Chromebook (Series 3) - A 2 week review.

Why did I buy it?

I've been consolidating some of my devices over the last couple of weeks. Some of the devices I decided had to go were my Xbox and my 13" Macbook Air. The Macbook Air I sold off because I feel like I didn't need the processing power. As much as I love the OS and build quality, it was simply too much for my needs at the time.

I needed to fill in the gap with something though. Something that would have a decent battery life but would be capable of getting some work done. Several devices I was considering included:

  • 4th gen iPad (magnetic cover is awesome and top notch apps)
  • Nexus 10 (with access to all of my purchased apps from my Nexus 4)
  • And the Chromebook (something new and mysterious)

I decided to go for the Series 3 Chromebook. This is the one with the ARM Exynos 5250 SoC that sells for $249 on Amazon.com. Half the price of an ipad while giving me a full web browser and keyboard. Also the opportunity to try a new OS from Google sounded pretty damn fun.

Day One:

When I finally received it, it felt like a very intuitive user experience. Sign in with your Google account and that's it, you're online. It had all the features I would expect from the desktop version of Google Chrome with a few extras like an offline calculator.

Once you figure out what the Chromebook lacks in features, the next logical step is to find extensions / web apps to fill in those gaps. Thankfully this wasn't a big problem thanks to the robust store Google has along with all the other web apps online.

So far it's been excellent device for coding with Cloud9, taking notes, browsing the web, videos, documents / spreadsheets / presentations, and being a music player thanks to Google Music.

Performance / heat / noise:

Don't expect to have 15+ tabs open. I get by just fine with turntable.fm open, multiple wiki pages, and Google Docs without issue. If you're a power user who needs a ton of tabs open on the go, you may want to look elsewhere.

One thing that the device handled just fine was 720p video. It was able to stream video just fine from youtube without any dropped frames or stuttering.

No noise to speak of as this device is fanless. As far as heat I would say it gets about lukewarm. Nowhere even near a smartphone under full load.

Build Quality, trackpad, keyboard:

For $249 you're not getting a unibody aluminum frame, but rather something that's 100% plastic. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's slim and lightweight but the plastic will creak a bit if you press into it.

Something exceptional with this device is the chicklet keyboard. My typing speed on it is almost as high as my speed on my mechanical keyboard with my desktop.

The trackpad is a bit average. The surface area of the trackpad is great and it's generally pretty responsive. I've noticed myself tapping very lightly on the trackpad to click rather than pressing firmly into the trackpad. I wasn't a big fan of the loud clicking so I tend to avoid it.

Battery Life / Display / Speakers:

Consistent 6.5 hours of battery life- as advertised. This is with 4+ tabs open at any given time, streaming at least audio half of the time.

I'm less than impressed with the display though. 1366x768 is average, and is to be expected with a device at a price point like this, but the thing that bothered me the most would probably be the viewing angle. Straying away from looking directly at the screen would cause the colors to wash out fairly quickly. But it was good enough that you can have a person on each side and watch a movie without issue.

The speakers were also average. A little tinny but enough to fill a room.

Conclusion:

An excellent device for a low price. At $249 there's no real risk in trying it out. You'll see that it'll replace a tablet in everything except for maybe games. I'd recommend it to anyone as a secondary computer in a heartbeat.

It dual boots Ubuntu super easily from an SD card too!

If you have any questions about the device or Chrome OS feel free to ask away!