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May 29, 2012

Fast, Sleek New Chromebooks Bring OS Worthy Hardware

The new Chromebook and a Chromebox to boot.

At the end of 2010, I got my first exposure to a fully cloud-based operating system, when I was an early recipient of Google's CR-48 pilot program. Those of us getting the early gear were guided to be kind to the admittedly clunky hardware, and instead focus on the operating system, which changed the way we thought about local storage. But in addition to the unique OS, which started and ended with the web browser, the machine was intriguing for its long battery life and pervasive wireless capabilities, including 3G connectivity. The second generation hardware, which I obtained from attending Google IO last summer, started where the first gen left off, syncing quickly from my Google account, and bumping up its speed, while maintaining great battery life and wireless.

But in both cases, the devices were my backup devices, secondary to my primary machine, a MacBook Air. Be it specific software, inertia or simple speed and aesthetics, I still found myself using the Apple laptop the majority of the time - except when I was away from home or the office, as the Chromebook has from day one been best for mobile computing. The newest devices, being introduced today, have flipped that argument on its head. I've been using the new Chromebook for the last few days, and the only time I ever got my Macbook out was to sync my Fitbit tracker with its desktop cradle.




 
Google introduces the new Chromebooks

The new Chromebooks are incredibly sleek, light and fast to boot. That may be hard to substantiate, especially if you assume my pro-Google filter is in effect, so I tested on the WebGL fishtank demo, getting 60 fps at 1,000 fish, lowering to the high 40s if I made that its separate window and kept working on something else, be it Gmail, playing a YouTube video, accessing my docs on Google Drive, or browsing the web.

I've been thinking about and working toward a cloud-centric lifestyle for years now, and since joining Google last August, I spend practically all my waking connected hours in Chrome. I have Chrome on my Android phone, on my TVs with the Google TV, on my Mac laptops and, obviously, at the heart of the Chromebook.    The benefits of having access to all my bookmarks, user profiles and content from device to device cannot be overstated, and the newest laptop no longer makes me feel like I am compromising anything in exchange. The hardware is thin, the keyboard and trackpad are top quality, and its weight is light enough that if it were held next to the latest model Macbook Air, any difference is scarcely noticeable. This is no longer just a evolutionary OS story, but one that has hardware worthy of it.

Disclosures (Per Usual): Yes, I work for Google. I have been testing this new unit free of charge. I also previously received the CR-48 and second generation Chromebooks free of charge prior to joining Google, so life is pretty good. :)