Google ChromeOS CR48 Netbook Hands On Preview

On Monday, Google started taking applications for free CR48 Chrome Netbooks. Mine arrived today and I’m very excited to get my hands on it.  I’ve been using the Chrome browser as my main browser for a while now, so the transition shouldn’t be too difficult.

Fairly modest, but strikingly beautiful.

Fairly modest, but strikingly beautiful.

Opening the box, I really did feel like a little kid at Christmas.  I started snapping pictures as fast as I could so I could boot it up and start using it.

Interesting design on the top of the box

Interesting design on the top of the box

...from the reverse

...from the reverse

The manual

The manual

Supported nicely

Supported nicely

Battery packaged away and "Intel Inside" business card

Battery packaged away and "Intel Inside" business card

Super slim 54.8 Wh battery

Super slim 54.8 Wh battery

Top of the netbook

Top of the netbook

Bottom with battery installed

Bottom with battery installed

The netbook has a very minimalistic style with flat black plastic and rounded edges. There is a camera and microphone above the 12.1″ screen and the keyboard keys are very flat. You’ll also notice that there are several keys missing from a normal keyboard. There is no caps lock and all of the Function keys (F1-F12) are gone.  Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down are also missing.  The top row of keys sports some more useful functions for browsing the web like backwards, forwards, and refresh. There is a “fullscreen” key which will remove the tabs and top bar from view. There is a task switcher key so you don’t have to press alt-tab, but that key combo still works, too. Then there are two backlight brightness keys, mute, volume down, and volume up. The keys are all normal size so it’s very easy to type with.

The trackpad is rather large and hides the left-click button below it.  If you want to turn on tap-to-click, you can do so in the settings.  It is multi-touch, and you use this to scroll: touch one finger to the pad, then move a second.  I haven’t figured out how to right-click yet, so this keeps getting more and more Apple-esque to me.  The only external ports are one USB port, a headphone jack, a power jack, and a VGA port.  Also on the outside, there appears to be an SD card slot since the plastic protector looks like an SD card but that is supposed to be for SIM cards for the 3g access.  You can put an SD card in, which pops up a Content Browser, but it doesn’t display any of the contents of the card.  There are two speakers on the left and right edges near the wristpad.  It also has wifi and 3g built in but no cd/dvd drive.

Front edge

Front edge

Left edge

Left edge

Back edge

Back edge

Right edge

Right edge

First look at ChromeOS

First look at ChromeOS

Browses the web well

Browses the web well

When you boot for the first time, you have to go through a few steps to log in to your Google account, connect to a wireless access point, accept a user agreement, select if you’d like to provide anonymous usage statistics, and take your account picture.  Then you are presented with a fullscreen Chrome browser.  When you make a new tab, you are shown the installed apps and you can grab more in the Webstore.  There is a Netflix app there, but unfortunately I was presented with a page saying I needed Windows or Mac OS X to play videos.  ChromeOS is based on Linux, after all.  Pandora and Youtube worked fine, though it seems to have a cap at 480p so no HD content. Page loading and opening new tabs feels very speedy.  There is even a hidden terminal if you press ctrl+alt+t, but it’s very limited in its commands.  An ssh client is available so us linux geeks can still connect remotely to our servers and I did see a webVNC app in the webstore, too.

I was hoping it would have Picasa installed since there is one USB port, but no such luck.  I connected my camera but nothing popped up to let me transfer the pictures.  I also don’t see any indication of screen resolution, processor speed, or installed memory.  It’s most likely an Atom processor with 2GB RAM and the Pilot Program website says they got rid of spinning disks, so it seems there might be an SSD built in but it’s more likely to be a small amount of flash storage.  I’ll have to wait and confirm those if I can break the thing open.

I’ll keep everyone updated as I explore this more, but so far I’m very pleased with the Cr48 netbook and ChromeOS.

Update: I used the screen resolution image from Wikipedia to estimate the screen resolution and it appears to be 1280×800 WXGA.

Update 2: I removed the battery again and found that the SIM card slot is located there.  Reports I see around the web tell me there should be a ‘jailbreak’ button but I see no such thing.

- splat

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61 Comments:

splat's Avatar
I'm really starting to love this thing. If anyone else got one today, let us know what you think too.
Dolk's Avatar
Very cool to see that someone from our site has one. I was thinking about applying for one when they announced the beta.
dfonda's Avatar
Nice Splat..I am really hoping to get one. I think I wrote a compelling dissertation. How long between when you sent in your application and when they notified you? I sent mine in Tue. I told them I lived near you...don't know if that will help or hurt! Are there any restrictions as far as reviewing it?
splat's Avatar
I applied on monday. I use chrome as my main browser and i use the dev channel (beta browser) so when i opened a new tab I had a banner saying "apply for a netbook now". all i had to do was put in my address and name. I didn't have to type any term paper or answer questions. Then I got no warning I was getting one. I saw reports today that people got theirs so i checked at my front desk around lunch time and sure enough, it was there.
dwarfos's Avatar
There is a switch under the battery and behind a small piece of black tape. If you flip it and boot up it will present a warning screen that will timeout after 30 seconds, or hit Ctrl-D to bypass. Then it will wipe the users and any personal data as a security measure and boot to the setup screen. Once booted you can use Ctrl-Alt-Rightarrow/F2 in order to get to some instructions and a shell prompt where you can login and explore.

