Can You Survive on a Chromebook Alone?

avatar

Can You Survive on a Chromebook Alone?

 

Watching Videos

Streaming Amazon Instant Prime on a Chromebook

Watching Videos:

Chrome OS has Adobe Flash Player baked right into its browser, so we found there to be no problems with watching movies and TV shows on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and Hulu Plus. The picture quality was a clear 720p on our 11-inch display, which didn’t look that bad because the pixel density was fairly high on our relatively small screen.

Anti-Virus:

There are no third-party AV programs on Chrome OS you can download at the moment. We see this as a problem because we would love to see Norton, Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and other AV developers making Chrome apps to help protect the OS. AV suites may come along if the OS gains further adoption, but for now you’re only protected by Google.

The search giant claims that you’ll never get a virus on its Chrome OS, but Apple said the same thing a few years ago with OSX and that didn’t turn out to be the case. As a matter of fact, the past few years Apple users have seen many viruses invade their laptops and all-in-ones like never before. We suspect that ChromeOS won’t be immune to these problems either.

Pixlr Photo Editor

Editing photos using Pixlr on a Chromebook

Editing Photos/Videos:

We initially thought that we could use Adobe’s Creative Cloud on our Chromebook, but we were wrong, as Chrome OS does not support the online suite. If you need Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign, you’ll need a Windows PC to use these multimedia-editing apps. 

The built-in photo editor in Chrome OS is very limited, but luckily there’s a free Chrome app called Pixlr that can satisfy your photo editing needs in a pinch. Pixlr gives you a variety of tools including an eraser, smudge tool, selection tool, stamp tool, along with a paint bucket tool and red eye reduction. Pixlr also lets you adjust your image’s size and create layers for those who like to stack effects when editing their photos. It’s not a Photoshop replacement, but at least you can lightly touch up photos.

From what we know there’s no way to edit videos on a Chromebook (other than the simple Youtube video editor, that is), so again you’ll need a good old X86 PC to this task. If Adobe did start supporting Chromebooks we could see them as cheap multimedia machines, but until that time comes, Chrome OS users are limited to editing photos.

Gaming in Chrome OS

Playing Bastion on a Chromebook

Playing Games:

As mentioned before Chrome OS supports Adobe Flash, meaning that Flash games can be played on the OS. Armor Games, a website that provides tons of free flash games, ran well, but we did see a few hiccups in our frame rate from time to time after a few minutes. 

There are a few indie titles that are available on Chrome OS, including Bastion and Flow. Bastion was a performance hog and pushed our tiny Chromebook to its limits, as the unit’s fan was blaring right when we started up the game. Flow on the other hand ran well and didn’t bring our Chromebook to its knees like Bastion did. 

We did miss Steam and Origin too (only because of BF4, naturally) and we found Chrome OS doesn’t have any compelling flash titles to keep PC gamers satisfied. We find flash games fun 5-10 minute coffee break games, but they don’t quench our hardcore-gaming thirst.

Content Management

Managing Content:

We didn’t like Chrome OS because of the lack of content management it provides. There are no folders for Music, Documents, or Pictures like in Windows. All of your files are automatically put in your download folder, and they are all grouped from most current to least current. We thought it was odd we couldn’t put any of files these files onto our desktop. Not to mention, all this glorious content is stored on a “massive” 16GB SSD. It’s not all bad as you can at least natively zip and unzip files in the OS with right-click, which is a two finger tap in Chrome OS. 

We thought it was strange that we couldn’t upload our music to Google Music using our Chromebook. Chrome OS doesn’t support this, and that’s just weird because you would think Google would support its own ecosystem. Simply put, there’s a huge lack of content management features and it’s something Google definitely needs to change if it seeks to get more market penetration within the laptop scene.

Conclusion:

While the Chromebook is very fast and functional, it lacks power-user apps like Photoshop, or triple-A gaming titles. We see the device great for college students looking to get a computing device that they can get 8-9 hours out of while taking notes and browsing the web. Chrome OS can also stream the major video services, as we watched Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu, and Netflix with no problems. You’re ultimately getting a document, web browsing, and streaming machine. 

