Story 2014-05-14 3KH The Year of the Chromebook

The Year of the Chromebook

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in hardware on (#3KH)
story image2014 just might be remembered as the year of the Chromebook . It will be to me at least. I just bought one, and I'm not alone. So have a lot of other people. A whole lot. From the Register:
According to US market-watcher NPD, during the 11 months from January through November 2013, the platform’s share of the computing device market had risen to 9.6 per cent from just 0.2 per cent in the same months of the previous year. By contrast, Apple’s laptops accounted for a mere 1.8 per cent of the market in 2013, down from 2.6 per cent the year before. Windows-based laptops also declined, though they remain the biggest seller: their combined share fell from 42.9 per cent to 34.1 per cent. Do the sums, and that means Windows laptops took 75 per cent of the US notebook market, Chromebooks 21 per cent and Apple a measly four per cent. Some 6.6 million laptops were shipped through commercial channels, says NPD, of which just under 1.4 million were Chromebooks. Five Chromebooks were sold for every MacBook.
When first released in 2011, they failed to capture the market's attention, as the hardware remained somewhat limited and the software options weren't appealing, but time has been kind to Chromebooks. This year Google and Intel have partnered to make sure some compelling new hardware was released, including the ASUS Chromebox desktop , the 21.5" all-in-one by LG , and 20 other models by the likes of HP, ASUS, Acer, Samsung, and Lenovo. CNET is hugely bullish on Chromebooks; so is Richi Jennings over at Computerworld.

As for me, I consider myself a power user and I'm not a huge fan of Google's software ecosystem, but I like my new Chromebook. My HP14 is pretty nice hardware, it's running great, I find the user environment hugely useable, and hell - the price was awesome: under $300. It's hard to believe I paid something like $1600 for a PIII laptop and Win98 in 2000.
Reply 14 comments

ChromeBox (Score: 1)

by bryan@pipedot.org on 2014-05-14 09:20 (#1K0)

I got a $180 ASUS ChromeBox for use as an HTPC. The native video player can play all the bluray quality files that I've tried. Now if I can just figure out how to use a network share (CIFS or NFS) it would be nearly perfect.

I've tried to stream over HTTP using Plex and Synology Video station, but they both insist on transcoding the video. Anyone know of a good video library app that streams the raw source file using the HTML5 <video> tag? I created my own php project as a test to make sure it worked, but surely there are premade apps for this purpose.

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 2, Informative)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2014-05-14 10:08 (#1K4)

Plex transcodes - it's kind of its claim to fame. You mean you accessed your Plex media server over the HTTP connection and weren't happy with it? I did the same and thought that was good enough for me. I was planning on nuking ChromeOS and installing Linux but I'm going to keep Chrome around just a bit longer while I play with it. I'm already kind of frustrated with its limitations as an OS, but I concede this is probably what the future looks like, and it's better than I thought it would be. The HP14 is nice hardware, actually, with a very useable keyboard (once you accept it's almost impossible to get a machine that doesn't have that blasted chiclet keyboard these days).

Yes, I also need to get to an NFS share though, and it's probably the straw that will drive me to nuke Chrome and go ahead with the full Linux install.

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2014-05-14 10:17 (#1K8)

The price and look of the Chromebooks are very attractive, but I have held off prefering Linux on a "regular" laptop: ebay has good deals on older Dell Precision, for example, that are price competitive with Chromebooks. I'll probably get a tablet at some point for the casual or ultra mobile use cases.

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 13:00 (#1KF)

Why not just load linux on the chromebook? Elementary OS works great (sans trackpad on toshiba, but someone just need to fix ubuntu bug 1296534 for that). I hear Linux Mint works well too.

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 2, Interesting)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2014-05-14 14:25 (#1KQ)

I've understood that the ARM hardware in many of the affordable chromebooks are not performance competitive even with older Core processor based laptops. Is this a misconception on my part?

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 3, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 17:33 (#1M0)

Yes, it's a misconception on your part. The latest sub-$300 Chromebooks (Intel Haswell CPU) are actually significantly MORE powerful than any laptop you can get for under $600 or so. Check it yourself on places like cpubenchmark.net. It's about as fast as an i5.

It's kind of irritating, actually. I didn't want to choose a Chromebook.

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 1)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2014-05-14 19:10 (#1M4)

Wow, thanks for the correction... that definitely changes things from my perspective... I wonder how they keep the cost down for the Chromebooks, that can't all be a Microsoft tax can it?

