But there is a new challenger in this market now, and it is not to be taken lightly since its older sibling has already captured a lions share of the mobile/smartphone OS marketwe are talking of the Google Android for home computers, the Chrome OS. A brand largely made famous for being an efficient internet browser, the Chrome OS is not entirely very new, it has been in the market since mid-2011 but it is really spreading its wings now through dedicated laptops/netbooks aka Chromebooks built by Acer or Samsung. In this space today, we review both the Chrome OS experience as well as the Acer C720, a light Chromebook that hopes to offer a strong alternative to the many netbooks in the market today.
The biggest difference with Chrome and other OS is that it is completely cloud-based. What that means is that you have to have three things to use the Chromebook; a Google ID that nearly everyone has today, an internet connection at every location and lastly, a wireless modem because the Acer C720 does not offer a LAN port. The Chromebook cannot be used in an offline mode for most things. It also offers only 16 GB of storage space on the device, for the rest you get 100 GB of online storage on Google Drive for a period of two yearsI have no idea what you would do if you want to keep the Chromebook for longer.
Everything else is web-based, the Google Docs office suite includes utilities for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, while similar to smartphones more apps can be downloaded for photo editing and even games. The look of the OS is similar to Windows yet different, so there is a bar at the bottom for all the programs/apps being run, yet everything, including computer settings, are accessed through the Chrome browser. One does feel lost at times when finding the way around the OS.
The hardware, Acer C720, is also a bit different from other laptops and takes sometime getting used to. The first thing you notice is that there are no F (function keys) on top, no Delete/Insert button, neither a Caps Lock button. This makes it unwieldy for writers or journalists like me who use their computers for typing out those 1,000 word pieces daily. However, the good part is that the plastic body of the Acer C720 feels like it is built well and is also light. The 1.4 GHz dual-core Celeron processor might sound a few generations old, but it features Intels new Haswell architecture that promises better battery lifeup to 6-7 hours on my usage (claimed is 8 hours), and higher speeds. Alas, I felt that the 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 pixel screen at could have been better though it does its job for most usage, apart from watching high-definition movies.
What is great about the Acer C720 and Chrome OS is that it boots up really fast as compared to the Windows-based netbooks, updates automatically, is fast in daily basic usage as well. The Chrome OS is really meant for those who spend hours web-surfing, and do much less of everything else, such as watching movies, playing graphic-heavy games or writing.
At R23,000, is it a good buy then If all you do is surf the internet, visit Facebook/Twitter a hundred times a day and are mostly based out of home, then the answer is yes. For others, I would say hold on. Cloud-based services are yet to catch up in India for individual use, while wireless internet is not really available everywhere yetnot even in most offices. It is tough to imagine the Chromebook as your primary computer, instead it seems to be an alternative for a tablet. At present, Window-based netbooks offer better value, though most get painstakingly slow in about a year. The Chromebook then We are looking at the future.
Estimated street price: Rs 22,999