There have been more hybrid Windows 8.1 devices sporting X86 Intel Atom processors with fast 32GB or 64GB SSDs. These inexpensive Windows machines should challenge Chromebooks in the upcoming months and will make Chrome OS devices harder and harder to sell. We’ve already seen some tablet-laptops that are $350-$400 like the ASUS T100, which gives users Windows 8.1 in a portable form factor with a battery life that is comparable to the C720. We’d personally stick with an X86 Windows PC because it does a lot more than Chrome OS, giving us access to a never-ending abundance of apps and tools that Google’s browser OS just can’t rival at the moment.

Follow Chris on Google+ or Twitter

40

Comments

+ Add a Comment
avatar

liamdude321

"The C720 comes very close to the Pixel in performance, and its way cheaper at $250."
Yeah, I seriously doubt that the Celeron in the $200 Acer C720 is on par in performance with a Core i5 in a $1000 ultrabook-esque laptop.

avatar

nexiboyyy

For users who don't know how to use the crouton script (Which btw is extremely easy, I mean you can literally just copy and paste your way through tutorials to get xubuntu running.) a chromebook will only be a web browser. However a web browser is 95% of what most users use a computer for besides gaming. Besides a Chromebook is sold as a companion laptop, and the cheaper Windows laptops are horrifically slow and plagued with the Windows problem of software degration over time. I guarantee that if a user who buys a Chromebook doesn't know how to use the crouton script, they won't know how to properly maintain Windows to keep it running at fast speeds.

I for one am using a c720 as my main computer, with an upgraded 120 gb ssd and using crouton to run #!(crunchbang) my little $250 laptop performs like a beast for that price point. I can do all the video editing I need, as well as light gaming (really I'm only restricted by hardware limitations) which honestly if your spending $250 for a gaming machine you're an idiot.

The nice thing about a Chromebook using crouton is that the Chrome part of the laptop works flawlessly regardless of what you're doing. It pretty much in 99.9999% of cases wont slow down and it runs far faster than a $250 machine should. Yet the linux side of the OS runs almost flawlessly as well. There are some quirks here and there with audio, but other than that it runs practically like a native linux operating system. Yet you can switch between the two with a simple key stroke.

So I basically use Chrome os as my browser, and the Linux side when I have to do anything else, and switching between the two is so seamless that it's in some ways faster than if I was running a native Linux OS. Ohh I still have yet to exceed 3 gigs of ram usage as well, even running both operating systems at the same time.

avatar

Eoraptor

Half the comments I see on this are "well sure, after you install a different linux, or dual boot, or install some hack-around to install more linux packages."

So in other words, no. No you can't survive with an off-the-shelf chromebook. Not by the varied consensus here.

Sort of like windows 8 "It's a great operating system, after you install classic shell"

avatar

brunerww

Hi Chris - My Windows 7 machine is now exclusively a video editing workstation. Other than that, it gathers dust.

I use ChromeOS dual booted with Ubuntu via Crouton - so my Acer C720 is a standalone computer when there's no internet connection.

No file management system? Pull the stuff out of the download folder (which is shared between the 2 GUIs) and put them into whatever folders you like (including desktop folders).

Chrome/Chromium doesn't work on newegg? Switch to Firefox.

At work, most of the training and personnel management self-service pages are compatible with Firefox, not Chrome. No worries - I switch to Ubuntu/Linux and Firefox, and there's no need to turn on the iMac.

I carry this little computer back and forth with me from home to work, and haven't used my iMac at work or my Windows 7 machine at home for weeks.

Best $200 I've ever spent on a computer (and I bought my first one, an Atari 400, in 1981).

So, can "you" survive chromebook alone? Some people can't - but I certainly can.

Cheers,

Bill

avatar

vig1lant3

The article I wrote was much shorter:

Can You Survive on a Chromebook Alone?

