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Review: Google's Chrome OS Notebook

No Such Thing as "Outside the Browser"

Your computing world in Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome browser. In fact, if you took a laptop running Linux and ran Chrome maximized, it would be a very close approximation of what the Chrome OS is at this point. The Adobe Flash implementation for Linux is poor relative to how it performs on Windows, so sites heavy in Flash will expose some of the performance shortcomings of both the software and the rather modest hardware of this machine. YouTube still runs using Flash instead of HTML5, and the video resolution is capped at 480p. Of course, without GPU muscle, the single-core Atom wouldn't be capable of much else regardless of the software platform.


The bottom line is that if you've used Chrome for browsing, then Chrome OS provides nearly the same experience. The differences between traditional computing and how it's done on Chrome OS appear when you try to do something outside of the browser.

Simply said, there's essentially no such thing as "outside the browser" on this computer. Even the system settings are found in the "wrench" menu inside Chrome. From there you can control Wi-Fi networks, trackpad sensitivity, and other options. The customizations of settings is fairly basic, however, as there aren't even controls for a sleep or display-off timer. Speaking of the display, the Cr-48's LCD has a built-in auto-brightness feature that turns on in response to either the webcam, or a sensor near the webcam – but there's nothing in the settings menu to disable it.

There's no simple way – at least not yet – to manage files on the notebook. Hitting control-o will open up a basic File panel, which we used to preview the screenshots that we took for the purpose of this article. Because support is limited for external storage, however, there was no easy way to move the pictures to a USB flash drive. Instead, the pictures had to be put on the cloud first via email or Google Docs.

Google is faced with the issue of balancing the ability of Chrome OS to manage an 'off-cloud' file system without compromising what we're told is the "stateless nature of the product." That is, you can access and continue your work on any Chrome OS notebook in the world, provided you have a connection the cloud. Such a concept would not work for someone who preferred to rely on offline, local data.