30 April 2013
I’ve been working on my Chromebook Pixel (LTE) for a week now, generally spending about 8-10 hours a day on the machine, and I thought my perspective on the experience might be useful to some in the Chromebook community and to others who are considering buying this computer. I have also felt as though I owed something back to the community of Chromebook users, particularly to those who have helped me make my decision to get the Pixel: reviewers and commentators, like +Kevin Tofel +Joe Wilcox +Nate Swanner
, and businessman +David Horvath as well as others in the Chromebook communities of Google+. I’ll agree here with what they’ve said, and what many others have said, about the screen and the keyboard and the trackpad and the build quality: all extraordinary -- the best I’ve ever used (and I’m a pretty old guy, who’s been using computers since the mid-1980s).
What I can add to this discussion is testimony that will, I hope, further dispel the myth that all you can do on a Chromebook is answer email, browse, and write memos and short documents. I’m an English Professor at the University of Michigan, and I’ve just finished writing a book using Google Docs. These are files that are between 20 and 30,000 words long, with around 100 footnotes per chapter; the book is c. 110,000 words. I do all my grading and commenting on student essays on this Chromebook (and did so on the 250.00 Samsung Chromebook that I used before), and I regularly read dissertation chapters from graduate students that are 50-80 pages long. Unlike many of my colleagues who use Word or Pages or Scrivener, I have never lost any work, and I spend a great deal less time than I used to worrying about backup programs and updates and computer maintenance. The offline docs syncing has worked flawlessly, even with files that are around 100 pages long, even when I had to restart the computer (a Macbook Air I was using at the time) before getting back online after 5-6 hours of offline editing. I do a good deal of work with PDF files, and have found ways to manage those adequately for my teaching needs. I don’t edit movies, and don’t do lots of things with images. I’ve been doing pretty much all my work in the Chrome browser for about a year — well before I had my first Chromebook. But switching to a Chromebook has simply meant so many fewer distractions from the operating system and from other programs, so many of which required tending to: updates, maintenance, backups, different keyboard shortcuts . . . I have thousands of documents on Google Drive, and thousands more on an $80.00 external drive. Plugging that external drive into the Pixel when I need to find something that I haven’t put up on GDocs is very quick and very easy.
One of the chief differences between the Pixel and the Samsung Chromebook that I’d been using for the past few months is overall speed and, with 4g of RAM, I don’t notice the reloading of tabs phenomenon that can slow down work on a Samsung. I’ve been working entirely with WiFi on this machine, and the Pixel handles data flow remarkably: I regularly get 30-45 Mbps down and 10-20 up; with the Samsung, I was usually getting speeds around a third that fast. None of the Macs in our house are this fast. I know this is not a rigorous tech test (I’m just using the "bandwidthplace" online meter to compare machines), but it confirms my experience, which is that the Pixel feels faster than the Macbooks (Pro, Air) and the iMac that I have been using for the past few years). And on those days (pretty common, in fact) when I’m staring at text on the screen and typing text on the screen for more than 8 hours, the resolution and the keyboard and the trackpad and even the touchscreen make all of this more restful, more pleasant, more error-free than any other piece of hardware I’ve ever used.