No.

avatar

Slugbait

I'm curious if the browser on ChromeOS is any more stable than the default browser on Android. It crashes so often on Android that I only use it for Flash sites/content. The Chrome browser is also maddeningly unstable, but not quite as bad...but it doesn't support Flash.

Which leads to the next question: can Chrome browser be installed on ChromeOS?

Also, does ChromeOS support authenticated proxy? Last time I checked, Google still did not support it for Android.

avatar

vrmlbasic

How does ChromeOS handle powerpoint downloads? Does it have to "reupload" them to Google Docs before they can be viewed?

...could MPC get one of its college interns to survive an entire week of college with just a Chromebook?

avatar

Eoraptor

Not sure about the rest, but that would be a great read in my eyes, though probably not suitable to maxpc's short form reports.

avatar

Eoraptor

if you live AND work in an area where wifi is free and ubiquitous and open... or you can swing a very capacious cellular data plan, sure, you can get buy on a chromebook.

if you live between the coasts? not so much. you can have my big resident programs when you pry them from my cold dead harddrive.

avatar

vrmlbasic

I know that I certainly don't live in such an area.

avatar

hellabrad

"Another strong feature of document sharing in Google Docs is that multiple people can edit the same document at the same time, something that’s not available in Microsoft’s Office suite."

The free, web based version of Office allows multiple people to edit a single document at the same time.

avatar

chriszele

Thanks for the comment! I've changed the article to say the free MS Office Web client also allows for Office users to share and edit content together. 

Chris

avatar

big_montana

"First off, Chrome OS is insanely fast at booting up, and we saw the device get us to the Internet in just seconds"

Define seconds, as it would have been nice to see some benchmarks for this unit you used. I have a 3 year old Lenovo Edge E420S laptop running Windows 8.1 with 8GB or RAM and a 260GB SSD that boots to useable Windows in 15 seconds. Does the Acer boot quicker, slower, the same?

"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."

Again my 3 year old Lenovo gets 8 hours on battery while surfing the web, producing documents, reading emails (use the Outlook client). Core i5-2410M processor.

"Google Docs is constantly and conveniently AutoSaving, which is something Word doesn’t do either."

I use Office 2010 at work, and Office 2013 at home, and both are set to auto save documents out of the box. Maybe you turned that feature off?

"The C720 comes very close to the Pixel in performance, and its way cheaper at $250."

You win on price, as I paid $870 for my Edge 3 years ago, and add in the price of the SSD I Install 2 months ago, which adds another $160 to the price. Still would not trade this in for a Chromebook or any other laptop currently available as it meets my needs today. Tomorrow? Well, that's another story.

avatar

chriszele

The Chromebook booted up in about 2 seconds. 

With regard to the Google Docs Autosaving statement, I've used both 2010 and 2013 and had my PC blue screen on me, while most of the document was saved, I lost about a page and a half of content. Google Docs is saving everytime you make a change, so it's constantly saving whereas MS Office saves just once in a while. The web version of Office also does Autosaving in the cloud too, so that's probably the best way to get constant Autosaving in Office. 

Chris

avatar

legionera

No offence but if you don't have any experience computing, how did you end up doing a review about a device that you have no idea about?

avatar

hellabrad

@chriszele: The default autosave time in Word is 10 minutes. Try lowering it to 1 minute in the Word options window.

avatar

chriszele

@hellabrad Thanks for letting me know! 

avatar

big_montana

Thanks for the clarification, especially with regards to auto-saving. Words default auto-save is 10 minutes, and I did modify that setting for home to 3 minutes to match the setting on my work laptop. The lowest you can set it to is 1 minute.

avatar

hellabrad

Mods, tell big_montana to stop stealing my thunder.

8-)

avatar

mitcoes

CROUTON allows you to use almost all the GNU packages in chroot
you can install xUbuntu and even arch - in a near future, still in alpha - and only with a key switching you have almost all you need.

You can use wine if you want to use Autocad, MS office or Photoshop - perhaps even faster than with MS WOS 8 at this humble hardware.

