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Chromebooks: Why They're Great, and What You Should Know

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Level 34 : Artisan Blockhead
Hi everyone,
I've been seeing a lot of hate on Google Chromebooks lately, and I don't understand why.
They're actually very good laptops. This blog is going to be a review on the Acer C720 Chromebook, which I am a satistied owner of.

First of all, the OS.
To those who don't know, an OS is an Operating System. An Operating system is basically the software "brain" of a computer (Not to be confused with the Processor, which is the hardware "brain" of a computer.) 
An easier way to explain an OS is to compare a Windows PC and a Mac. What's the main difference between them? You're probably saying, "A Mac's display is different from a Windows display." You're right. That's the difference. However, what you might not know is that there's more than just Mac and Windows. There's many different Operating Systems. They vary from Windows, to Mac, to Android, to Linux, and so on. But today, we're talking about the Chrome OS. 

Basically, the Chrome OS is just Google Chrome. You aren't able to download/install stuff, like Minecraft on them. However, with a quick modification, you will be able to play Minecraft on it, and it gets a good framerate for a $200 piece of computer. That will be covered later in the tutorial. (It's at the bottom.)

Chrome OS in a nutshell is just an Internet Browser, like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer. That's the main feature of it. You're not able to play many games, because many games these days require Unity to run. On Chrome OS, you are not able to get Unity. However, flash games, such as Happy Wheels, will work, and the frame rate stays at a happy 30+ fps. On mine, I have never gone below 30 fps, unless they're the levels with a lot of data. 

Secondly, the Apps
Before you go running off to buy one of these magnificent devices, you'll probably want to know what you can even get on these. For the most part, nothing. However, using the tutorial at the bottom (which I've already mentioned), you will be able to install stuff, so don't worry. 
You can download/install anything on the Google Chome Webstore. (http://www.chrome.google.com/webstore), however some of the games only work on Windows, unfortunately. The Google Chrome Webstore is NOT to be confused with the Google Play Store, made for Android Devices. This is not an Android device, and will not be able to download stuff from the Google Play Store.

The Applications that come pre-installed on the device are basically just bookmarks to Google-Owned websites. (Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, etc.)

Third, the Hardware
Unfortunately, the hardware of this device isn't its strong suit. It has 2GB of Memory, an Intel Celeron 2955U processor with Intel HD graphics. Not great. However, since this laptop is basically just a web browser, the OS is so light that it's actually quite quick. It also only has a 720p display, which also isn't great, but its allowed to be taken advantage of by the processor to seem quite fast. 

Although the performance specs aren't great, it comes with an amazing built-in webcam. Its mic is also decent quality. It also has an amazing battery, which will get me over 10 hours of use on a single charge. It also amazingly has two built-in speakers. I would've expected only one, but there's actually two, allowing stereo sound. 

As for the HDD and Optical Drive, it has neither. To be sleeker, and more portable (covered later), they dropped the Optical Drive and Hard Drive. Instead of using a hard drive, the device uses a very small 16GB SSD. Considering this was made just as a portable internet browser, 16GB is enough for a lot of stuff. (It comes with 100GB of storage on Google Drive for free, to store larger documents.) And unlike a Hard Drive, a Solid State Drive (SSD) is much faster, so stuff can be saved/loaded off of the SSD much faster.

Fourth, the Portability
This device is one of the most portable laptops I've owned. Not only is it less than 1ft long, it is less than 1 inch thick, and weighs less than 3 pounds. It's pretty portable for the sake of laptops. I carry it with me almost everywhere.

Fifth, the Build Quality
I've been very positive with this laptop so far, but the build quality is less than what I was hoping for. It's fully plastic, which I don't really like. The keyboard, the shell, and the screen are all plastic. It's very flimsy, and the screen is very sensitive. Touching the back of the laptop will make the screen do the "touching LCD screen blur", which can be quite annoying. The screen can also partially bend, which makes it feel very cheap.