For more information see http://goo.gl/SlKpg
macklin01's Avatar
I live/work in the UK, but can easily receive stuff in the US.

Since I think I can make a case as a fairly unique end user (as an academic / scientist), I'm giving the application a shot. (as educational user, rather than individual). It does give me a few more text fields to make a better case.

If they send one out, I'll pay my family to ship it here.

How's the battery life on this thing? Have you tried going offline with cached documents yet?

Also, can the USB port access standards flash drives? It woudl be nice if the SD slot worked, since I use such a card for daily data transfer to/from my Mac (work) and PC and netbook (home).

We'll see ...
Shelnutt2's Avatar
I just applied for one, although I just bought an Asus eee, wish I'd of known about this pilot before .

One thing to note is that on the individual application, there is a limit of 140 characters but it won't actually stop you at 140. I'm not sure if that is a test or not!?
macklin01's Avatar
Yes, the form seems to be very rushed. I limited myself to 140 characters on that particular field. Also, there was no confirmation of success/failure after clicking "submit." Very rough interface.
markp1989's Avatar
dam, I applied for one of these, but Im out of the USA, so I dont think i will get one

pleased to see that some one did though .
splat's Avatar
I found the little switch under the tape in teh battery compartment. Switching it, I could not boot in to ChromeOS, it just said "chrome os not found" and showed a picture of a dead laptop asking for a recovery USB key to be plugged in. When I switched it back, i had to go thru all the setup steps again but all my 'apps' were still installed
dwarfos's Avatar
It should present a screen saying "Chrome OS Verification is turned off" and then instructing you to press SPACE to being recovery. If you ignore that and press Ctrl-D instead it should proceed to boot.

And as you noticed if you flip the switch back to normal mode it will clear things back to factory condition but when you create an account and log in it will sync everything again.
splat's Avatar
ah, i missed the ctrl+D part. i'll play with that more this weekend
splat's Avatar
dev mode reached. proc is Intel Atom N455 1.66GHz http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=49491

ssd is a SanDisk P4 16GB http://www.sandisk.com/business-solu...id-state-drive
fishys87's Avatar
Do you know if it's SATA or PATA?
splat's Avatar
99% sure sata, gets recognized as /dev/sda.

gizmodo beat me to taking it apart. http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/10/g...e-unlucky-day/
fishys87's Avatar

Sweet. Not bad speeds then - 160/100.

Hope I'm selected. Is it a beta type thing where you send the product back, or are you able to keep it?
macklin01's Avatar
That's actually a really great question. Splat, what were the terms and conditions?
splat's Avatar
i don't specifically see anything that says "yours to keep forever", but i don't see anything that says "loaner".

here's the fine print at the bottom of the application if you didn't see it before:
macklin01's Avatar
Thanks, I do remember that. Nothing about the length of trial, ownership status (aside from no selling or transfer), or what happens after the end of the trial of unspecified length. I'm really surprised it didn't come with an agreement of some sort--this seems to be exceedingly informal!

Thanks for the info! -- Paul
Moto7451's Avatar
I just applied for one. If I get one I'll post back.
dwarfos's Avatar
The notebooks are yours to keep.

There are some new instructions up on how to install Ubuntu on the cr-48 device. Admittedly it is a bit messy right now as you have to keep using the ChromeOS kernel, but it will improve with time.

http://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/...ntu-on-a-cr-48
Knufire's Avatar
Applied for one too yesterday.
Any idea on how long it takes for them to get back to you?
splat's Avatar
i don't *need* to install ubuntu. Looks to me lick chromeos is based off gentoo which is more than fine with me. I just want to be able to run some of my own apps to test this bad-boy out.

I see the Tips&Tricks mention busybox...is there a way to download the busybox for the release image already compiled or so i need to download the full source and build it myself?
pcgamer4life's Avatar
I applied for one as well, and there's one scheduled for delivery in my city tomorrow...hopefully it's coming to me!
macklin01's Avatar
Out of curiosity, how do you know there's one scheduled for delivery in your city if you haven't received any sort of shipping notice? Thanks -- Paul
pcgamer4life's Avatar
This wonderful little tool that someone developed.
macklin01's Avatar
Interesting. Great tip! -- Paul
Shelnutt2's Avatar
Two are coming to my zip code, one to my parents (who live in a small zipcode) and one to my friends! So did google not notify you if you got it?
splat's Avatar
that is pretty nifty, i wonder how accurate it is and how it works
pcgamer4life's Avatar
A few of the guys that developed it figured out the reference numbers that Google used in shipping. They were all sequential, so they wrote a script with the UPS tracking API to query those ref numbers and get info on them, more or less. So yeah, it's accurate.

