Wednesday, February 6, 2013
HP's First Chromebook
I just received the HP pavilion 14-c010us Chromebook, I had ordered it the day I heard it was available, I had no reservations about ordering a device loaded with Chrome OS, this device makes the third one I own, and the fourth I had purchased (one was purchased for my Mom), I have a Samsung Series 5 (a second went to Mom) and Samsung Chromebox, so I’m more than comfortable with Chrome OS. One might ask why are you getting another Chromebook, outside of a gadget addiction? I realized as I was ordering the Pavilion Chromebook that I probably wasn’t hanging with the “cool” kids even among the Chrome OS faithful, there more than a few articles and blog posts panning the specs and the price. Then there was the fact I already had a Chromebook and a Chromebox, my reasoning (my wife would argue rationalization) for getting another Chromebook, was my Series 5 has been put the ringer by my kids, still ticking but the screen is loose an keys are sticky from yogurt and other spills, and I Iiked the idea of larger screen, my Chromebox is hooked up to a 22 inch monitor.
There are countless articles out there that cover the pros and cons of ChromeOS and my goal isn’t to rehash the subject (I tried once, and what I came up was so long no one wanted to proof read it.), but I would be remiss if I didn’t cover the basics and I why I felt it was a good choice for me. Chrome OS from Google started out as very light weight operating system that booted into a Chrome web browser and all applications are delivered through the web. Recently Google added a desktop mode but all applications are still web based and its still browser focused. Chrome OS requires no security software, Google takes care of all updates to the OS, Storage and compute happens mostly in the cloud. Chromebooks are light weight, boot quickly 8-10 seconds, and have long battery life. When I thought about how I used a computer 90% of the time I realized that Chrome OS was good fit for me. I also saw it as a good fit for my mother, and since she had her chromebook my life became a lot easier as my tech support calls went from 1-2 a month to 1 in a year and a half. Chromebooks aren’t for everyone but they are for me.
I know some are ready to point out that one of the reasons I like Chromebooks was long battery life, and that by HP’s estimate this gets 4.5 hours (my Samsung gets 6-8), and I will admit that was a trade off, I would love the battery life to be better, but the screen, the keyboard, and the HDMI port was my technical motivation, (outside of the technical I have had soft spot for HP, as that is where Digital Equipment Corporation ended up via acquisition, call me sentimental). I like having the HDMI port for my HDMI to VGA adapter, because I hope to use this more for work and giving presentations is a big part of what I do, and the Samsung proprietary VGA always worried me, Given that I took the trade in battery life for a larger screen, and a standard HDMI port, and the 330 dollar price tag seemed worth it to me, after my Samsung series 5 was between 400-500 dollars and I have never regretted that, someone had to be an early adopter.
I received the unit today from hp.com upon taking it out of the box, it was plastic (no shock there) but it was of solid build given the $330 price tag, not rugged but not cheap either. The battery was packed separately and clipped into the back of the unit, and it was shocking how thin and small it was, my hopes of getting better than 4.5 hour battery life were dashed. The screen is a nice 14” wide screen with a built in webcam, the resolution is nothing to write home about but an adequate 1366x768 LED-backlit display. The built in webcam isn’t great but most built in webcams leave something to be desired.
When I ordered the Pavilion I didn’t give much thought to the keyboard, but that has been a happy surprise, for me it is so much easier to type on than my Series 5, I didn’t realize the difference the extra space made. It isn’t your typical Chrome keyboard, the chrome keys are across the top, the search key is where the Windows key would be on a PC, and the caps lock button is present and functional. The touchpad is as disappointing as the keyboard is pleasantly surprising, it borrows from the PC world complete with left and right mouse buttons, the gestures are little different that they require the use of the mouse buttons, and sometime I find that run out of touchpad territory before I get to where I’m going.
I had a good idea going in that the 1.1 GHz Celeron and 2 GB (upgradeable to 4GB, I will upgrade) will be enough to handle my daily Gmail, Google Plus, YouTube, Facebook, accessing my corporate virtual desktop with Citrix Receiver, so barring any surprises to contrary I figured I would be happy with the performance, but that changed once I people found out I had received my Pavilion Chromebook. I started to get requests, how does this app and that app work, the requests made sense, and I was curious so I ran some things. I ran Netflix, games like Cordy and Bastion (oddly I never thought of playing games on my Chrome OS devices), ran a Google Play movie, with multiple tabs open, all ran smoothly, some of the load times of the games were slow, but I haven’t tested against any other Chrome OS devices yet, so I don’t know if that is HP pavilion or Chrome OS. Music sounds good for a laptop through the Altec Lansing speakers, and through my Marshall headphones, the speaker was definitely better than my Series 5, and about the same through the headphones.
I haven’t tested the battery life fully, but I may be getting better than the estimated 4.5 hour battery life. I have been unplugged for an hour and 40 minutes (brightness at about 50%), and the battery meter reads at 70% with 3h 47m left, we’ll see and fingers crossed. In the end I’m prepared for 4.5 battery life anything more is a bonus.
Most of what I like about the Pavilion is in the look and feel category it performs the same or better than my Samsung Series 5 but my Chromebox also by Samsung is the highest performing, but hey it has an i5 processor and 4GB of ram it should be better performer.
In the end the question most will have will be, is it worth the $330? for me it was and time will tell if it will remain so, for me computing is use case driven and given what I do on a day to day basis, the affinity for the bigger screen, the HDMI port, the keyboard and Chrome OS itself, it was a good decision for me, so far. Its day 1.