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When Google announced Chrome OS, many people scoffed at the viability of a browser-based OS. Currently, however, Chromebooks are among the most popular inexpensive computing devices today. The search giant has done a great job of making an OS that is light enough to function on entry-level Atom-based SOCs and even low-powered ARM silicon. With the launch of many new Chromebooks (click hear to find out which one we think is the best chromebook) we wanted to see if a person could survive with a Chromebook playing games, videos, word processing and more for an entire week. Read on to see how the OS fared against Windows in our seven-day challenge.
The premise of our test was simple, use nothing but a Chromebook for seven days straight. We weren’t allowed to touch a PC during that period, so we left our Windows rig sitting around collecting dust. Below you will find different sections about our experiences with our Chromebook. In addition, we fill you in on whether a person can use one as their primary computer.
We should mention the only other Internet capable device we were allowed to use during our testing period was a smartphone. We did, after all, have to make the occasional phone call/text every now and then.
The Acer C720 Chromebook
We grabbed Acer’s C720, as it’s arguably the best Chromebook for the money, providing us with a dual-core Intel Haswell processor, 16GB SSD, and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. We thought about using Google’s Pixel, but it’s super expensive at $1,300. The C720 comes very close to the Pixel in performance, and its way cheaper at $250. Not to mention its 0.7lbs lighter than the Pixel as well.
Chrome OS' desktop interface
Using a Chromebook we found some distinct performance advantages and disadvantages. First off, Chrome OS is insanely fast at booting up, taking about 2 seconds to get to the desktop, and we saw the device get us to the Internet in just seconds. In case you've been living under a rock and don't know how Chrome OS operates, it is an operating system that is tied to the cloud. This means that in order to properly take advantage of its features, you must be connected online.
The battery life was excellent on the C720, as we got around eight and a half hours run time while producing documents and surfing the web. The C720 was highly portable since it weighs just 2.7 pounds and has a thin profile of 0.7 inches. We also liked its small sleek form factor, as it easily fit into our bag. With its small size also comes a small keyboard, however, and we found ourselves missing our full-size keyboard with its 10-key number pad. We did like the C720’s multi-touch track pad, as the multi-touch gestures were very responsive, but it’s a bit too small for large fingers. These hardware peripherals will vary from Chromebook to Chromebook, however, so the aforementioned statements are not relevant to all Chromebooks.
A familiar face
Browsing the Internet:
Our Chromebook browsed the web quickly and efficiently. It handled multiple tabs very well and we didn’t see any slowdown in performance when we had 10 or more tabs open. We did, however, run into an issue with Newegg as some of its links didn’t work properly on our Chromebook. We tried looking at customer reviews on the e-tailer’s website and couldn’t get them to load on our Chromebook no matter what we did. We tried shutting down the unit and restarting it, restoring it to factory settings [A.K.A. powerwashing], and disabling our Chrome add-ons and nothing worked. The biggest weakness of Chrome OS is that not everything supports Chrome, so unlike Windows, you can’t just switch browsers if a website isn’t loading properly.
Google's Word Processing Application: Google Drive
Google Drive was how we created documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. We liked using the cloud-based suite, but it’s not as fleshed out as Microsoft Office. There’s simply more functionality in Word and PowerPoint, as they offer more customization than Google Docs. We found there to be more transitions in PowerPoint along with more options to customize our slides than on Google Slides. If you just need basic presentations, documents, and spreadsheets, however, Google Drive can do most of what Microsoft’s Office can do for free.
One of the biggest advantages Google Drive has over Microsoft Office is its sharing function and we liked how we could easily share our documents with the service. Another strong feature of document sharing in Google Docs is that multiple people can edit the same document at the same time. As noted by one of our readers, Hellabrad, you can also edit and share documents with other Office users with Microsoft's free web client. Finally, Google Docs is constantly and conveniently AutoSaving, which is something the desktop version of Word doesn’t do. By default, the Microsoft Word desktop application AutoSaves every 10 minutes, and this setting can be changed to AutoSave every minute (Hellabrad).
Click the next page to read about gaming, picture-editing and more with a Chromebook.