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 19:42 (#1M5)

I don't know. I speculate in my other post below (The Economics are Ridiculous) that it has something to do with the virtual kickback that Google gets from tying you in to all its services and platform. But I don't really know. They do limit most of the Chromebooks to a silly 2GB RAM, but that can't be a big cost. And they engineer the BIOS to suit Chrome/Linux.

But I can't figure out why there are no competing Haswell netbooks in the same price range -- I think it's because the netbook market has been abandoned (unwisely).

Re: ChromeBox (Score: 2, Interesting)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2014-05-14 10:12 (#1K6)

BTW, maybe you'd have been better off with a Raspberry Pi running openELEC and XBMC? That's what I did as an alternative to Plex. Total price less than $100 including cables etc and if you are a bit more clever than me you can bring the price down even further. Boots in < 20 seconds, connects to your NFS NAS or equivalent (AFS, Samba also supported out of the box), and pumps video goodness over an HDMI cable. Cheap and easily replaced. Plus you've got a Raspberry Pi to play with, which means like me you'll start disconnecting it from your TV and playing with it, changing, reconfiguring, trying different distros, etc. - all until your wife tells you to knock it off and hook the damn thing back up so she can watch her show. Good times.

But can it... (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 14:19 (#1KN)

... download files?

I considered buying one (Score: 2, Interesting)

by entropy@pipedot.org on 2014-05-14 15:56 (#1KR)

That I was going to mount in my car, however then I discovered chromebooks won't run android apps..so I passed and chose a Nexus tablet instead. I think one limiting factor(certainly for me) is that the chromebooks lack the rich app world Android offers.

Why not just use my phone? Honestly--privacy. I can toss all kinds of handy apps on my Nexus without regards to what they are doing with my contact information. Even though my phone is rooted and thus firewalled, it's a lot of trouble managing all that. The bigger screen is handy as well :)

The Economics Are Ridiculous (Score: 3, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-14 18:05 (#1M1)

They practically forced me to buy a Chromebook for a relative, because speed and size were criteria. The Haswell Chromebooks are $250 or less. A comparably performing "regular" notebook in that form factor costs at LEAST $500 and probably has worse battery life. (I compared CPU benchmarks of all available sub-4-pounders.)

Yes, I suppose one pays back the difference in the price of fealty to the Google "ecosystem" that then owns everything you do on the machine, but for a casual user (who would have ended up on GMail anyway) it's a hard bargain to resist...

Re: The Economics Are Ridiculous (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-15 11:23 (#1MM)

That's my conclusion too. And actually, I'm finding ChromeOS isn't as bad as I'd suspected! Or else, they've improved it. There's even a terminal app now (obviously, some kind of framework that lets you run an applet in the browser window or something; I'm actually not sure how it works). That means something like 70% of my use cases are covered! I'd still like access to NFS, Sambas, and AFS filesystems (ie, my NAS). That's about it.

Re: The Economics Are Ridiculous (Score: 1)

by songofthepogo@pipedot.org on 2014-05-17 20:52 (#1PK)

This thread just cost us $230. The spousal unit teaches online courses in the summer and would like to untether from his desk. He's got a tablet, but it's not sufficient to the task. We have an old netbook, but ... netbook. He's got a laptop, but it's long in the tooth and short on battery life. He's been eyeballing the MacBook Air 11, but it's pricy and hasn't updated adequately in a very long time. If one is going to spend that many $$, one wants a bit more in terms of screen, power, storage ... all of it.

Realizing all that, he was at the point of deciding whether to spend $$$ on a prior-gen MBP 13, or wait to see what possible updates might be on the horizon for the MBAs, when this thread got started. I poked around, found the Acer C720, looked into whether slapping elementary OS on it was a thing (it is), and floated the idea to him: "So ... it's kinda like the netbook of today, but better and more useable ... you could think about maybe this for $230? It wouldn't be an MBP, but it'd be ... it'd be $230." Sold. It arrives Tuesday. I can't wait to get my grubby, little fingers all over it.

A few questions, though, assuming anyone is still looking at this days-old thread:
  • Anyone have the C720 with elementary OS?
  • Anyone have above, but with C720P and, if so, is the touch screen well-supported and worth it?
  • Anything else I should've told the spousal unit to consider before he squeezed the trigger on the purchase (not too late to change the order), e.g. is 2GB RAM sufficient?