7 days with Samsung's Google Chromebook

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Typing a document on my Windows 7 desktop feels a bit foreign right now. I've spent much of the past week, you see, testing Google's latest mobile computing product: the Chrome OS Chromebook, which officially enters the world today.

Google Chrome OS Chromebooks

We've been hearing about Chrome OS for some time now; some of us even had a chance to check it out firsthand with Google's Cr-48, a test system shipped to select beta users last year. With the first commercial Chrome OS products now out in the wild, Google hopes to get the platform into many more hands.

Chrome OS, if you aren't familiar with it, is all about the Web. The basic idea is that you ditch your bulky PC operating system and instead use a notebook focused completely on the Internet. You boot up and, within seconds, find yourself at Google's Chrome browser. That browser is your desktop, and everything you do -- running applications, accessing files, you name it -- takes place within those windows and tabs. Your data lives in the cloud, your settings are synchronized, and everything looks the same on any notebook you sign into.

I've been following Google's development of Chrome OS closely for months now, so I was more than ready to get my hands on the first finished Chromebook to see how the platform had evolved. As any of my regular followers on Facebook and Twitter know, testing the device has taken over my life at times (this photo pretty much sums it up) -- and, needless to say, has been a very interesting journey.

Using Samsung's new Series 5 Chromebook, there's no question the Chrome OS experience has matured. The software has improved and become more user-friendly, and the hardware -- as you might expect -- is noticeably more powerful and polished than what we'd seen before. 

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But the concept of Chrome OS, in many ways, is as much about what isn't there as what is. Converting to a cloud-based operating means saying so long to the fully featured desktop-driven environment you've long known. It means, for the most part, tossing away your reliance on local storage and trusting your bits and bytes to the cloud instead. And it means bidding adieu to things like cumbersome OS updates, device driver conflicts, and clogged up systems that always seem to get slower over time. 

Moving into one of Google's Chrome OS Chromebooks certainly has its advantages -- but it has its fair share of problems, too. And life in the cloud is not for everyone.

Join me for a deep dive into the strange new world of Chrome OS in my full Chromebook review:

In-depth: Google's Chrome OS Chromebooks

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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