Google Cr-48 Chrome Netbook Full Review - Page 3 of 4 - LAPTOP Magazine: The Pulse of Mobile Technology

Google Cr-48 Chrome Netbook Full Review

Settings

Chrome OS offers very few configuration options right now for the Cr-48. Among the many things you can’t do is view the system properties to see exactly what hardware the computer has, so if you need to know how much free space is left on the system’s internal storage or what type of CPU you have, you’re out of luck. Nor can you control the power settings. On battery, the screen dims after 2 minutes and goes black after 3 minutes–and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can adjust the brightness in broad strokes by hitting the up and down brightness buttons at the top of the keyboard, but there’s no way to fine tune the level in the control panel.

By clicking on the clock, you can change the time and date. Clicking on the wireless bars launches a pulldown menu with a list of available wireless networks and the option to disable / enable Wi-FI and cellular connections. Clicking on the battery shows you the percentage and estimated time remaining, but doesn’t give you any options.

The main settings menu is available by selecting Settings from the pulldown that appears under the wrench icon or simply typing chrome://settings into the address bar. The settings menu has six tabs: System, Internet, Basics, Personal Stuff, Under the Hood, and Users. The System section allows you to change the time, touchpad sensitivity and language.

The Internet settings tab allows you to configure your Wi-Fi settings. The Basics tab lets you set your default home page for new tabs and, interestingly enough, you can also change your default search engine here from Google to Yahoo or Bing! The Personal Stuff menu lets you change your password and gives you a menu for getting themes. Under the hood lets you change privacy and network settings; it also has a Content button that allows you to control notifications, pop-ups, plug-ins, and alerts. The Users tab allows you to turn on or off guest access and restrict which user accounts can log into the system.

Webcam and Video Chat

The webcam, which is of unknown megapixels, shot sharp, clear images , even in our dimly-lit livingroom. However, the only way we found to shoot a still with it was to create a user profile and let it ask us for our picture. We tried installing the picmequick extension, which is supposed to take webcam pictures, but the app said it needed us to grant permission to use the webcam and we couldn’t find a way to do that.

Because there’s no web-based version of Skype or FaceTime, Google chat is your only video chat option. Using the Google Talk extension we were able to initiate a call with a friend who was also using a Cr-48 netbook. While the small box showing our picture looked clear enough, the image we saw of our friend was rather blurry and pixilated. The audio in the chat was bearable when the tab with the chat window was on top. However, when we changed tabs, the quality noticeably degraded with the chatbox operating in the background.

Files and File System

One of the most frustrating things about the Chrome OS is the way it deliberately hides the file system from users. There’s no equivalent to the Windows Explorer or Mac Finder in Chrome OS, so there’s no way to browse the folders on the local storage or move files around. Even when you attach a USB storage drive or pop an SD Card reader into the card slot no dialog box appears to let you do something with the content on those devices. There’s also no way to surf the local storage drive by typing local folder paths into the address bar; it just doesn’t work

There are, however, a couple of very limited ways to see the storage system. If you hit CTRL+O at any time, a small overlay window will appear in the lower left corner of the screen and allow you to browse through the contents of the downloads folder. It starts out empty and the only way files end up there is if you download them, something you have little reason to do since you can’t install programs, manipulate local files, or even copy something you downloaded to external media. You can’t actually create subfolders under the downloads folder either. However, if you take any screen shots (CTRL + window changing button), there will be a screen shots subfolder underneath Downloads that will contain your PNGs.

One thing you can do with local files, if they are images, is view them in the browser by double clicking on them. Of course, you can delete files by clicking the arrow that appears next to each and selecting Delete (the only option). The other thing you can do with local files is upload them, provided you’re using a web app or visiting a site that has an upload button. Depending on which site you visit or extension you use, you will get a different type of upload dialog box. On Google services, such as Google Docs and Gmail, this box is a very stripped down white box that looks like the downloads box and just shows your files and folders from Downloads. In this box, you can’t hit CTRL + A to select all files for a batch upload, but you can SHIFT + click to select multiple files.

However, if you are on another site or app, you will get a much richer file dialog box that has two panes, one on the right that shows the contents of the current folder and one on the left that shows a list of “Places” allows you to see any external media (SD card, USB drive) you have connected and has an icon for recently used files. Above the two panes is a a series of buttons corresponding to your location in the file tree so you can easily go back up a folder. However, this dialog box is confusing because it starts you in the root of the file system, not in your Downloads folder. You can drag files and folders from the main pane to the Places pane, but you cannot drag them to another drive, which means you can’t copy files from one device to another. The only real purpose of this dialog box is to allow you to upload files. The good news here is that you can rename files and you can select all files by hitting CTRL + A.

