palm slapping the cursor halfway around the screen accidentally all the time. The battery life totally kicks ass; I can use the thing for a whole day of blogging even with Flash enabled.
I'm not as enamored with the Chrome App Store. The vast majority of Chrome Apps I've tried are literally just bookmarks. I like that the layout of the New York Times Chrome front page is shaped like my laptop screen, but it's just an aesthetic rejiggering.
It's a weird choice, to feature apps that are glorified bookmarks. One would assume that Chrome OS is intended for heavy web users, and they're the last people you'd expect to need the damned things. I can't see Chrome OS taking off for casual computer users or people who don't know what they're doing. Even explaining it to people who aren't conversant in basic computer use is a headache. It's a system that's perfect for journalists and bloggers, but not for un-computer-savvy parents.
I do wish I had more access to the memory. It's got a 16-gig SD card, but the management of it is finicky. I'm hoping that along with Google Docs HTML offline support in January, Google will give Cr-48 users more power over the hardware side of the device. I'd like to be able to upload some .cbr or .cbz files and use the thing as a comics reader, and I don't really have any way to do that right now.
On the whole, though, this is turning out to be a really pleasant secondary or tertiary device, and a great asset to my mobile computing life.