And no, Google doesn't notify you if you were selected, I'm sure they will follow up within a few weeks and ask questions and whatnot, though.

Good luck getting one! Keep in mind they've only shipped roughly 1/8th of the quantity supposed to be shipped, so we all still have a chance!
Brolloks's Avatar
Hoping to get one, just signed up
gear.h34d.2012's Avatar
My fingers are indeed crossed.
Shelnutt2's Avatar
Well I didn't get one, nor did anyone else I know, yet. Anyone else have any luck yet?
fishys87's Avatar

According to that little app posted above, Google hasn't shipped any in like 36 hours plus.
Shelnutt2's Avatar
Seems like there are a couple that are 2nd day aired to my zip code now. Unfortunately I just left for the week. What is UPS/Fedex's policy on holding packages? How can I even check if one of these are mine? I don't want it shipped back to google.. Although are they not requiring signatures? Maybe it'll just be left at my door
fishys87's Avatar
You can always leave a sticky/note on the door, asking the delivery guy if he could sign for the package and leave it by the door. I always say I stepped away for a few minutes and will be back. They aren't supposed to do this, but I never had a problem having one of them sign for a package.

Or, you can ask a neighbor if they will sign the package if it needs signature verification, and leave a note asking the delivery guy to deliver next door.
Seebs's Avatar
Just applied for one today... Now the waiting game begins.
Shelnutt2's Avatar
Yeah I just called my neighbour and asked her to leave a note for me. There are now 4 scheduled for delivery on Monday for my zip!
pcgamer4life's Avatar
That sounds promising!

Of the three in my parents city, and three now in my city, none have been mine
One showed delivered in my zip (which is a fairly new zip to my city, so I had high hopes) but was solely disappointed when I got home and it wasn't on the porch...

Still hoping though, since only 12k have gone out so far! Best of luck, all!
dfonda's Avatar
No luck here...some of the reviews were scathing which is unfortunate because its not a finished product. I wonder if that slowed down there enthusiasm for shipping them out.
gear.h34d.2012's Avatar
I sure hope not


My entire life revolves around Google and I'd kill to have a shot at testing ChromeOS in it's native form. I still have my fingers crossed, here's hoping my karma is good right around now
Ashura's Avatar
Bummer, there were 3 deliveries to my zip code today but UPS guy came and went with no CR-48.
gear.h34d.2012's Avatar
One got delivered to my ZIP today, not mine
Oroka Sempai's Avatar
YAY! Another Google thing I miss out on because I am Canadian.

Thanks Google.
deed's Avatar
So I applied and when I clicked submit it took me back to the main submission page. Did it go through or do I need to re-do it?

Great review. From what I heard it has 2gb of ram in it and decent specs.
Rysjimmy1994's Avatar
I signed up once on the 16th and once on the 25th of Jan. Mid afternoon yesterday my door bell rang and there brown was in my driveway. I opened the door and there was this strange sized package sitting inside my storm door. Im posting on my new CR48 right now. Has nobody here received one?
fishys87's Avatar

Negative. I thought maybe re-registereding might make my application null, so I didn't re-apply.


Sure wish I could try one of these out.
Rysjimmy1994's Avatar
Why dont you reregister?
fishys87's Avatar
I did this morning.
fishys87's Avatar
Thanks! I'll need it, knowing my luck.
Rysjimmy1994's Avatar
Me Too But I do win every once in a while
TheQuadFather's Avatar
so any news on the hardware limits on this OS? 64 i presume, but still?
TheQuadFather's Avatar
ohh, i didnt know they still released things like that, and to think i thought 128-bit was just round the corner
Rysjimmy1994's Avatar
Its just a single core 1.66? Atom. It seems to run the OS just fine... But if you like 12 tabs open it gets bogged down.
Bottem line is... Its free
tool_462's Avatar
Got mine yesterday. No notification or anything, just showed up.

Seems pretty cool so far, I really like the styling and hardware side of things (though I know that isn't the point of the thing ) and the OS is intriguing. I keep wanting to minimize the browser to get to my desktop...but the browser is the desktop. Only played about an hour but when I went to submit bugs/suggestions it looked like they were already attacking my complaints/ideas to get them ironed out. Fun to be able to have a voice that gets heard.
CompuTamer's Avatar
What's the battery life like on it? Seems like it'd be a great little Netbook for taking notes on in class, and pretty much anything that's lightweight...

Looks really nice. I applied for it. Maybe i'm not too late.
Rysjimmy1994's Avatar
I get like 8 hours on it if I dont go on youtube.
CompuTamer's Avatar
Wow, that's amazing... hope i get one
Brutal-Force's Avatar
I just got mine!!! I came home and was like... wtf is this. I opened it up and thought it was a toy. I was like wow, good things do happen. I am a avid Google, Gmail, Android, and Chrome user, so this couldn't be more appreciated.

Thank you Google. I hope this will replace my heavy laptop I have been carrying around.
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