Off the Cuff By Chris A. Porter email@example.com WNI Web Developer and PVtrib.com webmaster shares his perspective on technology, local and national politics, and life in the Quad-city area.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Blog: Google's Chrome - Not your typical flavor of computing (PT. 3)
In a nutshell, I consider myself more of a 'power user' when it comes to computing devices, so I don't really see a mobile device like the Samsung Chromebook, an entry-level device with yet another linux-based OS from Google as quite the right fit for someone like me. Let me explain:
Is the Chromebook light, pretty and streamlined?It sure is.
Is the Chromebook a possible contender for mobile device domination? Right now, no. Not really. Though Windows and Mac OSX devices run much more inclusionary and proprietary operating systems, the standalone functionality and user interface design of Chrome OS still leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to devices running exponentially more polished operating systems like Apple's iOS and Google's other open-source operating system Android.
However, for some cloud-computing aficionados, Chrome OS might just be a perfect fit. With it being open-source software, it is also constantly being updated and improved upon like Android. I think within a few more years, Google's newest OS may someday end up rivaling many key features seen in more mainstream proprietary operating systems. But for now, I don't think it's quite there quite yet.
Is the entry-level Samsung Chromebook worth $250.00? Though I do concede it comes in a very pretty box, I still find this price point a little too steep to justify. I just don't see the lack of a physical keyboard being a major roadblock when comparing it to today's similarly-priced mobile devices. Since the Chromebook is a tailor-made standalone resembling other netbooks on the market, it seems to get compared in overall speed and power to much more expensive models quite frequently. However, due to limitations in design and functionality stated earlier, I'm not sure it is worthy of such comparison.
Chromebook Project - Verdict: Very viable!
If you're the adventurous type like me, you can do as I did and try the Chrome OS experience by DIY with existing equipment for little or no money. It works sufficiently, and it actually turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.
The results of the DIY Acer Chromebook experiment indicated favorability to my existing equipment over the similarly-priced Samsung product from Google, especially the part about incurring little to no additional cost. Built-in network port and additional OS choices were just a few advantages I found on the DIY Acer right away. One major disadvantage is a total loss of multi pad functionality.
In all fairness, an included USB dongle may be used for an RJ45 port on the Samsung Chromebook, but I just don't like the idea of requiring an additional accessory just for the sake of streamlining. Scraping the physical ethernet for purely aesthetic reasons seems like a mistake, especially in rural areas with limited wireless availability. On the other hand, a driver may solve the Acer's multi pad function problem, but then it must rely on the addition of a physical mouse in order to fix it.
The footprint of the Acer is actually smaller than the Chromebook's! The Samsung device may be able to run Windows in a browser, but I can choose what OS I prefer to boot up (Windows or Chrome) just by plugging and unplugging a memory stick.
To me, the ability to run Chromium on many types of existing drives and hardware will always have a significant advantage over a preinstalled Chrome OS standalone device. It's really that simple. But again, that's just my take - your mileage may vary.
Samsung Chromebook: Verdict
It turns out the main disadvantage from the Acer DIY experiment is performance. The Samsung device simply screams by comparison.
The Chromebook's reactive touch pad, faster processor and tailor-made OS definitely make for a much quicker, more elegant and better refined interactive experience with Chrome OS than with my Acer DIY unit. It's not until you really start to work with both that you find out how seemingly superficial differences really make measurable impacts in Chrome OS's level of usability. With the Samsung Chromebook, the bang for the buck is impressive.
The price point and performance advantage will likely be key factors in a consumer's decision to buy a Samsung Chromebook, but are they enough?
I say no. There just seems to be too many other superior choices on the market right now for a standalone mobile device, and I believe tablets and smartphones are still the kings of the hill for the time being.
Verdict: Chromium/Chrome OS
Bottom line? Chrome OS (Chromium) is pretty good, but it's currently not my flavor of iced tea either. In my humble opinion, I just can't fathom abandoning either Windows, Mac OSX, iOS or Android for Google's newest operating system just yet.
As far as the entry level Samsung Chromebook, I think it might someday find a favorable niche in the mobile device market, but for now I'm just not seeing a whole lot of staying power.
In a constantly evolving and expanding market of various mobile electronics, doing your homework is key to understanding which device is best suited to your requirements in both features and limitations.
Users of conventional computing devices may have some trouble adjusting to using a device running Chrome OS, but if you are into the latest mobile tech and prefer to do most of your computing through a browser these days, then Chrome OS might be an attractive alternative for you. Otherwise, you might want to stick to your comfort zone.
Thanks for reading, and as always, your thoughts are very much appreciated.