A lot of people complain about the keyboard quality, and say it feels cheap and "clacky". However, I personally really like the keyboard. It feels a bit cheap, but it is still quiet, but all the keys feel "right". Nothing feels out of place, and it's very compact. My favorite thing about the design of the keyboard is that it uses lowercase letters, instead of capitol letters, which most keyboard use. It also doesn't have the key made by Satan himself.... Caps lock.. Praise the lord! No more caps spam when you accidentally miss the "shift" key. 

The trackpad is by far the smoothest trackpad I've ever felt. It feels like I'm sliding my finger over a kitten mixed with a bunny, mixed with silk and other smooth stuff. It is also very responsive. 
Clicking on it is mostly based on other peoples opinions. Its got click mechanics that 50% of people like, and 50% of people hate. Basically, Google took out the mouse click buttons. The entire track pad is a left click mouse. You can do a standard light tap to click, or you can press down, and get the satisfying "click" sound anywhere on the trackpad. However, right clicking is a different story. There is no right mouse button. However, you can still "right click" by holding ALT and clicking on the trackpad, or you can do a two-finger-tap on the keyboard. In some situations, it feels weird. I personally prefer the two mouse buttons at the bottom of a trackpad, but the alt+click or the two-finger-touch is still a good alternative, and isn't very annoying.

Sixth, the Possible Uses of This
The uses of these laptops are limited. You can't really watch YouTube videos out in public, because the device overheats at a pretty low temperature, and watching 720p YouTube videos will make the temperature get to that point very quickly. However, if it is plugged in and charging, it will not force-shutdown when it reaches that temperature. 

These laptops' amazing battery can be taken advantage of, though. They can allow you to go online and stay online for up to 10 hours. And since most of us just spend every hour of every day on PMC, then you can't go wrong with that.

They're also very good for taking notes in class for students. They can turn on from a cold shutdown in 7 seconds, and Docs can be opened from a startup in less than 10 seconds. 

Finally, Would I Recommend This Product, and to Whom Would I Recommend it?
The short answer to that question is yes. I would recommend it. I'd recommend it to any student who is allowed to use a laptop to take notes in class. I would recommend it to anyone who isn't a hardcore gamer. I would recommend it to people who play on Minecraft servers that support dynmap. (It can be used as a map, which can be placed next to your PC.)
I would recommend it to any hardcore gamer, who already owns a great PC, but wants a device they can use to quickly look up something if they have a question in a game. I would recommend these to anyone who has an extra $200. Although the OS is restricted to Chrome, there are still millions of uses for these amazing devices.

Sooo, Minecraft?
On a stock Chromebook, it is impossible to get Minecraft. BUT, you can slightly modify it to boot off of Linux, allowing you to download and install Minecraft. Before you're scared away from the sentence recommending Linux, know that Linux isn't that difficult to use. It is definitely not windows, but it is a good and light alternative. It also allows you to play Minecraft on your Chromebook.

Anyway, to get Linux on your Chromebook, first Check Your Warrany Slip. Doing this MIGHT void your warranty, for it is basically jailbreaking your Chromebook. However, it is completely safe, and I've done it three times, because I've accidentally uninstalled Linux a few times...

Step 2: You'll have to enter developer mode. This process can take up to 10 minutes. Basically, you just hold the Refresh and Escape keys together, and then press the power button. This will restart your Chromebook in recovery mode. When on the "Yellow Exclamation Mark" screen, you Press Ctrl+D. It will ask you if you want to enable developer mode. Press enter, and then wait for developer mode to load. 
When it's done loading, it'll display a red exclamation mark. DO NOT PRESS SPACE TO RE-ENABLE OS VERIFICATION. IT WILL UNDO DEVELOPER MODE, AND YOU WILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE WHOLE PROCESS AGAIN. Just wait a few seconds, and your Chrombook will turn back on.

