I recently bought a Chrome Book for my daughter which I’m reviewing here.
I bought the newest model, the C7 Acer.
Acer C7 Chromebook $199.00 Shipping: $13.99 Tax: $11.94 Total: $224.93
So for just under $225 you can get a Chromebook delivered to your door. That fares well with tablets like the the Nook, Kindle and Nexus.
What’s in the Box
The packaging is minimal (+1). You get the laptop, battery, power supply and a micro-mesh cloth to clean the screen. There is no mouse included.
Out of the Box Experience
The battery on our model was about 3/4 charged. Plug the battery into the back of the laptop and turn it on. It takes around 15 seconds to boot. The more expensive Samsung model is suppose to boot faster.
After the initial boot finishes, it goes to a network configuration screen. It readily detected our wireless network and prompted for the required password for our network (you do secure your wireless, don’t you?).
Once it was connected to the our wireless network, it proceeded to download and install an update. I didn’t time it specifically, but it was easily less than 5 minutes.
After the second boot, it prompted us to log into a Google account. My daughter didn’t have one so we created one right there on the Chromebook following the prompts.
After the account was created I handed my daughter the laptop and haven’t looked back.
What can it do?
It can basically run the Chrome browser. That may sound limiting but think about it, how much in the form of “installed” software do you use regularly?
Microsoft Office is perhaps the one package most people feel they can’t live without. I personally won’t install Office products on my laptop. I find Office products tend to destabilize and slow down computers. If you absolutely must have Office, the online Office 365 versions faithfully reproduce the Office experience in your browser including all the irritating quirks and needless complexity. You’ll feel right at home. There are other online alternatives including services from Google.
My 13 year old daughter has had no difficulty getting her school work done on her Chromebook. She took to it like a fish to water and has not once complained that it can’t do something she needs done. Granted it’s only been 2 weeks but I don’t see that changing over time.
It streams and plays movies beautifully.
Other applications like Email, Word processing and Calendaring are done online. The Chromebook has links to Google’s services but you can use whatever online services you like.
Can it Print?
You can’t install software programs on a Chromebook so you might be asking yourself how it can print if you can’t install a driver. The answer is Google Cloud Print.
Google Cloud print lets you print to your printer through the Internet. It’s too involved to explain here but the setup is brilliantly simple. You open your Chrome browser on a laptop that can print to your printer, enable a few items and you’re good to go. Back on the Chromebook, the printer appears in the printers menu. For this to work of course, the laptop that can print needs to be online. However, if it’s off line, the Chromebook’s print jobs are queued (in the cloud) and printed the next time the laptop that can print is on line. It sounds complicated, but really it isn’t. It took less than 5 minutes to set it up and I had never done so before.
What about the Quality of the Hardware?
It’s surprisingly good. For your $225, you get a decent bit of hardware. The keyboard is solid and the key spacing generous enough to accommodate my adult size fingers. There are dedicated arrow and page up/page down keys. The screen is adequate and is perhaps a generation behind the current crop of laptops. That means the viewing angle is narrower and the color saturation is diminished. Very usable, just not stunning. You also get the stupid and annoying “Intel Inside” sticker (how I hate those things).
Will it work with a Mouse?
It seems to. I only tested it with my Microsoft Arc Mouse that comes with it’s own USB RF transmitter. Plugged it in, mouse worked. The C7 does not have Bluetooth support.
The ports are full sized (+1) including the HDMI out port.
Again surprisingly good. You’re not getting a Mac quality trackpad but it works quite well and even supports 2 finger scrolling. The “click” functions work like a Mac where you depress the trackpad until it “clicks”.
It’s not intended as a primary laptop and I would not try to convince you otherwise. It’s a sound piece of hardware the does what it says it will do. In a sense, it’s more like an appliance. Turn it on, use it, forget about it.
It does exactly what I need it to do which is to help my daughter get her school work down without me having to maintain yet another laptop. In that sense, it’s priceless.