Chrome Web Store and Apps

Just like PC and Mac-based Chrome users, you can visit the Chome web store to see a huge list of thousands of available web apps and extensions. However, what Google calls web apps, some call interactive web sites. Since you can’t install software locally, these apps are really just bookmarks that show their icons on the tab when you “install” them. In fact, we were able to visit apps we hadn’t installed simply by typing their URLs (ex: nytimes.com/chrome) into the address bar.

Most of the apps we saw in the web store are free, but a few titles do charge a fee to access them, which is charged by Google checkout. Currently, the top paid apps in the Chrome Web store are all casual games like Real Solitaire and Toddler Jukebox, a musical game for kids.

To learn more about the Chrome Web Store, check out our in-depth hands-on.

Google Cr-48 Chrome Netbook Full Review

AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Maurice Says:

    Nice review. Just playing with my own Chrome notebook received yesterday.
    You mention that you don’t kow what Atom CPU is in the device. I found the information by accident whilst submitting a bug report. It is a N455 @ 1.66GHz.

    I fact a lot of interesting system and debug information can be found by pointing the browser to chrome://system/

  2. tcn Says:

    It’s definately going to be interesting as to whether Chrome OS is going to be a threat to the other currently operating systems (particularly Windows 7)… personally I think Windows will prevail, but who knows.

  3. Robert Says:

    Just an update about the webcam that I learned from using my own cr-48. You have to go to adobe flash settings manager page and set allow always exceptions to get the webcam to work for apps like picmequick and facebook.

  4. Evan Says:

    Instead of going to “walk over to your nearest non-Chrome OS device, visit Google.com…”, you can simply sign into guest mode and do it through there. That’s part of the reason its there, after all.

  5. Ezequiel Gonzalez Says:

    Eventually a Windows PC will be one among many computing devices, and one among many Internet access devices. There will be plenty of choices and plenty of devices. Most of them will be powered by a variation of linux/bsd/freeUnix operating system. It is cheaper for the developers and manufacturers that way, less paperwork and less restrictions on what they can do. Microsoft will not die away, but will no longer dominate the market like they did during the desktop era.

  6. Aj Says:

    Its too bad that the CR-48 is not being offered in India. I am ready to go for it even if a thousand people say that it makes no sense. There is something about the Chrome OS philosophy that makes sense. We are sitting with expensive bricks without the internet anyways…

    What ive read in many reviews already is the fact that using the Cr-48 feels like using a maximized Chrome browser window on *any* OS. Maybe google should consider turning the experience into a typical desktop experience? Take the feeling away from a user that he/she is being *confined* to a window and that there is something *outside* of that window that he/she is being stopped from accessing…..

    maybe we should see the chrome as a a two part system, a borderless mother tab that acts as a desktop and any number of windowed sibling tabs that would let it work like a traditional desktop OS.

  7. David Soh Says:

    Actually, you can use chronos account in terminal. (You can open terminal by press Ctrl + Alt + t, after that enter “shell”)
    The account can help you organize your file, copy file from the Downloas folder to your pendrive and vice versa. But you must have root permission, I dont have cr 48 so I dont how to get it, but in chromium os, you can use “sudo su”to switch to root account. Chrome OS/Chromium OS is a Linux distribution and the GUI is base on gtk (I guess). If you have used Ubuntu before, and you will know how to “hack”(just mean advanced tips ) chrome os.

    P.S. Sorry for my poor english, My mother tongue is Chinese.

  8. smee Says:

    Google has directions on how to install an alternate OS here:

    https://sites.google.com/a/chromium.org/dev/chromium-os/developer-information-for-chrome-os-devices/cr-48-chrome-notebook-developer-information/how-to-boot-ubuntu-on-a-cr-48

    You can use the same directions to install any linux distribution onto the cr-48. I have Arch Linux installed on mine and it runs very well. I installed flash player 10.2 beta, and youtube videos play smoother than on chrome os.

  9. gary Says:

    how do i turn on camera to do video chat with a friend?

  10. Justin Reed Says:

    Well, I have loved it so far, and it is built well.
    First of all, mine is pretty beaten up because my jacka** dad and I got in a fight and he threw it. The hinges are starting to come apart, and it doesn’t close quite right, but it still works just fine now. Also, when it is open, the screen is just as sturdy as it was before and looks fine when I am using it. It really is a little bit heavy for its size, but it is also very durable.

    So far so good!

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