Last week I sent away my Windows machine that I primarily used for work purposes for an upgrade in RAM and change of keyboard after the laptop computer took some battering at the hands of my fingers. It was then that I realized the importance of having a backup machine. We all talk at length about the post PC era and the dying lifespan of laptops, but at least as far as bloggers go, you just cannot do without a full on machine without a physical keyboard since the solutions offered by tablets, at least so far, are not adequate. And in the search of getting a back up machine I decided to take a plunge in with an Acer Chromebook C7.
The specific reasons which drove me to pick up the device were follows:
1) The 11.6 inch size was perfect for portability and perfect for content production which was all text.
2) I spend about 80% of my time when on PC inside Google Chrome.
3) For a backup device I was not prepared to pay heavily and at $199, this was a great option.
4) I just wanted to try something different from mainstream.
Now, I have been with my Chromebook for about three days and covered plenty of articles and media contents with it and my impressions have been largely positive. Having said that, I am sure as soon as my primary machine arrives, I would go back to it for all the work at least when I am sitting in the comfort of my home but on the road and while travelling, I am more than happy using the Chromebook rather than a 15.6 Inch massive screen and slightly heavier notebook. Not for a second have I really missed having a full on OS like Windows or Mac. Being a Chrome faithful, I had been well versed with the ecosystem of Apps and Extensions on my laptop and the transition was smooth.
Just the fact that Chromebook so seamlessly synced all my apps and data, made for a very hassle free move over. All that was needed was to sign in with my Google id and I was ready to go. Also the myth that you can not use a Chromebook offline was quickly put to rest. Yes, there are functions and facilities you miss out on, but to say it is unusable is total trash. Here is my full review of the Acer Chromebook C7, the cheapest Chromebook in the market at $199.
Performance: The Acer Chromebook ships with 320 GB HDD on board with 2 GB of Ram and and Intel Celeron Dual Core processor. Now, these may look meager on first sight but that is not the case, these specs are more than adequate, especially as Chrome OS is very friendly on the memory and does not really need any more bumped up specs. Yes, I was disappointed with the fact that the device shipped with HDD and not a SSD as that slowed what was already a very fast experience but also contributed to a little thickness of the device. However, not for a second did I want the experience to be any quicker as it was more than fly. The boot up time was fantastic when shut down at a sharp 15 second, and was almost instant from sleep.
Keyboard: Since, I use my Chromebook most for content writing, the keyboard is the most important feature for me. The keyboard on the C7 was adequate despite never feeling great. The plastic construction of the laptop meant the experience was never very smooth like that on one of the high end laptops like the Macbook Pro. The feedback though was decent and the spacing of the keyboard meant that even someone with large hands like I have, typing experience was very much up to the scratch especially considering this is a cheap device.
TrackPad: The trackpad on the Chromebook is very similar to the trackpad in terms of functionalists in a Mac. There are no physical buttons, you have to learn through some gestures such as tapping with two fingers for right click. The scrolling was very smooth and the area of touchpad was adequate enough for smooth navigation. You can also change the sensitivity of the trackpad so that your experience matches your need. Plus, with USB ports on board meant that I could connect an external mouse every time I wanted an even faster experience, though that need never really arose.
Screen: The display on Chromebook is fairly average. The screen is HD with a resolution of 1366X768 and measures a cool 11.6 inches diagonally. This is a wonderful size especially if you are going to use this device off your desk most of the time. The screen is clear, even though, if you really look very closely you can make out the pixels. However, if kept at a decent distance the performance is just fine. The colors are well balanced despite never really standing out. You can switch around and change the brightness of the device to ensure you get more juice out of your battery.
Battery: The Battery on the Chromebook C7 has a backup of about 3.5 hours with Wi-Fi always on. You can get a lot more juice out of it, even about 5 hours, with no multimedia playback and brightness cranked down to about 2 points. This is pretty much adequate, and since the battery is replaceable, you can change it to suit your needs and increase the backup.
Camera: The Chromebook C7 has a front facing camera for Video chat that can be done through Skype and other such apps from the Chrome Web Store. The camera is basic VGA and does drop a fair few frames. It is decent but nothing more. Chances are you can make better Skype calls with your smart phones than with your Chromebook.
Media Playback: The media playback on the C7 is nothing too great. It handles 1080P videos pretty well, though the speakers are fairly low sounding. We do recommend the usage of stereo headphones with the laptop as that pretty much improves the performance many a folds.
Applications: The Chromebook ships with only Google Chrome Applications such as Search, Youtube and Mail out of the box. You can obviously download more of them from the Chrome Web store. There is also a handy file manager on board that lets you to quickly scan through the things you have saved on your device. The File manager is fairly basic so do not expect great things from it.
Connectivity: The C7 does not ship with any 3G or LTE on board. There is only Wi-Fi on board and no Bluetooth either. There are three USB ports present alongside VGA and HDMI for video output.
So, all in all the Chromebook is a fantastic device as a backup to your main machine. As you must have noticed it has an average performance, but at the price range of $199, we can not help but recommend this. It is not a device for everyone, but the users who have been using Chrome would not find the transition tough at all. It is seamless and good. If you want a cheap device that works, definitely go ahead with it. We would be soon giving you a Video tour of the device, so watch out this space.
Do let us know if you are interested in the Chromebook and what are your views on it. You can also Tweet in to us at @Blogtechnika or @Techverarp.