Google promised that its operating system would boot very quickly and our tests indicate that, while it is quick to start up, the Cr-48 isn’t the fastest we’ve seen. From hitting the power button to reaching the login prompt was about 15 seconds. However, then you must select your user account (it shows you a list of profiles) and enter your password or click guest and wait a few more seconds for everything to appear. All told, with typing and clicking, this process takes about another 10 seconds for a total of 25 seconds. The latest MacBook Airs let you start working in 15 seconds.
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter Chrome OS is that there’s no desktop, no Start Menu or dock, and no task bar. All you see is the Chrome browser, which opens with a list of your installed web apps and Chrome extensions and two menus that list Most visited and Recently closed sites. By default, the preloaded apps are Get Started (a set of instructions), Entanglement (a puzzle game), Poppit ( a casual game where you pop balloons), Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Talk, YouTube, and Web Store, which allows you to install more apps.
None of these apps actually lives on the PC; they’re all either bookmarks to URLs you could just visit by typing into the address bar or extensions that also live on the web. You can get thousands more apps by going to Google’s web store, though there’s no way to simply add your own custom shortcuts to the empty tab page. However, if you have bookmarks, you’ll see a few in a bar above the apps.
In the upper right corner of the screen sit the system clock, wireless bars, and a battery indicator. If you have your Cr-48 configured to allow multiple languages, a menu for choosing the input language appears between the clock and the wireless bar status.
You can’t do a lot to customize the look and feel of the OS, but you can download Chrome themes from Google’s web store, which will change both the color of the tabs and address bar area and the background that appears in new tabs.
Because there’s no desktop behind it, you can’t minimize, maximize, or resize the browser window, nor can you view two browser windows next to each other. You can drag tabs around and, should you hit Ctrl + N or click a link that spawns a new window, you’ll be transported to another screen where that window will also take up the full area. There’s no compelling need to create new windows rather than tabs, but should you wish to work with multiple windows, you can switch back and forth between them by either hitting ALT + Tab or the change windows button on the keyboard.
While you are in one browser window there is no indicator to let you know that other windows exist. Even when you change windows, you are simply shuffled off to the next window, rather than given a menu that shows you how many windows are open and what they contain.
Though you can’t have multiple full browser windows on the screen at the same time, small mini-windows can appear on top of the main one. The best example of a mini window like this is Google Talk, which can float around the bottom of the screen while you visit other web sites in the main window. Another example we encountered is the player window from Napster.com, which must remain open in order to play music while you work.
Interestingly, you can’t drag these mini windows up on the screen but you can slide them around horizontally or drag them down until they sink below the bottom of the screen, so only a tiny non-descript gray line sits at the bottom of your display to remind you there’s a window buried there somewhere. Google needs to do a much better job of handling these mini windows as it updates Chrome OS.