Google ChromeOS CR48 Netbook Hands On Preview


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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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