In-depth: Google's Chrome OS and Samsung's Chromebook

New Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer trade the desktop for the cloud. We dive in deep to see how Samsung's system -- and Google's Chrome OS -- stack up.

1 2 3 4 Page 3
Page 3 of 4

The Chrome OS file manager also doesn't yet offer seamless options for uploading files to online storage services, aside from Picasa. A Google spokesperson told me that this kind of integration, as well as system-wide integration of Google Docs for Office files, is still being developed and is set to roll out soon. It's good to know a fix is on the way, but it's unfortunate that these features weren't ready in time for the Chromebooks' launch; their omission is an undeniable chink in the platform's armor at a time when many customers are evaluating the product.

Chromebook
Chrome OS now has built-in functionality for file management -- a feature that was absent in early test builds.

Similarly, Chrome OS currently lacks support for compressed files; clicking on a zipped attachment in my email gave me that gloomy "unknown file type" error once again. I found a website called Wobzip that was able to uncompress the file for me, but that solution wasn't immediately obvious and certainly wasn't intuitive. Google says a system-level fix for this is also being prepared.

On the plus side, Chrome OS does support wireless printing through Google's Cloud Print service.

Chromebook
Chrome OS supports wireless printing through Google's Cloud Print service.

Contrary to some reports, Cloud Print does not require a cloud-ready printer; any printer can be connected via the Chrome browser on a PC or a Mac. I was able to set up an HP OfficeJet printer with relative ease; once configured, anything printed from the Chromebook went through to the OfficeJet within about 30 seconds.

The Chromebook apps

Aside from the base OS, a Chromebook is dependent upon Web apps you access through the system. Google has set up a pleasant Chrome Web Store interface to make it easy for you to find and install all sorts of browser-based applications.

When you install an app in Chrome OS, it appears as a thumbnail in the browser's new tab screen. Some of the apps are basically glorified bookmarks: Running the YouTube app, for example, is no different than manually typing "youtube.com" into the browser. Some apps, however, give you more advanced functionality. A Scratchpad app provides you with a pop-up window for taking quick notes that automatically sync to your Google Docs account; other apps offer options for offline access once they're installed on the Chromebook device.

That brings us to an important question about Chrome OS as a platform: How well does it work when you aren't online? After all, an operating system built around the cloud needs an active connection in order to function -- right?

The answer is both yes and no. You are undoubtedly more limited in what you can do on a Chromebook when there is no active Internet connection, but that limitation is becoming less problematic as more and more developers update their Chrome OS apps with offline capabilities. Numerous Chrome OS apps are already able to function offline, including news apps from The New York Times and NPR, a wide selection of games and quite a few productivity tools, including notepads, dictionaries, calculators, painting and animation programs. There's even an app for offline Wikipedia browsing.

Chromebook
Google has set up a Chrome Web Store interface to make it easy to find and install browser-based applications.

A few basic Google services, however, are still waiting to receive their offline rights -- namely Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs. Google says these services are slated to become offline-ready before the end of the summer, but again, it's somewhat surprising not to see the functionality available at launch.

Another annoying initial omission: support for on-demand streaming from Netflix. If you try to play a Netflix movie from a Chromebook, you get a message informing you that Netflix streaming is not yet supported on the device -- but that Netflix is "working with Google" to correct that and will announce more details "in the coming months."

1 2 3 4 Page 3
Page 3 of 4
Download: EMM vendor comparison chart 2019
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon