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Google Chromebooks: A First Look

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There’s a new kind of computer on the market, one that’s ultraportable, doesn’t run Windows, and relies entirely on web-based applications and storage. These so-called Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome operating system and could revolutionize the way we use computers. In this article, Michael Miller, author of My Chromebook, discusses these new Chromebook computers and offers his first impressions.
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Google Chromebooks: A First Look

On June 15, Google launched its new Chrome operating system, which is stirring interest in all corners of the technology scene. Chrome OS runs exclusively on new Chromebook computers, and are much different from any personal computer you’re used to.

I’ve been using a Chromebook for almost three weeks now, and can tell you a bit about what it’s like – what’s good and what’s not so good about the Chrome experience. It’s certainly an interesting little computer and an even more interesting operating system, as I’ll relate.

Introducing the Chromebook

Just what is a Chromebook? Put simply, it’s a small portable computer, like a netbook, that is built for and optimized for web use. Where a traditional netbook runs a version of Microsoft Windows and contains a fair amount of internal hard disk storage, a Chromebook runs Google’s Chrome operating system and contains almost no internal storage. Instead, it runs a variety of web-based applications that do not require local installation or data storage.

In terms of appearance, a Chromebook is smaller and lighter than a traditional notebook PC. Because a Chromebook doesn’t contain a hard disk or CD/DVD drive, that space and weight is removed from the equation. Most Chromebooks have screens in the 12” diagonal range, are very thin, and weigh around three pounds.

Figure 1 Samsung’s Series 5 Chromebook.

Chromebooks use solid state storage instead of traditional hard drives. Current Chromebooks come with 16GB of internal solid state storage –considerably less than what you find with a traditional notebook, but all that Chrome OS needs to run. (Since Chrome stores all your applications and documents on the web, you don’t need any local storage for them.)

In terms of processing power, the initial Chromebook models from Samsung and Acer use a 1.66 GHz Intel Atom dual-core processor. That’s not the most powerful processor available today, but again, it’s all that’s needed to run the small-footprint Chrome OS.

This combination of small screen, minimal solid state storage, and efficient processor means that a Chromebook has an impressive battery life—anywhere from 6 to 8 hours on a charge. Chromebooks are also virtually instant on, booting up in less than 10 seconds, and resuming instantly from sleep mode. It’s a much different—and much more efficient—computing experience than what you’re used to.

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