Review: Chrome OS by Art Schreckengost originally appeared in Full Circle Magazine issue 71. In Part Two, Art discussed the Apps available in Chrome OS.
Finally, what of reviews that state Ubuntu 12.04 can run quite fine on this unit (the Acer Chromebook)? No fiction there and it does work, but be aware of the limitations.
Essentially, you’ll need roughly 3 hours of your time (most of which is spent downloading a special version of Ubuntu just for Chrome OS), and a thorough review of the tutorial at http://liliputing.com/2012/11/how-to-install-ubuntu-12-04-on-the-199-acer-c7-chromebook.html.
If all goes well, you get ChrUbuntu, an Ubuntu variant in which user ID and password are set to “user”. Otherwise, the only major difference is the method of introduction. Since Chrome OS doesn’t allow for USB or optical drive booting, this OS is strictly a “download and immediately install” affair.
The other limitation has to do with the locked BIOS. With no dual-booting allowed, users have to choose early-on which OS they desire at boot, and there is no switching back and forth without doing a reboot. In fact, to go from one OS to the next requires code entry before shutting down, and, while it’s just one line, it’s not as easy as keying in “switch to ChrUbuntu” (see the website mentioned early).
The good in doing this? Ubuntu runs quicker on the Chromebook than on my dual core i3 pushing 8GB RAM. You also now have programs instead of apps, so online access isn’t as critical, and, since the computer’s hardware is generic, everything (sound, video, etc) works perfectly.
The bad? You will have to remember to key in Ctrl + D at every boot to bypass the Chrome OS checker and if you ever desire to return to Chrome OS by reinstating the checker, it may very well blow off the Ubuntu partition.
If you forget to do the keystroke above, Chrome OS takes an additional 25 seconds or so looking for its boot order before giving up and going to Ubuntu.
So, what’s the final verdict?
If ever a threat to Apple, MS or Linux existed, this is it. First, you get a $200 computer with decent specs that can be upgraded. If that doesn’t corner the market, I don’t know what will. Cripes, you can’t get a decent tablet for that price, and, if you want a keyboard, that’ll cost even more.
Second, it’s fast. Fast to boot, and fast to operate, even if apps are only as good as the website posting them. When I tested the MS Windows 8 RT tablet, I was appalled at the lethargic nature of operations and equalled shocked by the $600 price tag. Chrome OS is a blessing by comparison.
Third, Google Drive and its office suite are a real threat, and I can see a day when it could seriously hurt Microsoft’s Office offering (especially since the price is free).
Further complicating matters for the competition is the persistent rumor that Google may actually establish Android compatibility opening up another million or so apps for general use. To mix fruit metaphors, that’ll really upset the apple cart. But this isn’t to say it’s all peachy with Chrome OS.
It’s fast and relatively easy to use (my neighbor still swears trying to decipher Windows 8 but he caught on to Chrome OS quickly), but it still doesn’t use programs, and many may find the offline capabilities somewhat lacking. In addition, the one major thing it lacks is the ability to handle virtual machines. Unless you jump through hoops to add Ubuntu, you’re pretty much stuck with what you see. No testing of anything else – period.
In addition, Google has taken what I call the “Atari” position. Those who may remember the original Atari gaming systems from the 80s know they died because the company made the systems but ignored those making the games. Quality control became a real issue with many games being absolute garbage. Apps are great when they do what they are supposed to, but since Google’s interest is in the OS, and not what
you run on the app websites, quality control is somewhat lacking in this respect. Much like Android, most of the apps are good to great but those that are awful can really ruin your day: a couple have induced page freezing.
This means it’s not quite up to standard computer replacement yet, but it may be quickly. Remember that many laughed at the pre-Google Android, and got caught off-guard when it nearly creamed the equivalent MS Metro UI, and Chrome OS could prove to be the next big breakout.
Although I rarely recommend computers, and usually concentrate on the operating systems, I can see no reason not to get this inexpensive Chromebook. If you can find another $200 laptop that isn’t a beater, refurbished, or foreign junk posing as a computer, let me know.
Overall, I give Chrome OS and the Acer C7 a solid 4 out of 5 stars. AS
Related: Review: Chrome OS Part Two.