Friday, March 1, 2013

Acer C7 Chromebook - Day 1

Day 1: I made the leap. Though, not entirely by choice. Forced by a post-college budget and a dying Macbook Pro, I needed to buy an inexpensive computer that could last me a few months, or even over a year until I could get a more permanent laptop. So this is least, that’s the plan. I plan on saving up for as long as it takes to get a Macbook Air. I love Macbooks. Owning one for the past few years has shown just how reliable, powerful, headache-free, and all-around beautiful a Mac is. However, the cost of owning one (initially of course), is a bit high.

With the impending doom of my current Macbook completely dying soon, and being left stranded with no computer, I decided to buy a Chromebook. Don’t get me wrong, my MacBook has been amazing. I’ve managed to get 10 years of use out of it in 5 years (in other words; I used the hell out of it), but the initial cost of buying a new one is something I failed to plan for.

So a Chromebook? I’m a fan of Google and have been for years. I suppose you could call me a “fanboy”. However, the Chromebook has been one of the things that I’ve been a little unsure of. Is it really something that I could use? A graphic designer? I know I can’t design on this thing, and even photo editing is a bit limited. When it came down to it though, it was this or a Windows PC with no design software.

Seeing as though I can’t stand the PC I have to use at work, the last thing I wanted to do was come home to another headache of unnecessary crashes, blue screens of death and a slow disintegration of performance. A Chromebook was the only other option. Why not go with it? It’s a computer that can costs as little as $200, and uses the account that I’ve been living on for the past 6 years. I’m comfortable with Google, and when it comes to their products, I know it’s going to be something I can depend on.

So I got a Chromebook. An Acer C7. It’s the most inexpensive one, which was perfect for the post-college grad sentence budget that I’m on for the next decade or so. The overall pickings were slim with Googles new laptop lineup. I could have picked this Acer, the Samsung 11 inch Chromebook, or the Samsung 550. There is an HP one that seems to have been quietly released, and the Pixel; which is just silly to buy with that $1,200 price tag (plus it’s not actually out yet).

I picked the Acer, not only because of the price, but because of the storage. Unlike other Chromebooks, the Acer C7 has 320GB of storage, instead of 16GB. No, the Chrome OS doesn’t have a complex system to store files, and technically the point is to store everything on the cloud, but I want my music, movies and important files saved Offline. I don’t want the Cloud to have me by the balls anymore than it already does. Enough about the storage though, the rest of the specs are here:

11.6” LCD Screen at 1366x768 pixels
1.1Ghz Dual Core Intel Processor
2 GB DDR3 Memory
320 GB Hard Drive
HDMI & VGA Output
3 USB 2.0 ports
SD MMC Card Reader

To finish off the specs is probably the saddest part of the this laptop: a small battery with about 3 hours of life. It’s sad, because the Samsung version has a 7 hour battery life due to it’s ARM processor (Intel processors are very hungry). Honestly though, I could live with it. The specs sound a lot like a low-end Windows netbook, and that’s because is kind of is. That’s okay though! The Chrome OS uses very little power, and what you do on a Chromebook is not going to require a quad-core processor, 8 gigs of memory, and an Nvidia graphics card from the year 2044.

The overall design of the Acer C7 is purely utilitarian. It’s meant to function, and not have too much pizazz. I’ve read reviews about the touchpad and keyboard being horrible, but they actually work really well. Are they the prettiest thing? Definitely not. Are people going to even notice this laptop? Probably not. Do I care? Not at all. What matters right now is if it works well, and can last me until I get a new Macbook.

Within the past few days of using this laptop, I can honestly say its been pretty amazing. The setup literally took less than 3 minutes. I’m not exaggerating about the time. To set it up, you just open the laptop, connect to a Wifi network and log in to your Google Account. The Chromebook does the rest, and in a quick, discreet manner. Any updates happen in the background and install when you restart the machine.

The overall interface of Chrome OS is actually a lot better than I was expecting. It’s the cleanest, easiest to navigate, and overall simplest operating system I’ve ever seen. The shortcuts on the the bottom of the screen have everything you need, and 99% of the “apps” open in a Chrome Browser. You can use it offline for typing notes, playing locally stored music & movies, and viewing locally stored pictures.

Sites load beautifully, and incredibly fast. Flash has no problem loading, Netflix runs clean and even the new MySpace, with all it’s horizontal scrolling layers & music playing, runs really nice. At the moment though...there’s no Spotify support, even for the Beta In-Browser version. Still though, I’m impressed by the Chromebook!

I’ll post updates what it’s like using this thing. I’ll share if I think people could use it for most of their daily needs, and as a graphic designer: is it even worth buying? I didn’t have much of a choice because of the bind I was in, but I could see this being something that I might keep longer, even after I get a new MacBook in a couple months. It’s a nice break from a typical laptop.


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