Over the last few months, I’ve been
searching for the ultimate ultrabook. My current laptop has lived a solid,
productive life (Sony Vaio running Ubuntu 13.10), but its teeth are long and
brittle, and it has the gout. So, I’ve been on the quest for something
smaller, more powerful, and easy to use.
I’ve looked at just about every
possible solution that would fit my needs:
- Outstanding screen
- Top-notch keyboard
- Solid build
- Good battery life
- Runs Linux well
I’ve carefully examined the
- Sony Vaio Pro 13
- Samsung Ativ Book 9
- MacBook Pro
- System 76 Galago Pro
- Dell XPS 13 developer edition
- Lenovo Yogo II
- ASUS Zenbook Prime
I’ve spent the better part of two
months digging into as many reviews, forum threads, and articles I could find
on each to see how users felt about the products — especially from a Linux
standpoint. All were leaning toward the Samsung Ativ Book 9… until I was handed a Chromebook
Pixel for review. At that point, everything changed. Everything. This piece of
hardware meets each of my criteria, and then some. It has the single best
screen I’ve ever beheld, and the best keyboard to ever be at my service. Ever.
But then, there’s Chrome OS. I
decided it was in my best interest to start using the platform, before
seeing what everyone else had to say about Google’s take on the operating
system. I have to admit that I fell in love instantly.
Let me preface this by saying that I’d
already moved much of my writing to Google Drive (not only my tech writing, but
my fiction as well). The Google Calendar has been my scheduling platform of
choice for years, and I’ve used a Gmail address for business for as long as I can remember. So, that was a non-issue. The Chrome OS works flawlessly with those
With Chrome OS, there are always a
litany of buts.
To that, I say “nay nay.” And after
using the Pixel for a month, I decided to finally take a look at what everyone
else was saying about the platform. The immediate conclusion I came to was that
most people were writing about Chromebooks without actually using them! It sounds crazy, but what
about these claims:
laptop that requires a network connection to be useful?” Sorry, but you
can work offline with the Chromebook as easily as you can a standard laptop.
All you have to do is set Chrome OS to work offline.
32 GB of space? How can you survive with that?” Easy. You save your work
in the cloud or you insert a 64 GB SD card and save away. The average user
could easily get by with the kind of space offered on a Chromebook.
about Quickbooks or Photoshop or…?” First and foremost, Intuit wants
everyone to migrate to their cloud-based solution. I recommend the same thing.
Not only is it cheaper in the long run, it’s much more reliable. And Photoshop?
Outside of designers, who really uses
Photoshop? And if you’re a designer, you’re probably working on a beast of a
desktop machine — or at least, you should be. I’ve used Pixlr on my
Chromebook — it’s fantastic and does everything the average meme-meister
Diving headfirst into the Chrome OS
platform has also served to reinforce a few things for me:
- We are a society that does most of its work online
- The majority of users make use of only a fraction of
the power of their computers
- A large percentage of the work we do is (or can be)
done within a web browser
- Applications and work will continue to shift to the
- The desktop, as we have known it for nearly two
decades, is done
Now, I will admit the Pixel is a
very special beast. It isn’t the most powerful ultrabook available, but thanks
to Chrome OS, it feels like the most powerful. Just in case the Pixel completely skewed my opinion about Chrome OS, I purchased an Acer C720
Chromebook. [Side note: I also installed Ubuntu Linux on the Acer and it worked
flawlessly.] Yes, it’s small (11” screen), and it’s cheap (currently $199.00 on
Amazon); but in the end, it helped me to realize that my perception of Chrome OS
is dead on.
The Chromebook is the future of
Imagine taking the best of a laptop
and the best of a tablet and cramming it into one device. You have an
incredibly efficient productivity tool that will allow you work on a familiar
and efficient form (laptop) while gaining speed and simplicity (tablet).
I have yet to find something I
cannot actually do with this device. In fact, the Pixel may well have
surpassed all other possibilities as my ultrabook of choice. I can’t look at
another screen without thinking “Oh, that’s sad” (yes, even Apple’s Retina) — and
the keyboard makes all others look and feel like toys.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand
that my needs are different that a lot of other users. I’m a writer, so the
tools I use on a daily basis are pretty insignificant (on any platform):
- Word processor
- Web browser
I also know that Chrome OS will
never replace my monstrous desktop (I depend on that machine for
professional-quality audio recording and heavy graphics usage). But for taking
my writing on the go, I have yet to find a better-suited platform than Chrome OS.
Chrome OS the future of mobility? Honestly, the way I see it now, Chrome OS is
the future of the PC. Google has made a bold shift to a resource that we all
continue to grow more dependent on (the cloud), and it has created one of
the single most user-friendly computing devices on the planet. There will
always be doubters, but the second you get beyond the Fear, Uncertainty, and
Doubt (FUD), you can see how the elegance and simplicity of the Chromebook
might well meet the mobile needs of the vast majority of users.
Have you tried a Chromebook yet? If
so, what was your reaction? If not, what’s stopping you? Share your thoughts and experience in the discussion thread below.