You cannot use, at this moment qemu, xen or vbox, but with this hardware a native GNU/Linux would not perform well for this virtualization. But you can use all the DOS old programs with DOSBOX or all the old arcades with MAME/MESS or old consoles with Genesis/SNES emulators.

For retrogaming is a great cheap machine

And of course better if they would come with any 64bits GNU/Linux with 4 Gb of RAM and HDDs, but OEMs can do that and the do not, and what is not offered is not demanded - Xandros Eee was retired, and Asus killed its own success,but customers did not buy Eees and replace slow MS WOS for faster Xubuntus or Lubuntus -.

avatar

Fruguy

Although Google can certainly make the claim that Chrome OS can't get a virus, I have evidence that it certainly can get a virus. Working as a remote technical support agent, I had a customer call in with a variant of the FBI virus on his chromebook. The customer was unable to do anything with his chromebook. No web browsing, no Docs, no settings. The only thing he was able to do was open the task manager on it. Much to both of our relief, he could click on the item that referenced the FBI virus and was able to end the task. After a reboot, it had disappeared from the system. The only reference I was able to find regarding the issues was the following:https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/chromebook-central/A164smrv0cA%5B1-25-true%5D

As I was about ready to have the customer do a powerwash, there was one response about killing it with the task manager, and it worked. So, while the virus may have not stayed on the pc after its process had been ended, it certainly points out that Chrome OS is not impervious to viruses and malware, but maybe coated with the computer coded version of Rain-X.

avatar

legionera

Those about lack of hackers and malware are so exaggerated. All system have vulnerabilities that could be circumvent. It's stupid to believe that there aren't any backdoors and ways to steal info. It all comes down to the user's stupidity.

Believe me, I've seen idiots coming to me with "I bought a Macbook because there are no viruses". What are you doing using a computer in the first place if you don't have the commons sense, trust random websites online, and install stuff you don't need...??? Are you buying a computer just to test how vulnerable it is to malware? I haven't heard of a virus in a veeery long time, and the last several times I infected it on purpose just before a fresh install.

avatar

LatiosXT

That's a pretty stupid virus if you can kill it with the task manager.

avatar

Eoraptor

such writers count on the average user not knowing WTF a task manager is. plus, the smaller the virus, the faster it can be slipped in under the radar on even a slow connection,

it's an odds game, as all things hacking are; the odds your target engages in risky behavior, is computer literate, or can recognize warning signs, versus building in counters to each of those situations. sure you can write a virus to disable the six larges AV programs out there, sure you can make it have elevated rights to prevent it being killed by a process monitor. but each of those aspects adds a lot of size to the package that has to be delivered.

avatar

jojoguy10

You couldn't use a Chrome App (such as WeVideo) to manage video editing? It's still no Adobe Premiere or After Effects, but to say there is NO way to video edit, I think might be a bit stretched.

avatar

chriszele

The YouTube editor works on a Chromebook, but it's very limited. If you want to produce semi-professional content there's really no way to do that on a Chromebook. 

avatar

MrHasselblad

No computer and/or operating system is without it's major issues, and Google Chrome has some of them.

Would really like to point all of them out at the present time, but.. Take my word for it and wait until March 12th in Vancouver, when my team and a number of others will walk away with over 100k as we get paid to hack Chrome at CanSecWest.

... Or how about this one; which was still verified as **completely active and usable** on most all Chrome models...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5D578JmHdU

...Or simple search under "Chrome Bug Lets Sites Listen to Your Conversations". This is one of over one dozen major issues with Chrome.

Plus here in america; one has to wonder how widespread coverage is, especially when traveling. Take a look at present day high speed internet maps to learn more.

avatar

germanogre

Ran into the same Newegg problem with my Galaxy SIII, using IE, running Android 4.2 and 4.3.

avatar

doctorsub1

I suppose this would be aimed more at the novice/average user that is not willing to pay for more expensive parts. Why not just get Linux running on a little bit older thin laptop?

Example:
Samsung NP540U3C-A03UB Series 5 13.3" Touch-Screen Laptop
$424.00

For around the same price as a Chromebook and the capability to do more IF you needed to do so.

