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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Discussion
  1. 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!:p Are there any restrictions as far as reviewing it?
    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.
    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
    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 ...
    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!? :chair:
    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. ;)
    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
    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.
    fishys87
    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?

    That's actually a really great question. Splat, what were the terms and conditions?
    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:
    from https://services.google.com/fb/forms/cr48advanced/: By selecting "I agree", you agree that Google may use, adapt, translate, and copy your submission materials to advertise, publicize, and promote Google's business activities in present or future media. You agree that Google may incorporate its own audio, visual, musical, and other effects into such materials. You also agree that you own and have the right to authorize Google's activities as set out in this agreement and that you are aware of no other permission being needed to undertake these activities. In all cases, Google acquires no ownership right over your materials. You also agree that you shall not have the right to terminate or rescind this consent or to restrain the production, distribution, or advertising of your materials.
    If selected as a Chrome OS Pilot Program participant, I authorize Google to collect anonymous browsing statistics and other usage data for tracking and analysis purposes as outlined in the Google Privacy Policy, located at http://www.google.com/privacypolicy.html. This data will not be associated with me, but will be tracked anonymously. Furthermore, I agree to participate in all product feedback studies conducted by the Google Chrome OS team for the duration of the Pilot Program and agree to be opted in to the Chrome OS feedback group. I understand that Google will only ship the device to a US-based address and cannot send this device to a P.O. Box or address outside of the US. I agree to not sell or transfer the device to anyone else, unless under written instruction from Google to do so. Replacement of broken devices is subject to Google's review and Google may elect not to replace a non-functioning or broken device at Google's sole discretion. In the event that Google elects to replace a broken device, Google will cover all shipping and handling fees. Google reserves the right to contact you about Chrome OS or related Google products by email, phone, post, or in-person upon submitting this application. Please indicate your agreement to the above terms by clicking "I agree".
    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