Going Chrome: A look at the $199 Acer C7 Chomebook

Today I got my Acer Chromebook. At $199, I thought I couldn’t go too wrong.  Right away my kids were on it, surfing the net. My daughter logged into her Google Docs account at her school and collaborated with a friend on their science presentation.  When my youngest (age 9) who loves to play games,  got his turn on the device, he found Angry Birds and started killing pigs.

Later that night I actually got my turn to play.

What struck me was the silence.  This device has no fan. It runs cool and quiet.  It’s been nearly 24 hours (probably about 4 to 5 hours of use so far) and this device is only half way down on its battery. The hardware is impressive, light and a good value at $199.

What about ChromeOS?  It is clean and simple, just like Google.  There are many free and paid online apps available from Google’s Chrome webstore that you can bookmark. They do everything from letting you create documents, play games or view email files. It’s an impressive collection of web apps, yet coming from the traditional world of offline apps,  I was underwhelmed.  Although many of the apps purport to run offline, I had difficulty making that work for several important apps, some of which claimed to run offline. They simply didn’t.

While I knew going into this purchase that I would need to be connected to the internet, I didn’t realize how annoying that would become. My youngest boy brought the Chromebook along to a haircut, and was very disappointed in the car ride that the device was not very interesting.  Since Google doesn’t allow much software to be installed on this device that will run offline, in practice Chromebook is disappointment. What is to become that of that 350 GB hard drive in this device?  i had hoped to upload some family pictures to the Chromebook. While I could attach my USB drive and view the pictures, I could find a way to save them to the device. I can hear Google saying, “just upload them to Google Drive!”  I would, if I could figure out how to do that on the Chromebook. Otherwise it appears I need to put the USB drive into my Windows desktop, upload them to Google Drive, so I can view them on my Chromebook, but then they’re still offline, aren’t they?

The question I’m asking myself is, Why do I need Google Chrome OS on a netbook-class laptop when there are OS’s like Windows and Linux that will actually let me have a measure of control over my hardware, like putting some family pictures on it.    There are netbooks on the market at nearly the same price that would have provided me with much more functionality and fewer restrictions.  I don’t yet see the value in Google’s integration and backup of settings to the web.  I haven’t yet found a compelling advantage that makes it worth while to surrender total control of the hardware that I own.  While I like that the OS will always update itself, so what?  Lots of OS’s will update themselves.

My recommendation on the Acer Q1VC  Chromebook?

I love the hardware, but not the OS.  While it’s not a bad entry level toy for the kids, I can’t recommend it to anyone who wants to do any substantive work. The online apps are weak, and just not a very pleasant GUI experience overall.  Why buy a netbook that has to be connected to the internet to work, when you can simply buy a netbook that will work both online and offline for about the same price?

For my next project, I think I’ll see if I can install Linux Mint or Windows 7 on this device.  Windows 7 with Google Drive… that could be a useful little machine!