Step 3: Now, you'll have to install Linux. First, you'll have to download it, by going to This link. Make sure it's saved to your Downloads folder

Step 4: You're now going to have to enter the terminal. Press ctrl+alt+T. This will open a scary looking black screen, which somewhat resembles the command prompt in Windows. You're going to have to type shell into the terminal. 

Step 5: After typing in shell, now you're going to type in 
[b]sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce
this will take a few minutes to do its thing. Feel free to leave it alone. It'll sometimes take up to an hour to install.

Step 6: After its done loading, it'll ask you to set a username and password. Write them down. Make sure you're able to type in the password pretty fast, because it'll ask you to enter the password a lot while you're using linux.

Step 7: After entering your username and password, you've installed linux. To launch linux, you'll have to type
[b]sudo startxfce4[/b]
in the terminal. You'll have to type that in every time you restart your computer, unfortunately.

After launching Linux, you can return to ChromeOS at any point, and return to linux after that and back and forth as much as you want. To switch between Operating Systems, just press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+(left arrow at the top of keyboard).

After launching Linux for the first time, you'll want to restart your computer to make sure everything was configured properly. If it wasn't, then restarting your computer will fix it.

When you turn your computer off, on startup, it will display a screen saying something like "OS verification is off. Press space to re-enable." DO NOT PRESS SPACE. From now on, whenever you see that screen, you press Ctrl+D, or else your computer will delete everything you've done so far.
So your computer is now back on. But where's Linux? Press ctrl+alt+T again, and you'll be greeted by our old friend, the terminal. Just type [b]shell[/b] then [b]sudo startxfce4[/b] in the terminal again, and you'll be back in Linux. Make sure to write that command down, because you'll be typing it every time you restart your computer.

[b]Alright, so now you're in Linux. Now what? [/b]
First, you're going to have to open the Linux Terminal. It should be one of the icons on the hotbar at the bottom of the screen. You'll know when you find it, because it'll open a similar screen to the one you opened in ChromeOS.

When you open the terminal, type
[b]sudo apt-get install openjdk-7-jre
[/b]It will ask you to enter your password. It might stop after a few seconds of messages, and ask you if you agree to blah blah blah. Just enter [b]Y[/b] and it'll continue the installation
This will install Java. Now, you can go online, and download Minecraft. When you download it, you'll have to right-click the "Minecraft.jar" and go under properties, and check off the box titled "executable". Now, you should be able to play MInecraft on your Chromebook.

To install other useful things on Linux, check out [url=www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGvC0TWPk-g]this[/url] video, which gives you an overview on how to do stuff in Linux.

12/15/2015 10:20 pm
Level 19 : Journeyman Nerd
Chromebooks are great for someone who really only needs a PC that can just go on the internet to check their E-Mail, watch YouTube, etc.

BTW there is such thing called the HP Stream. It is as thin as a Chromebook, it's fanless, it has 10 hours of battery life, and has the same pricetag (around $200 US I think) as a Chromebook. The plus is that it runs Windows.
12/30/2014 11:05 am
Level 48 : Master Button Pusher
Is it impossible to wipe the SSD in a Chromebook and just install Ubuntu?
12/15/2015 10:16 pm
Level 19 : Journeyman Nerd
Well, yes and no. There are ways to install Ubuntu but you can't just wipe a chromes SSD and install Ubuntu.

Also, most Chromebooks have Flash memory, and usually not SSD's.
12/15/2015 11:58 pm
Level 48 : Master Button Pusher
SSDs store information on flash memory... It's all NAND flash chips. Thanks for the info on not being able to wipe a Chromebook, though.
12/10/2014 7:52 pm
Level 17 : Journeyman Pony
You know you made me think about something... My Kindle Fire is better then a Chromebooks memory, display and the Kindle last only two hours less then the Chromebook. Judging by those facts the Chromebook is pretty pathetic.
10/13/2014 5:50 pm
Level 9 : Apprentice Explorer
Wow.. lots of words. +1
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