When I recently discovered that Google had resumed sending out Cr-48′s, I was being picked up by my wife and we were on our way to our first date night as parents without the baby. I promptly asked, “Did I receive any packages today?”
She casually replied, “Oh yeah, there was one.”
“And…?” I pondered.
“Oh, it just said Chrome on it.”
Classic, and thus began my weekend, chock full of exploration and excitement over the new hardware initiative from the folks in Mountain View. After a week of playing and a day long conference, here are my thoughts and how they tie in with future education deployments.
Why Chrome Notebooks May Displace Netbooks for 1:1:
Full Keyboard: The typing experience is pleasant as the full size keyboard bests any and all netbooks with anything less than 100%. I did not have to adjust to any diminished size or awkward key placement. Instead, it was typing as usual, as it should be. Students should not have to hunt and peck for keys when writing a paper or performing research. Speaking of keys, I’m a big fan of the special keys on the top row, particularly the dedicated browser back and forward keys, along with the full screen key. And yes, I like that there’s no CAPS LOCK key. Other than writing CAPS LOCK, I don’t ever type in all caps and neither should our students.
Build Quality: Initial reviews pointed out that the notebook is rather dull in design keeping in mind that the machine is not intended for public consumption. However, I will argue that the rubberized matte look and feel of the notebook is rather pleasant and functional. Not slippery like an aluminum Macbook and unadorned with logos and stickers as PC laptops generally are, the Cr-48 achieves its design aesthetic in that it represents a minimalist machine which is what the unobtrusive Google OS is striving for. With the included sticker set, you do get some customization capabilities, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a “Powered by Google” moniker appears on these machines when they are eventually released.
Bright Screen: Although not as vibrant as an Apple iMac or Macbook display, the screen on the Cr-48 is surprisingly bright and clear. When compared to some PC Tablets and netbooks that I’ve used, the Cr-48 more than holds its own in terms of brightness and resolution. The fact that it is matte instead of glossy is observable in rooms with strong lighting as well as outdoors. I think this is a smart decision for schools given the amount of fluorescent lighting that is often used in today’s classrooms.
Power and Connectivity: Since unboxing and the initial full charge, I’ve only managed to discharge the battery once in a week. Granted I did not use the machine as my full time computer during the weekdays. However, this past weekend, the Cr-48 made its conference debut, as I used it to take notes and prepare blog posts, all without a hitch. Thus, an impressive display for a standard battery, tons of standby time and enough juice to probably power a few classes’ worth of instruction. This is critical when dealing with limited charging options for students in 1:1 environments. Despite some spotty wireless coverage at the conference, the Chrome OS notebook was able to find all available networks and connect with ease. Unlike the often confusing networking icon on PC’s, the wireless signal icon in the upper right of the Cr-48 is familiar enough to users of any major smart phone or portable music device.