So James and I were sitting watching TV before Christmas and an ad came on for the Samsung/Google Chromebook‘That looks neat,’ said James. ‘Cheap too.’
He’s been angling for a new laptop for ages and I’ve said tough shit, because, really there is absolutely nothing wrong with his except for the fact that it isn’t brand spanking new and, umm, the fact he has pretty much buggered it up by downloading all kinds of rubbish from the web. Because, no matter how many times you warn them about clicking on links and opening files, they never ever listen, do they?
‘Yeah, I rather like that,’ I said. ‘In fact, I really like that. Better than a tablet cos it’s got a proper keyboard.’
‘Go on, Mum,’ he said. ‘Admit it – you want one.’
‘Okay, yes, I’d like one,’ I said, grudgingly. ‘Oh, all right, I’d really like one.' And then added, softly and sadly: 'But I’m not getting one, am I?’
Except… The next day I got an email from a PR. Would I like to test out the, yup, Chromebook?
‘Huh?’ I said, resisting the urge to ask if they can now listen in on conversations via television. Or if they teach psychic ability at PR school. She patiently repeated the offer.
‘What? To keep? What’s the catch?’
‘Yes to keep and no catch. Just tell people what you honestly think about it on the blog.’
‘In that case, umm, yes please,’ I said and sat staring at the screen for several minutes after the email had vanished, somewhat puzzled.
I mean, this was getting perilously close to cosmic ordering territory.
If you haven’t seen the ads, the idea behind the Chromebook is that it’s a reasonably priced laptop that absolutely ANYONE – even the most tech-phobic - can use.
It retails at around the £200 mark and is slim and sleek (11.6 inch), with an air of the MacBook about it. I’m a bit of a design snob, or I would be if my budgets allowed, but this met with complete approval.
It also fired up pretty damn quick. You press the ‘on’ button and it gives you a log-in screen after about 10 seconds. You tap in your wifi details, give it your Google account details and kerching, you’re up and running. Just like that. Seriously. Within five minutes of opening the parcel, I was on my usual sites and networks. Business as usual.
I swiftly password protected my account. James has a horrible habit of downloading games and crap onto my PC if given half the chance which annoys the hell out of me but this is set up for everyone to have their own sign-in. He wrangled it off me and swiftly downloaded a pile of stuff from the Google Chrome webstore (the free stuff, I hasten to add).
Now I’m no geek or tech reviewer. I can only tell you how it ran for me. I love that it’s fast, really fast – because it’s a relatively straightforward setup, it really is speedy. You open up the lid and it's there, like a Border collie at your heel, panting and ready to play, within a few seconds. Seriously, under five seconds each time. Given my PC acts like it's pondering the answer to world peace when I ask it to wake up and respond, it’s a small miracle. Internet access is, as I said, a doddle.
What I didn’t find quite so doddleish was using it for word processing and other officey type functions. This is a Chrome OS and while there is a Windows-style taskbar across the bottom of the screen, you can’t use conventional programs. You have to download apps if you want to write documents, do spreadsheets or have integral email. I really didn’t like that, although other people don’t seem to find it an issue. I also like to be able to rummage inside the innards of my computers and it felt weird not having a control panel or wotnot. But then, to be fair, this isn’t aimed at people who like to play with the innards of their PCs.
Even with those caveats, I absolutely love it. When I went up to London it was brilliant not to have to lug around the whopping great laptop or try to make my errant phone behave in order to get online. It’s also a great bit of kit for anyone who is tech-phobic. Given the hassle we had getting my FIL online, I’d love to be able to give him one of these. It just cuts out so many potential hazards. It even has inbuilt anti-virus protection and firewalls. Battery life is pretty good as it sleeps when not in use and wakes up instantly and with that typical Collie-type obedience as soon as you need it. If you turn down the screen brightness you can get around eight hours out of it.
It’s also pretty well ideal as a first computer for children. There’s honestly not much they can muck up here – in fact, nothing at all. Okay, you still have to keep an eye on where they’re going and what they’re watching but hey, that’s just called sensible parenting right. But you don’t have to worry about them crashing the whole system or infecting themselves with all kinds of viruses. So, yes, James and I sort of share it.
Now then...if I can summon up a Chromebook...whatever next?