Today, I heard the UPS truck drive up, the thud of a package on the porch, and wondered: Is this something I ordered from Amazon or could it be the ever elusive CR48 Google Chrome OS notebook? I’d signed up several days ago to participate in this Google pilot and hoped against hope I’d be picked.
Well, I got lucky! Thank you, Santa… er, Google!
Here are some initial impressions — I’ll post a follow up after I’ve used it more –
- Physical set-up: Open box, slap on the battery, plug it in, turn it on. Easy!
- OS/Software Set-up: Set-up wizard started out easy, but came to a screeching halt when my WIFI password kept getting rejected. Not sure if it’s due to my router being set to WPA2 security, the special characters in my looooong password (!), or if I just flat out kept typing it wrong. I finally got the WIFI password entered and accepted, and moved forward with the set-up wizard. It was a little nerve wracking at that point since the set-up sequence requires Internet connection to be enabled or you cannot continue.
- Password entry tip: Clicking on the tiny icon next to the password field will change the password display from ***** to the actual characters you’re typing in.
- 3G Connection Set-up: When I first tried to activate the Verizon 3G connection, I kept getting a web page error stating some page elements were not secure. Thankfully, a few minutes later an update notification was pushed to the browser (little orange ball next to wrench in browser toolbar). After that firmware update installed and CR48 restarted, I was able to successfully complete the 3G connection set — 100MB free monthly from Verizon for 24 months.
- Fun fact for Chrome Canary users: The Chrome browser in Chrome OS supports side (as well as top) tabs.
- Embarrassing fact: When I signed up for the CR48 pilot program, I expected it to be a fairly routine beta program where the hardware would be shipped, tested by user, then sent back. From what I can tell, Google is shipping the CR48 to beta testers to keep. Very cool! As a Portland, OR store used to advertise, “Free is a very good price!”
Hardware (keeping this part brief since the notebook itself is a prototype — Google won’t put this hardware on the market, but rather license Chrome OS to hardware makers):
- Trackpad: Like herding kittens! Yikes, this thing has a mind of its own. I set it to the most sensitive setting, and that helped some. Still…. oy. Also note, trackpad seems more accurate when using tap to click rather than clicking, not sure why.
- Rubberized finish: I like it! It feels nice and looks good (albeit minimalist).
- Screen: 12″ and easy to read
- Size/weight: It’s about the size and weight of my Vaio Z (a thin, light laptop). Comfortable to use on my lap or at a desk.
- Speakers: Remarkably decent.
- Hardware specs: See gdgt.com for CR48’s detailed spec list
- Chrome OS = Chrome browser: What you see is what you get. If your data is generally stored in the cloud (especially using Google services), you probably won’t mind that the OS user interface is simply Chrome browser. However, if you use Outlook or Microsoft Office desktop apps, anticipate an adjustment period.
- Software settings: Click on the Chrome browser wrench to access your network settings, set time zone, review/update privacy settings, set home screen, etc.
- Software user experience: Seriously, if you’ve used Chrome browser, it’s cake. If your stuff is stored in the cloud, even better!
Some interesting apps:
- Twitter: The excellent Tweetdeck desktop client has a Chrome web app counterpart available for download. It works well and provides an easy way to view and post tweets.
- NPR: Apparently similar to the iPad app, attractive layout and easy to use.
- AOL You’ve Got News: News aggregator. Nice UI.
- USA Today: Another great news app.
- Write Space: Full screen writing app, great for journaling.
There are lots of apps in the Chrome app store, so I’m sure I’ll find some more keepers as I continue to explore Chrome OS.
If you are interested in applying for the CR48 Google Chrome OS pilot program, you can apply here — my impression is that Google is shipping these out in waves, so I don’t think it’s too late. If you’ve already applied and are curious how many CR48 have been shipped / are shipping to a certain, here’s a great tool.
Despite it’s prototype status (and thus inherent rough spots), I’m enjoying the CR48 and Google’s Chrome OS. Will be interesting to see how it evolves over coming weeks!