I still struggled with the idea of Chromebooks as I personally believe they should have this OS available for the public but instead they market it with special keyboards, quick boot, and power savings. You can easily get Google drive for 4.99 a month for 100GB if you want that ability.

Nice Article. I appreciate your point of view and even considered doing a Chromebook myself, alas, I went with a thinkpad and linux.

avatar

Granite

I have a phone and a tablet for the light stuff, but if i can't play my MMO's on it, no laptop is of use to me.

avatar

TheITGuy

Only some people could survive on a Chromebook alone. I am not one of them

avatar

firefox91

As much as I hate to agree with those stupid anti-chrome commercials, you are pinned to the availability of wifi. I have a Dell netbook for when I travel and it is great on the plane or in the car for playing movies saved to the drive. Given the minimal amount of memory on the chromebooks, it is hard to have any decent library of videos to work with.

avatar

Baer

It seems that the only real advantage is price. Survival is not comfort.
With MS significantly cutting the price for WIndows for inexpensive devices (I still can not consider a Chromebook really a computer)and with quite a few people not truly realizing the limitations when they got one you have to wonder what the longer term sales trend will be.
Still, competition is great.

avatar

dgrmouse

I disliked pretty much everything about this article, from the title on down. Seriously, this article is all about whether or not /you/ can survive a chromebook, not /me/. Unless I missed it, the article never even mentions internet speeds - it seems to me that the guy with spotty and slow connections is maybe going to have less fun with this OS than the guy with always-on fiber to the curb. I can understand the authors distrust of being told that a product is immune to viruses, but as a journalist I'd expect him to flesh out what it is that the OS claims to do differently and what vectors he believes are still vulnerable. If you're going to complain about the keyboard on a laptop, shouldn't you also tell us if the device has a full suite of industry standard connectors? Do aftermarket docking solutions still apply here?

avatar

gc

"The C720 comes very close to the Pixel in performance, and its way cheaper at $250. "

Acer C720 16 GB regularly priced at $199 free shipping
if sold and shipped by amazon.
BUT Acer C720 is usually out of stock 90% of the time(cause 3rdparty sellers).

Its available through multiple 3rd Party sellers price gouging the Acer C720 16GB to $247 plus shipping costs. Hoping to trick and confuse buyers.

the 32GB version ( Acer C720 ) sold and shipped by Amazon at = $247 free shipping

I also discovered amazon's Acer C720 product and Acer C720P touchscreen versions are monitored by various 3rd party crew, posing as "helpful customers" posting in comments/reviews hyping the product 24/7.

Buyers Beware. If all possible only buy from Amazon and avoid 3rdparty sellers.

"Finally Google Docs is constantly and conveniently AutoSaving, which is something Word doesn’t do either."

My Windows 8.1 devices auto syncs Onedrive-documents regularly. As soon as the doc is given a file name then saved, it autosyncs to Onedrive(skydrive)

avatar

LatiosXT

What about Chrome apps? Are those supported? I don't use Chrome primarily, but I wonder what sort of added features you could get with Chrome apps. And are PDFs supported in some fashion?

It's looking very tempting to get one of these as a cheaper computer-on-the-go as my tablet is showing its age and my laptop is a little hefty for lugging around all day.

avatar

Innomasta

Unless things have changed, I have successfully opened PDF email attachments on a chromebook

avatar

chriszele

Some Chrome apps are supported by Chrome OS, but others need an X86 Windows PC with Chrome installed to run. 

avatar

John Pombrio

Well written article. Like the Steam Machine, I have issues with a computer that have only a subset of the programs available for full functioned machines. The same goes for tablets.
As long as your needs are few or very specific, then these limited computers will work. When you really need a full powered computer, then you will immediately notice how lacking it is.
A fine example is my sister. She uses her tablet for EXACTLY two things, e-mail and Solitaire, heh. She loves it. Me, I pick it up and immediately notice that browsing the web with that limited screen size sucked wind. To each his/her own.

avatar

chriszele

Thanks for the comment John!