ChromeOS CR-48 Preview

December 9, 2010: 4:36 PM ET

Initial thoughts after the first few hours with Google's ChromeOS reference design laptop.

FedEx dropped off my Google (GOOG) ChromeOS laptop demo unit this morning.  The box has the now famous exploded hamster jet cover art and very few parts inside. I also ironically got a Steve Jobs figurine in the mail today too.  They didn't seem too happy to be in each other's company:

Read on to see the CR-48 in action..

Intel (INTC), for being Google's ChromeOS launch partner, got to put the following card in the box:

The CR-48, as Google calls its ChromeOS reference machine, is just a bit smaller than a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which I happen to have available to compare against.

Some initial notes after a few hours of use:

  • Intel's card in the box smacks of back room negotiations. Google wanted a branding-free netbook, Intel wanted  "Intel inside".  This was the compromise.
  • The rubberized body isn't bad but I still prefer Aluminum, at least at the moment.
  • The start up is very quick..and good thing too because the battery it came with only had a few minutes of charge on it.  Google claims about 8 hours total, I'll have a chance to test this shortly.
  • I love the keyboard.  It feels very similar to the MacBook Pro that I use day to day, perhaps better.  I also like the Search key which lives where where Caps Lock was. I am already using it instinctively.  I don't think I'll miss the ALT/Option key either. The one downside is lack of backlit keys.  This is going to make typing at night difficult.
  • I am not used to the trackpad.  I can't slide one finger around while the 'tap' finger rests on the trackpad like I am used to.  It also doesn't click and drag the way a MacBook does and is significantly smaller than what I am used to, though it is only one button like Apple's trademark design.

Usage:

  • It pretty much works as advertised.  You open it up.  Put in your wireless settings and take a snapshot of yourself.  You log into your Google account and off you go.
  • Activating Verizon's free 100mb a month data plan is quick and easy, almost as easy as setting up AT&T on an iPad.
  • The browser is quick.  At least as quick as the Chrome or Safari Browser on my MacBook Pro.  Maybe quicker.
  • It isn't immediately clear how to put photos onto this machine.  I popped in an SD card and went to Picnik.  There is an upload button which invoked a very X-Window/Linux-like File manager.  It is pretty easy to brows to the SD card (or USB attached storage) and upload what you want.  Google will likely want to pretty/simplify this up before this goes mainstream, however.  With 32GB SD cards costing around $50 and 64GB SD cards under $100, it is pretty easy to add a lot of storage to these things.
  • Familiar sites like YouTube and Facebook work flawlessly.
  • The speakers aren't good.  Listening to music is painful and tinny.  Headphones are the way to go.
  • The camera is as good as a typical laptop camera for video chatting.  I was able to use Google Talk video to chat without any issue.
  • I've been using this for a few hours without one single error.  This might be a lot less Beta than most of Google's early releases.
  • Powering down and bringing up the CR-48 is simple and quick (see video).  Also, closing the lid and opening it back up gets you going pretty quickly

Video tour:

I'm not a cinematographer, nor, in the interest of getting it up fast, did I edit this at all. But if you want to see some raw video of how the CR-48 works, here it is:

More to come as I dive further into using the CR-48. (Meantime, here's another great video, from Engadget.)

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About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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