A poor man’s review of the Acer C7 ChromeBook
Hello friends, techies, humans, enemies, and people I like…., as many of you know, Google has once again refreshed their lineup of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes computer things! Meaning, that those machines have been modified to Google’s liking and hopes you like them too. And of course wants to sell them to you, at a good price.
Le’t put things simple, There are 3 select devices that Google currently has in store.
Acer C7 Chromebook: OMG So cheap! . $200
Samsung Chromebook: Runs on an ARM processor for people who hate x86 architecture. Boo. $250
Samsung Chromebook 550: A beefier system for those who need everything and have the cash to spend. $450
HP Pavillion Chromebook: $330 this one just came out, IDK much about it.
They are all very good deals.
So when I found out Google is selling Chromebooks in their store, I asked many of my common friends (by that I mean non-techies of course) and was very surprised to learn that few knew they could buy a laptop from Google. It seems that the Latino community still doesn’t keep up with the new tech trends. Unless Apple comes out with a new iPad, then of course everyone knows because they just have to have the “NEW” iPad. Even though they don’t know how to use one or whatever, blah.
But let’s get back to the Chromebooks. I bought the Acer C7 Chromebook. I’d also like to formally mention that this is the first brand-new computer I have purchased! That’s right, I’ve never, ever bought a new computer/laptop until now. Not even a cell phone or tablet. So before I go showing off the Acer C7, it’s good to know why I bought this.
Long Boring Back Story ————————–
As many people know I am the guy who fixes computers. I’ve never had a need to buy a brand new computer because I’ve always had one I could fix or build for much cheaper. Plus warranties are for ninnies who don’t know how to take care of their stuff and for products that are so cheap you know they’ll break down soon but why did you buy something like that in the first place? I like used computers.
The Acer C7 breaks common logic, it does not feel cheap in anyway and I do not care what anyone else says, hardware wise it’s a good deal and I’ll say that right away since for the price of around $200 adding $30 for tax/shipping and you’ve got yourself a quick machine that will get on on the internet in minutes out of the box. Try doing that with Windows, that’s right you can’t. (no seriously I’ve tried, Windows 8 nightmare.) You really couldn’t ask for more since it is a device that lives in the cloud, everything this laptop does it made for the internet. So I’m very glad it still has an ethernet port because I feel that one day it will go away too.
I highly recommend you get familiar to Google Chrome Web Browser before you buy any Google Chromebook. It has no CD drive so I hope you know how to use the Chrome App Store, Google Chat, Cloud Print and Google Drive. But wait? Doesn’t everyone already use all this awesomeness? Sadly no, some poor folks are still stuck on Yahoo and Hotmail and Skype. That’s the one qualm I have about the Chromebook. It is a Google child, not a bad thing at all, but you do have to log in with your Gmail account. Now I might be stating the obvious, but it is a Google gated community in that netbook. Meaning that if you have had no experience with any of the previously mentioned Google services, then you might have a bit of a learning curve when using the Chromebook. However it’s very easy software and worth learning.
Actually using the ChromeBook
When you log in, Chrome pops up and ask you to connect your Google account to the web browser so your links can be easily accessed. Shortly thereafter your apps will populate the machine and you can use them.
The way the Chromebook stores files is interesting. You are expected to use Google drive for everything. You have a downloads folder that allows you to store up to 300GB something of stuff. But I have yet to find a way to create more directories besides creating them inside the Downloads folder. It’s a bit tricky but it helps to know that when managing files and folders in your Chromebook use the 2 finger tap to right-click.
I cannot access my home network. I don’t know if Google purposely assumed that access to my home network did not qualify as “the cloud”. But it’s a cloud I created. And unless I open up my cloud to the internet and stream my HD videos and FLAC music through the router, Modem, 50 KB upload ISP, Internet, back to my ISP, back to my WiFi router, and to my Chromebook, that’s how I’m supposed to access my Samba shares on my Linux machine. which is only like 30 feet away. Not only that but my upload speed of 50 KB a second makes streaming HD content and even MP3’s an impossible joke, I’ve tried. So if I can’t access my home network making the Chromebook a bit too simple for “my” use. But keep in mind I’m only complaining about the software limitations this machine has. In theory, once I install Ubuntu or Debian on this baby, those limits are gone.
So I quickly installed Ubuntu on this bad boy, the quide that worked for me was http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/12/how-to-install-ubuntu-on-acers-199-c7-chromebook/
I tried others for Ubuntu and Debian but this one did the job well enough since the camera and other hotkeys worked well out of the box. Just keep in mind that if you want to use the hotkeys it is automatically supported with the Unity and Gnome 3 interfaces. XFCE and KDE didn’t respond well and had worse battery life due to screen brightness.
Gaming under Ubuntu with this laptop ain’t half bad. I could play a racing simulator, Jedi knight and a few other lightweight games. Since it has a Sandy Bridge Celeron, it has enough to get you by anything. I was really impressed.
The real bother with this Chromebook, and my only real gripe about it, is the Firmware sucks. Yes, it’s cut down and hidden so only those who actually care will now how to work through it, plus, when developer mode is turned on, it takes a really long time to boot the machine and meanwhile posting BIOS the machine asks if you want to turn on verified boot. The screen looks “Scary” in the sense that it makes you think that you have to obey and do as it says or otherwise the computer is broken, but it will boot just fine. I say it’s a tactic to scare the users and go back to using safe Chrome OS, but it may also be all the calls and hooks it has to do to allow you to boot another OS. The other downside is that everytime you change from Developer Bios and Normal Mode. It wipes your data.
If you do something to break your Chromebook, go here, and reinstall your Chromebook back to factory settings.
I’m a tweaker not a consumer, not the target audience. There are more loopholes to jump through than I’ used to. RMS would not like a Chromebook because it’s limits are it’s selling point, And I find it funny how mac users really like it, judging by this review. http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/12/review-acers-c7-chromebook-is-199-and-feelin-fine-relatively/
When I held the Chromebook, it felt like a cool laptop. Using it, I felt I was on MAC. everything works, but I can’t tweak anything to make it better.
One thing I really loved about the Acer C7 is it”s ability to upgrade the RAM and Hard drive. I mean it comes with 2GB or ram and a Spinning disk for a reason. It’s already super fast with Chrome OS. I can only imagine how awesome it would be if I put in an SSD and 16GB DDR3 of ram. Which according to the spec sheet is the maximum amount of RAM the CPU can handle.
It’s kind of funny how this machine has a 300GB hard drive, compared to using a 16GB SSD which is the norm for some ChromeBooks, but it was actually the cheaper route to go with an Spinning Disk than a Solid State of any kind. The space is only a bonus. But very unlikely you will use it all on a Web browsing device, if you do get a chance to upgrade to an SSD, please do as battery life more than doubles as it was in my case.
In the end, as a poor man’s laptop, this thing kind of sucks, it doesn’t do everything a normal Windows XP laptop can do, but it doesn’t get viruses like Win XP does, and it’s much faster so there’s trade-offs.
I let a non techie friend borrow it and the only issue she had was that she couldn’t get online with it. Reason, she didn’t know how to connect it to WiFi. So I think that this netbook is aimed for a little more “technical” crowd. So don’t assume Grandma will instantly learn how to use it.