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Google Chromebook: the good, the bad and the beta

Howard Wen | Feb. 2, 2011
When Google first started giving away the Cr-48 in early December, lots of reviewers posted their first impressions after driving the Chromebook around the block a couple of times. We’ve taken the Chromebook out on a two-month test drive to see how it performs in real-world conditions.

Like: Long battery life

On a full charge, we found that the Cr-48 ran up to 8 hours. Of course, this duration depends on how much you use the computer to view/listen to streaming video or audio, how long you have the Wi-Fi or 3G modem on, or whether you run whatever else on it that puts the computer's processor through its paces (in other words, doing almost anything on it that makes using any computer fun).

Still, if you use the Cr-48 to do offline, low-processing activities -- such as writing -- it is possible to squeeze out a work day's worth of juice from its battery.

Don't like: The touchpad is too wide

The sensitivity of the Cr-48's touchpad can be leveled down, but we found that the touchpad itself may be too wide for such a small notebook. You have to be careful not to rest your palms upon the Cr-48 while typing. Otherwise, your palms will probably make contact with the touchpad and send the cursor flying off to another part of the screen.

Like: It's thin and light

The Cr-48 is no MacBook Air, but compared to most notebooks that sport 12.1-inch screens it's quite light at 3.8 pounds. And with a thickness of 0.875 inches, the computer fits nicely into a bookbag or backpack like a couple of magazines (or one thick fashion mag) would.

Don't like: No line-in audio connector

There is a pin-hole microphone on the Cr-48, set above the screen, to the left of its webcam, but the computer lacks a line-in connector. So you can't use a headset that has its own microphone. If you're using a webphone service, such as Google's own voice chat, you'll have to speak loudly at the Cr-48 -- and everybody around you will hear you.

Like: The sound is pretty good

The built-in speakers are sufficient, but you experience better sound quality from the Cr-48 when you plug in a decent pair of earbuds or earphones. We found that listening to streaming radio stations or jukebox sites like Grooveshark to be flawless.

Don't like: It gets stained easily

Even with our hands clean (honest, mom, we washed!), fingerprints and skin oil would stain the computer's rubberized housing as if we had touched it after we ate fried chicken. Using a cotton towel dampened with water to clean the Cr-48, lightly scrubbing in circular motions, helped somewhat, but our oily DNA remained.

Like: The rubberized housing


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