As a developer, I find myself enticed by the lure of upcoming technology. The problem is that often times technology isn’t quiet ready, so I return whatever it was and try it again months later. It’s like I have technology amnesia or something. I forget why I returned it, haha. So I’m writing this article to remind myself of the weaknesses of the Chromebook at this current moment in time.
I want to pre-cursor the article by saying that I really am impressed with this machine. It boots in five seconds, not seven or eight as it’s advertised. And everything is instant. Starting and closing of apps. Powering off the device (literally takes one second). All sorts of things. Connecting to Wifi takes the average amount of time as you would find on most devices (iPhone, Mac, Android, etc…). Battery life is excellent (it really does last six hours).
The first thing I noticed is that when I tried to lift the “lid” or screen I had to hold the bottom part down. Not really a big deal, but that’s something subtle that I appreciate about the Mac because my laptop doesn’t slide across the table when I try to open the lid with one hand.
Right clicking happens with two fingers instead of clicking in the bottom right. This is more ergonomic for the hand, so I will be updating my Mac to do this.
The caps lock key was replaced with a magnifying glass that opens up the App Launcher so you can search apps or the internet. Pretty cool I must say. However, getting to caps lock was a little confusing at first (shift + magnifying glass).
I also noticed that the charger isn’t anything special. I understand the MagSafe is patented. But I’d really like to see Google find a way around this. Or I guess I should say Samsung.
Although I love my aluminum body Mac this device seems to have a well build plastic (maybe hardened plastic?) shell. They definitely tried to limit anything that can break off of it. The two hinges that connect the screen to the device are visible. Whereas on the Mac it’s just a black bar that goes across from one side to the other (giving the allusion there isn’t a hinge). And as on the Macbook Air there is a little “door” that drops down to reveal the Ethernet port (except on the Air I think it’s for something else).
One of the key things I wanted to understand was how it managed windows. I’ve heard that everything is in it’s own tab, but that’s not the case anymore (it was with previous releases according to what I’ve read). So if you right click any “App” you can choose “Open as Regular Tab”, “Pinned Tab”, “Window”, “Maximized”. Setting it to Open as Window makes it more like a regular desktop where you can rearrange windows, see them in your “dock”. So that’s great. I was really concerned about that.
It does have the ability to tab through all your windows. But there aren’t the pretty icons that overlay the screen so you can know which one you’re selecting, or what order it will come up. But I’m sure this is something they’re working on because it’s such a critical developer tool. Unfortunately, there is also no way to view all of the current open windows or tabs at one time (as is possible with Apple’s “Expose”. The rumor I’ve read is that “Coverflow” will be coming to the Chrome OS but they’re battling Apple over this at the moment. The good news is that I read an article on the NY Times (I think) where Tim Cook said he will be pursuing a solution to these lawsuits that Steve Jobs started (suggesting they were a result of his hurt feelings over Google applying what Steve taught them to their work).
The Sasmung 5 Series (and 550) don’t have Bluetooth. This surprised me and is one of the reasons I’ll be returning this for now.However, the OS does, in fact, support Bluetooth if you want to purchase a dongle. The keyboard feels very nice, identical (in form), to the MacBook keyboards. As does the trackpad. However, the “ctrl” and “alt” keys are enlarged on the left, and the primary modifier key (“ctrl”, which is used for copy and pasting, closing windows, etc…) is unquestionably in the wrong spot. Especially coming from a Mac where I have easy access to the “cmd” key (which doesn’t exist on the Chromebook), it’s a nuisance to have to stop what I’m doing on the keyboard just to move my hands into a comfortable position to “ctr” + “c/v” something. It feels like they don’t use their own Chromebooks. My hand cramps trying to do certain things (mainly just the modifier keys).
Effects and animations in Chrome OS are perfectly smooth. They seem to have replaced the “genie” effect where the object you’ve selected (such as extensions) grow from a 1 pixel size box to it’s full size with a polite fade in and slide sliding down effect. Similar to Windows 7 effects I believe (I’m not really a Windows user sorry to be vague). When you select extensions they open (as you would expect), but they also close when you select them again (as you would expect). Whereas in the browser version of Chrome, they will immediately close and reopen upon selecting the extension icon.
Overall, it’s a really great device. It’s soooo close to being a sufficient competitor to Windows/Mac/Linux (though it’s built off Linux). But they need to address the notification and window management issues to be successful. Which is sounds like they are.
Oh, and they need a roadmap! I read that they specifically don’t do this because they (apparently) don’t feel comfortable (yet, I’m guessing).