Week #1 of My Chromebook Challenge … Was a Challenge!

Chromebook Fails My 'All-In' Test

Chromebook Fails My ‘All-In’ Test

Last week I said that I was going ‘all in’ with the Samsung Chromebook, even though I was already aware of a few limitations. There were limitations when I tried the same thing for the iPad and Android tablets and I persevered, so I plowed forward! Unfortunately some of the issues were fairly significant and fragmented my computing time badly!

Setting up a Chromebook is as simple as logging into a web browser. And since I used Chrome almost as much as Safari, I have a full set of bookmarks all ready to go. Spending just a little time with the Chromebook is a reminder of just how much we do online through a web browser or web apps.

One of the things that makes Chrome OS more useful is the ability to get web apps from the Chrome Store. For example, Pixlr Editor is a powerful image editor for Chrome. And you can get GMail offline, and so on.

Here are several of the challenges and how I dealt with them:

  • Performance Issues: when I first started using the Chromebook, I was dismayed at the low performance. Then I trimmed the number of tabs I had opening at once, and greatly trimmed the number of active extensions, and suddenly the Chromebook was very peppy!
  • Video Editing: can’t do it – I tried WeVideo but it was not going to produce even the mediocre results I normally manage. So I still needed my Mac.
  • Gaming: I am currently reviewing games on iPad, iPhone, Mac and PC … the Chromebook runs none of them. So I already had to have my iPad with me frequently.
  • Image Editing: I just discovered (because a search on the Chrome store fails) the Google+ image editor. It is a solid editor – but still lacks many features from Picasa that I loved, and because I am using an iPhone, it makes the process a pain to get from taking a picture to having an edited version.
  • Networking Problems:And … here is where it all died for me. Bottom line, the Chromebook wouldn’t connect to my work WiFi network – the same network I connect my Mac, iPhone, iPad and about three dozen Android phones and tablets over the last few years.

As a result of this I have suspended my Chromebook challenge as a total failure! Because the reality is you absolutely need a network connection for the Chromebook to be usable.

But – I have not written off the Chromebook. This weekend my older son used it to complete a large paper for his upcoming Advanced Placement class in US history and literature (yes, summer pre-work!) – he was able to spread out his books, papers and notes and have the small laptop open all day as he typed without worrying about the battery.

And my wife has taken it over because her now 5 year old SOny Vaio has started acting flaky – and the Chromebook paired with her iPhone meets her needs. And since switching users is so simple and quick, we all have user accounts!

So … until the new iPad arrives I am back with my iPad Mini and my normal workflow. My impression of the Chromebooks is actually quite positive – it just isn’t the right tool for me.

Categories: Editorials


10 replies

  1. Hmm. I wonder if it would have gone better on the Chromebook Pixel? Too bad it costs way too much but I’d like to try that.

    As for image editors, there are more out there in the Chrome store but I know what you mean…non are as good as a full editor.

    None of that can get past the network issues. I see you were using the ARM one? Wonder if the Intel ones would work better?

    As for me…the only reason I would want a Chromebook is to hack the heck out of it.

  2. The one type of tablet that’s missing from your ongoing adventures is a Win8 tablet. To be fair to the competition, you should probably try one with an Atom CPU rather than a Core CPU like the Surface has.

    I’d recommend my Thinkpad Tablet 2 which is currently $566 from Lenovo. Note this is not the same as the Thinkpad Tablet which ran Android. The TPT2 has an advantage over some other Win8 tablets in that it comes with a Wacom dual digitizer (touch and stylus).

    I’d give you mine to try but it’s replacement hasn’t come out yet – 7″ Bay Trail and I upgrade.

  3. I used a Chromebook for 6 months and while I could do 90% of what I wanted, the lack of games that I enjoy playing i.e. NeverWinter Nights, real Office document compatibility (not just Docs), video editing, made me decide when I accidentally face-planted it into the fireplace to go back to a Windows based system (I just never really became a Mac guy and plan to sell my MBP or trade it for something) to replace it.

    Windows 8 is not as bad as some of the pundits claim it is, except for it being a railroad track design in some places, so I just go with the desktop rail and pretty much ignore Metro.

    I enjoyed my time and experience on the Chromebook and could see using it as a commuter laptop, but wouldn’t get one that has less than 4GB of RAM, the 2GB versions are too under-powered.

    Like you I found that it didn’t quite meet my needs :-)

    • I agree that WIndows 8 is better than many give it credit for – I mean, for gaming alone it has demonstrated better performance than Win7. So it is certainly no Vista, but I think the whole Metro thing has blown up in their face a bit.

      My Apple experience goes back to 1979, and I have always had more than one OS at a time – and if you count handhelds I have had 3 or more for more than 20 years.

      And I found for my wife the 2GB system is not too bad – and if I can keep it to 4 tabs it works pretty well.

  4. hmmm… i’m assuming you were trying to connect to work network to do work? if so, and you say your home pc can’t connect to it either, then it’s not the chromebook that has failed. as far as getting work done you would be equally dead in the water with the pc no?

    • I like to keep my personal and work stuff separate (typing this while at work on my iPad) – I bring work home, am available 24/7 but also will do emails and work on posts on occasion. The company provides a mobile WiFi network that is available but isolated from the main company wireless to allow this, but blocks the same sorts of things (games, Facebook, etc) as on the main network.

      I mentioned the personal laptop to note that indeed it is not purely a Chromebook thing – though I was surprised that I have no issue with *any* Android device but the Chromebook fails.

      As for the final thing … NO it is not the same. If I wanted to do work on my personal laptop (I have many of the same programs I use at work that I’ve owned personal copies for years) – I would be fine. It would be more cumbersome, but it would work. But the Chromebook is totally useless without a network connection.

      • Your Chromebook problems with regard to integrating the unit into a corporate network is not unique. I’ve read a few other posts from users having similar issues, with IT staffers attempting workarounds but those not quite working. I’m curious what the technical reason is. Is it because this generation of Chromebooks are explicitly designed for home users or people operating on unfettered wifi networks, or just missing security protocols/drivers that iOS and Android devices incorporated?