I recently had the chance to try out a Chromebook for a few days, thanks to a Google loaner that came my way via one of their public relations teams. I was eager to take them up on the offer to play with the lightweight, laptop-alternative for a few days. As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time online, I’m always looking for new tools and gadgets to make blogging an easier, faster and more convenient enterprise. The promise of being instantly online in eight seconds is pretty sweet, but there were other things I liked – and a few I didn’t – about the Chromebook.
If you’re not already familiar with the Chromebook concept, here’s my quick take on what it is and how it’s different from a traditional laptop: running on Google’s Chrome operating system, this compact netbook is made to get online quickly and integrate easily with existing Google tools and applications. It’s lightweight (the Samsung Series 5 model I tried was about 5 lbs), automatically updates itself and stores all of your files and information in the cloud. There are models that operate on WiFi and also 3G networks, which means you can basically be online at anytime – or anywhere a smartphone would be able to be online, for example.
My favorite things about the Chromebook:
- Startup is near-instantaneous. Not having to wait for the start-up process and then the ensuing web browser launch process that I normally encounter with my laptop was a beautiful thing.
- Thoughtful details, such as a dedicated browser refresh button on the keyboard, make browsing online easier and more straightforward
- Uploading a large number of images from a camera memory card is straightforward and easy if you are already a Picasa user, which I am. I’m a fan of the platform’s easy photo editing and collaging tools, so the integration here was a bonus for me.
- The battery lasted for more than five hours, plenty of time to make it through most cross-country flights (even though I often fly Virgin America, which has in-seat plugs, they only actually work about half the time).
- Unlike a tablet such as the iPad, which I love for watching videos and flipping through various media, the Chromebook has a full keyboard, something I rely on for typing longer emails and blogging.
- You can get online pretty much anywhere, a serious boon for bloggers. Being able to blog on a roadtrip or outside when you’ve got 15 minutes to kill before a meeting is a nice option.
What I didn’t love:
- The mousepad on the Samsung 5 Series was hard for me to get used to. Instead of tapping it to select items, you actually have to press down on it until it clicks. A small thing, but I just didn’t love it. Perhaps I would have gotten used to that over time.
- You’re pretty tied to Google’s tools and applications. This isn’t necessarily a con if you’re already using (and liking) things like Picasa, Google Docs and the Chrome browser. But you don’t have the freedom to customize your user experience like you would with a traditional laptop.
- While it’s certainly compact, it could be thinner and sleeker looking.
A few reasons fashion bloggers might like the Chromebook:
- You can get online in under 10 seconds (during, say, a few stolen moments at a fashion event or in between outfit changes at a photo shoot) update your blog and then toss this puppy in your purse.
- Images are easy to upload to web albums, edit in Picasa and save to the cloud without a lot of hassling with file folders, cords, etc.
- The long battery life makes doing web-related activities when you’re out and about not only feasible, but fairly practical at the same time.
The bottom line:
- Starting at $299, this is a tech tool I’d definitely consider as an easier-to-carry alternative to my clunky everyday laptop, especially when I need something I can use for blogging, emailing and organizing images online. I wouldn’t completely replace my laptop or desktop with it, but would definitely be more likely to pop this in my bag for short trips and daily meetings and events. I also like the idea of super-fast start-up time, being constantly online and having my data safely stored in the cloud.