Chromium – Does It Work?
Chromium – Initial Thoughts and Setup
All of the hardware aside, the most important feature of this Acer is the operating system. If this was a Windows system, its fate would be relatively easy to explore. But this is a new OS, and just as importantly, it’s a new type of operating system. Out is the locally based PC of old and in is a simple browser window providing access to many possibilities of the World Wide Web.
Setup is quick and easy thanks to a simple series of menus quite similar to those that are presented to Android users when they start their phone. I was able to log in and begin using the laptop within five minutes of taking it out of the box. Chroimium also has the ability to sync with other Chrome browsers installed on your primary computer, so users can import all of their passwords and settings. All of your information stored on your Google account will be accessible, of course, which can be a great advantage for users who frequently need to switch between a mobile machine and a desktop.
This solid first impression lingered for the first few hours of use, during which I browsed the Internet to obtain research for an article and also began this review by using Google Docs. As we’ll discuss in the performance section of this review, this remains a netbook, and any user’s performance expectations will need to be formed with that in mind. Flash heavy content can be visibly slow at times, and pages take a few moments to load. Youtube was one bright spot, as 720p videos played with only the slightest hint of dropped frames.
Google Chrome OS – App Woes
My positive first impressions began to crack as I demanded more from the OS, however. My first big stumbling block came when I needed to edit some images for a blog post. Since I can only run apps in Chrome, I had to find some way to do this via a website or a plug-in application.
Google’s Web Store was the obvious place to go, but the pickings were slim and appropriate apps difficult to find. Given the complete lack of built-in applications in Google Chrome OS, Google should at least make quick and easy recommendations for equivalents that can run in the browser. I spent fifteen minutes browsing the web store before I found an app capable of fulfilling my needs (BeFunky Photo Editor) and even it was a slow, sloppy mess. And to add insult to injury, I was forced to give up a portion of my display to a big, annoying Progressive auto insurance ad.
Google Docs also gave me trouble. Although it’s a respectable text editor, its functionality and speed is generally on par with only Microsoft’s Wordpad. As a rival to a full suite like OpenOffice/LibreOffice or Microsoft Office, it’s hopeless. Even the formatting is an annoyance, as cutting and pasting from Google Docs to other platforms like Office 2010 or WordPress always seems to cause a formatting fuss.
Chromium – File Management and System Settings
There’s no dedicated file management app to be found in Google Chrome OS, a drastic change that takes some getting used to. Files can be saved to the hard drive through the browser, and then viewed by using a keyboard shortcut, but that’s it. There isn’t even an icon for file management, although an extension available on the Web Store does add this important UI element.
Users may as well keep it closed, however, because it’s truly a mess. Right-clicking on any folder or image only reveals the “Rename” and “Delete” functions, but Cut, Copy and Paste are missing. It’s also not possible to drag-and-drop files while in list view. Instead, users are forced to switch to thumbnail view. Such fundamental oversights reveal Google Chrome OS’s lack of maturity.
Ideally, this lack of a competent file manager is made up for by the access to apps with cloud storage such as Google Docs and Picasa. The problem with this, however, is that storage is tied to specific services and apps. Want to browse your photos, documents, and music? You’re expected to load specific services, apps or web pages for each. This is a fundamental problem with the idea of putting your OS in the cloud, and while it could be addressed by a revolutionary cloud-connected file manager, Chromium offers its users no such feature.
The system settings display the same lack of maturity. They are controlled through the Settings menu which opens-in browser just as it does for users of the Chrome browser on other operating systems, but there’s a few extra menus for basic system functions like system time and available Wi-Fi.
Look for more, and you’ll find little. There’s no device settings menu, so anything that you’d like to use with a Chromebook better work on the first try. Plugging in my Logitech mouse did not even result in a notification acknowledging that a new device had been connected. Security is also dismal. There’s no built-in firewall or antivirus, nor are there any meaningful pointers in the right direction. Google is apparently relying on security by way of obscurity.
And the list goes on. Parental controls? Not to be found, nor are there any account management features beyond a pre-baked guest account. There’s no network map or navigation tools. A printer manager is also MIA – when I attempted to print through Google Docs I was prompted to use Google Cloud Print.
With Google Chrome OS, simplicity has become a code name for immaturity. There are many features that are part of a modern PC operating system, and while not everyone uses them, the lack of functionality available here is impossible to ignore.