To effectively use a Chromebook one needs two things. A WiFi signal and a Google account. In this review I will show how two separate situations (and people) can also comfortably use a Chromebook. The first situation is about a person who is rather unsophisticated with computers. Recently one of my mother’s friends asked me for help getting a new laptop. Since I was already familiar with her general computer activities I suggested a Chromebook. Most of what she does is browsing and email, so a Chromebook would seem a good choice. So, I showed her the Chromebook I currently have as an introduction. This the TOSHIBA CB35 – B3340 Chromebook 2
You can go in as a “guest” or simply log into one’s Google account. She was immediately enamored with the touchpad features. Especially my favorite which is Two Fingers up or down to scroll. It takes a bit of practice to get used to the sensitivity but it’s an easy ‘learn’. I had installed Opera on her old laptop (Windows) but I still had to help her navigate the Chrome browser. I showed her how to access her email – Yahoo, and where one saves bookmarks.
It didn’t take long to sell her on the Chromebook. Aside from email the only other feature she really needs is the ability to download photos from her camera. With automatic access to Google Drive that’s a no-brainer. I helped her find the size and model she wanted and when it arrived helped her set it up. All she had to do was create a Google account which is easily done as soon as it starts up. Once that was done I saved the important bookmarks she would always need. Now, one of the things she is doing is taking classes to learn Polish. So she wanted to be able to write in that language. So we accessed the Chromebook settings to add a Polish keyboard. One can switch between various listed keyboards right from the “status area” (the bottom right on the screen). You can also make your entire browsing be in any language, if you so desire. Anyway, all that made her very happy.
Joining a WiFi signal
It’s basically the first thing you have to do
when using this Chromebook 2 (or any Chromebook)
Ok, so the second situation / person that needs a Chromebook is…..me. Who didn’t see THAT coming. Just recently, my main laptop seems to have died. Wah! I always make my computers multi-book because while I hate Windows I sometimes need AfterEffects. Most of my time is spent in Linux – usually Ubuntu these days. I never surf in WIndows. Too dangerous and annoying. In Linux I do everything I really need, from creating html pages, uploading via FileZilla, Fixing or creating images using GIMP, and so on. For various reasons I have used Opera, FireFox and Chrome or Chromium browsers depending on whatever issues certain sites have. In any case most of my important files have been archived on DVD data disks and / or uploaded to Cloud storage like Google Drive. So, when my lovely laptop bit the dust I had 99% of my files safe somewhere. I fired up my Toshiba Chromebook 2 and Voilà!
So, while I have the basics, there ARE differences. A Chromebook is not as complete as a full Linux install. SO, this part of the review goes into what I can do and what is still “missing” as compared to my normal Linux experience.
I’m using Chromebook 2 to write this review. I accessed “docs” in the Chromebook menu which displays all my current documents in Google Drive. I can also create a new doc by tapping on the “+” symbol and a new document appears. I want it saved in the correct folder. That is easily done by tapping on the folder icon where I can move this new doc where I want it. WOOT!
That was easy.
I also found getting apps and extensions from the Chrome Web Store to be easy although I really wish I could bookmark or make a “wishlist” for extensions I’m interested in but don’t wish to install immediately. Just a thought…..maybe someone has or will “Make an App For That” ?
Here’s a few apps I tried:
Installing the Pinterest app from the Web Store lets me add any image directly to my pinterest account
I needed a text app to basically replace gedit that I use in Ubuntu so went looking around. I tried the app “Text” first. It’s simple and alright but I really needed to be able to save out a Project file so I could load up several pages at once. So I went looking and found Caret as a better text editor for my needs. I do use Text if I just need something fast but keep Caret for the web pages I have to keep organized.
There is no FileZilla for Chromebooks even though there is simple ftp apps. So, when I have to ftp I just use another device that lets me use FileZilla and my (various complex) settings. Yeah, annoying, but what the heck. I’m hoping that Chromebooks will eventually develop more apps like FileZilla.
As I am the WebMaster for a friend’s online newsletter, I check the web pages on my local drive. Once my main computer died I now found that I had to figure out how to setup a workflow on the Chromebook. Html files stored on Google Drive can’t easily be viewed on the Chrome browser. Yeah, I know, that sounds completely insane. Here is a discussion on the help forums.
However…..I discovered that if you copy the files to “Downloads” – ie, the LOCAL storage directly on one’s Chromebook, the pages show up perfectly and all the links work. Of course, this doesn’t solve all problems. If you read the thread from the Drive Help Forum one fellow wished to share his HTML files with others while they all work on them and this is basically impossible using Google Drive. Fortunately for me, I’m the only Webmaster working on this newsletter. But, it also means that I can’t add ALL the files from this newsletter because that would suck up a great deal of my local storage. I mainly use only the files for any new issue to keep things manageable. Frankly, I just have to get a new computer at some point because this is not a longterm solution.
This DOES work great:
After plugging in HDMI cable from TV to Chromebook
the notification asks for settings details.
“Extending screen to A200/D200”
While I can increase the zoom in the browser I found it really difficult to read the main screen – the text is very very tiny. I had to change the Display pixels. Sorry, old eyes. Fortunately, it’s easily done in the settings.
I was a bit “shocked” to find out that Chrome OS does not support Bluetooth pairing with phones. Now, I realize there’s other ways to get files from one’s phone to my Chromebook 2 (hello, Google Drive) but it’s still weird. The bluetooth is to pair keyboards, mice and the like. And, yes, that works fine.
You also can’t play DVD films on a Chromebook. Meaning you can’t USB add a DVD player because Chrome doesn’t have the codecs to play the movie files. However, watching films that are already online works fine. This is one feature my mother’s friend was most disappointed about – and I’m not exactly thrilled either – however she can always get a DVD player and connect to her TV. But if I want to save data DVD’s that has to be done on another system.
You also can’t install 3rd party apps like Firefox or Skype. If you wish to see a web page the way another browser would install a User Agent Switch from the Web Store.
I’ve tried this and everything else I can think of and the audio is still horrible. As my headset connected to the Chromebook works fine recording my voice using various apps on this and other devices I can only conclude this is a software issue with skype. I don’t skype often but when I have to it’s using an Android device.
My conclusion is that this Chromebook 2 is fabulous as a regular laptop as well as an Emergency unit despite not being fully featured. I figure that is just a matter of time. And while I shoping around for my next system I can still get my work done, if somewhat differently. I DO love the ease, and fun of a Chromebook. After all if you have syncing turned on your bookmarks and other settings appear on all other devices. That’s great convenience!
It looks good, feels good and really comes in handy.
Intel Celeron Processor N2840
4 GB DDR3L SDRAM memory
16 GB Solid-State Drive
13-inch IPS Screen, Intel HD graphics – full HD (1080p) IPS display (1920×1080)