Friday, December 17, 2010

The First 24-ish Hours

Old obsession, meet new obsession. 
Well it's been a full day or so with my new machine, and I swear I slept at some point in there. It's been exciting, diving into the cloud like this, and I'm already experiencing many of the benefits and drawbacks.

It's worth noting that I've been using an Asus G1-S B2 as my main computer for two or three years now, and despite its age, the 2.40GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and GeForce 8600M GT GPU can handle pretty much all of my web, entertainment, and graphical design needs with ease. In fact, many of my daily habits and much of my work revolve around it, and I've undoubtedly taken its performance for granted. The CR-48's comparatively weaker 1.66GHz single-core Intel Atom will take some getting used to if I am going to try to use it for all of my home and work computing needs, but that's kind of the point.

So after waiting for an agonizing few hours, the little orange light turned white and I powered up my new toy. Despite the advertised 10-second boot time, which I've found to be accurate, it was actually only about 4 seconds before I was setting up my account. The process was simple -- maybe a couple minutes -- and by the time I was done I had all of the apps, extensions, bookmarks, and the theme I've been using on my old laptop. Literally, it took less time to go from off and cold all the way to "Oh hey, here's my entire web experience," than it takes to make oatmeal. Score one for the Chrome team. 

they know i never use caps...
There are  obvious pros and cons to the device, most of which have already been pointed out on several other sites. So instead of going over the ubiquitous stuff, I'm just going to talk about the good and bad I've experienced so far.

The Keyboard is one of the most noticeably different aspects of this notebook, with the missing CAPS key being the part getting the most attention. Personally I rarely have use for that key and I like having a New Tab button so close to home row. However, I'm disappointed in the lack of a Home, End, and especially a Del key. I do a lot of editing and I use all three frequently enough to have been hindered by their absence within ten minutes after setup. The lettering on the keys is also too dark to see very well at night, so users with complicated passwords will be squinting.

Other than those hangups though, I'm a big fan of the keyboard. It's roomy enough for my hands to type comfortably and the keys feel and sound pleasant to press. The row of browser buttons along the top is cool but I've yet to get into the habit of actually using them, so I'm trying not plug in a mouse. The touchpad is good but still inhibitive enough, as they all are, to make me want to find shortcuts.

The Chrome Web Store launched recently and, as I mentioned previously, I've already been through it to try this app and that. I plan on posting regular reviews of specific apps later on, but there's still something to be said about the whole Chrome Apps experience.

At the time I write this, there are just over 1,400 apps on the market. While this is a paltry amount compared to Android's 60,000+ app market, it's already doubled its offerings in a little over a week since it opened. Unfortunately I've found a ton of them to be fraudulent, nothing more than a link to a popular site, and these apps are always authored by someone other than the site they are for. Hopefully the Chrome crew will take some lessons from Android and keep a slightly closer eye on things.

In the meantime, I've found a dozen or so apps worth installing. Some of them work far better for me than they did on my old laptop (Clicker.TV), some of them are buggy but hopeful with a little development (Weather Window Beta by Weather Bug), and some of them don't work for me at all. For instance, for the second most popular app on the market, the NYTimes app app was surprisingly unusable. All in all though, the store is promising, easy to use, and I can't wait to see it fill up with more official apps.

The Overall Speed of the CR-48 is generally good, even impressive, and that's how Chrome is supposed to be: A new tab with my apps listed takes about two seconds flat to load, though the Omnibar loads instantly. Pages come up quickly as well, with the only caveat being the incredibly laggy scrolling until they are fully loaded. Grooveshark runs and streams quickly and smoothly. I even tried out the webcam with Google Talk video chat and it was fast enough to enjoy.

Unfortunately it just doesn't have the power to tackle some fairly necessary and common jobs -- the poorly edited pictures in this post are evidence of that. Advanced Image Editor by Aviary runs so slow that the cursor always lags, it's just a matter of by how much. This makes the finer maneuvers like Free Select a true pain in the neck to attempt and makes me miss GIMP something fierce. Low-quality video plays without any problems, but you can forget about watching last Sunday's Simpsons in any HD format. Word², one of my favorite Chrome apps, is just fast enough to be playable and just slow enough to change your mind.

This isn't everything by a long-shot, but it's a good enough start and there will be more to come. At the very least, the CR-48 convinced my girlfriend to install Chrome on her Macbook, import all of her bookmarks, and sync it to her Google account so she can use my new toy too. 

If you have any questions about the Chrome Notebook Experience, feel free to ask.


  1. Aww, I'm sad to hear that the app store has so many fraudulent apps. Do they at least have some way for users to report them?

    I was also wondering as I read this if the start up time has been consistent as you use it, or does it get slower? And a final question: do you ever have to turn it off?

    Another great post, happy hamster.

  2. Akidearest - Great questions!

    There doesn't seem to be a way to flag apps yet, which is definitely needed. I was surprised not to see anything.

    After fully setting up my account it now takes about ten seconds to start up when it's turned off. However, there isn't a whole lot of reason to turn it off. It goes to sleep and wakes up so quickly that I usually just close the lid when I'm not using it. I'm not sure when/how updates take place, so it may be necessary to restart sometimes, and it's just practical if you'll be powering off for several hours and don't need to jump back on. But as far as day-to-day usage I don't see much of a need to turn it off.

  3. I take that back... there is a "Report Abuse" button that takes you to Google's standard form, but I'm not sure if a fake app qualifies.