The new Google Chromebook. A review

Just four months ago, our 10 year old started middle school.
It meant he had to wear a school tie for the first time, discipline went up a notch and he had to wander the corridors of a huge building where he knew no one.
Everything was new and daunting and I probably had just as many butterflies as he did.
But he handled it brilliantly. Far better than I gave him credit for and he is positively blossoming there.

The other thing that changed was homework. Lots and lots and lots of homework. Some homework which needs to be completed overnight, ready for the next day.
Research, projects, checking facts, finding pictures.
I know there are many arguments abound about the amount of homework children are given, but this isn’t one of those posts. Dan is 10 and his studying is moving up a notch and homework is all good as far as we’re concerned. He needs to keep his mind active and not just via his current favourite game on the iPod.
So when I was asked if I’d like to have and review the new Google Chromebook I thought of my boy and his homework and of the opportunity of him not taking over my computer all the live long day!

This is the face of one happy young man. His very own laptop. It’s actually more of a netbook really. It slips perfectly into a backpack and despite being light and easy to handle, has a quality feel about it. The keys are a decent size so you don’t end up typing the wrong thing all the time as your fingertips slip off the keys. The touchpad is also really easy to use and a decent size considering the side of the device.
The screen is OK, however in this age of retina displays and mega-high resolutions it’s never going to compete. BUT, for what Dan wants to use it for, it’s perfect.
It has ports for an SD card and earphones, together with two USB slots (these are at the back of the device, which does prove a bit fiddly as we’re used to them being on the side).

Dan has used it a lot over the past few weeks. Mainly Google searches and browsing the internet. He’s watched quite a few YouTube videos (he’s a movie trailer fan – NO idea where he got that from *ahem*). But he sits with it at the kitchen table, or at his desk in his room, or easily propped up his knees while he lies on his bed, which he thinks is SO cool!
So that’s how the hardware stacks up, but what about the gubbins behind the silver-clad gloss?
The main thing to note is that the Chromebook only runs the Google Chrome operating system. You can’t upload any software on here – for example Microsoft Office – other than what you can find on the Google Web Store.
The best thing for a 10 year old is the minute you open the screen, it’s ready to go.
I had to create a Google account for him, but once done, every time you open the screen up it’s instantly good to go once you put your password in.
No faffing around waiting for it to load.

So is the Chromebook for you? Here’s what you need to know.

  • It’s cheap. Very cheap given what you get (about £229).
  • It’s very light and easy to carry around. Perfect for throwing in your bag to travel with.
  • It’s fast and quiet and the battery life lasts for ages (about 6 hours).
  • It runs via WiFi only – no 3G.
  • It’s very secure apparently because it runs off it’s own web browser. So pretty low maintenance and very attractive to parents who want a laptop for their children.
  • If you live by Google Apps – gmail, docs, calendar etc – it’s so up your street.
  • Here’s Google’s YouTube video with more details on the Chromebook.

Personally I think it’s a great machine for students, for light users and for those who like to throw their laptop in a bag, go off to a coffee shop and browse. Provided the coffee shop has WiFi, obviously.
It’s essentially for browsing the web, writing Google documents, emailing and checking your Facebook updates (though, obviously not for my 10 year old!)

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