Tag Archives: laptop

The Pixel. Chromebook at it’s finest.

I drooled over these for a year after they came out. Minimalist design. All brushed aluminum. Etched glass touchpad. Lighted keyboard. All the style of a Macbook Pro, without the necessary hipster pretensiousness. Specs of a top of the line notebook (at the time.) It had some weaknesses- the limitations of ChromeOS, 64GB storage, and NOT upgradable…4GB RAM, and same limitations, but it was PLENTY usable. Add in the dual-boot, keystroke-only Linux, and it does EVERYTHING I’d need it to do. Photo and vdeo editing, games, Steam and Skyrim, and anything else I can throw at it with out it puking.

The screen is BETTER than a retina display (no, really), and 10-point multitouch.

The SDCard port is the recessed style, and not the 720 abomination.

I finally broke down and ordered one, but a used one. The 64GB, Verizon LTE variety. We no longer have Verizon, but I’d consider adding a plan if I was a true road warrior for work.

The biggest downsides are the non-upgradeable disk and RAM. The disk I can mitigate with SDCards, but the RAM is a bigger blow. Still, 4GB is plenty  in a lappy- it’s not like I’m running virtual machines on it. Oh, wait….yes I am. If I run a Windows VM in Virtualbox, I make sure I am not running anything else, and give it a full 3GB. It’s not the best solution, but it works. And I’d rather not run Windows unless I absolutely *have* to.

The other downside is the total lack of USB3. That is almost unforgivable, but …. with only a 64GB disk, it’s not like you’re going to be transferring a lot of data.

I really have no true complaints with this beauty.  She’s alright in my (chrome)book.

 

Next Chromebook…the C720

With the damage, Mom earned the new replacement, instead of the kid that broke his lappy, and kid got mom’s “old” one. We decided to up hers to one of the new, flashier C720’s. (She didn’t need, nor want the P model- no use for the touchscreen, and the shorter battery life it come with.)

So first things: the graphics are MUCH more crisp on the 720. Significant upgrade. It also has a more powerful, but still low voltage processor. It also has the smaller 16GB SS HDD. Much faster boot, but less storage. I got the 4GB version, but once I got it, I learned that the memory is soldered on, and not upgradable. The HDD has no such limitation, but is a NGFF SSD, and not a SATA, like the 710s.

I found a 128GB NGFF disk on Amazon for ~$100. It swapped easily, and the Chrome repair tool flashed it with ChromeOS in about 5 minutes. Very impressed with the Chrome software.

Even better was the new firmware- it supports USB and Legacy boot loaders. Meaning- I can now install Chrubuntu next to ChromeOS, and it’s only a keystroke at boot (Ctrl+L  … L for Legacy) to select linux- and a keystroke (Ctrl+D …for Default…or just wait the 20 seconds for timeout) to boot to Chrome. A separate keystroke (Ctrl+U….for, well, duh…) boots to the USB bus. Much slicker process. Legacy boot also supports booting to a SDCard, which also expands storage. I’ve got a few 64gb SD Cards, so 128GB SS + 64GB SD is reaching a reasonable size.

The CPU/RAM combo makes Ubuntu usable, but not exactly a speed demon. I can run photo editing software, and games, but running more than one large application will slow down the system significantly. Video editing is possible, but almost as slow as using Youtube or some other online editor.

It’s thinner and more sleek than the C710, but the downside is it definitely feels flimsier than the older model.

It also loses several ports- it’s only got 2 USB, the full size HDMI, 3-way audio mini-8 (that’s a standard headphone jack, people), and the SDCard slot. It loses the VGA out, a third USB and the ethernet jack. The network jack I can understand, with wireless and all, but sometimes you just need a 10/100/1000 line. The VGA I get, too, as it still has HDMI. I don’t like the loss of the USB port, but they try to make up for it by making one of the two remaining ports a USB3 jack. That does lessen the sting. However, the dealbreaker for me was the SDCard port.

The SDCard on the 710 was similar to ones in a camera- it slides all the way in, and has a click-in, click-out mechanisim, where when it’s in use, only about 1/16″-1/32″ of the card is exposed. The click-in/out mechanism is recessed, so you have to use the very tip of your finger, or thumbnail to eject/seat the card. It keeps it clean and out of the way. It means I can insert a card, and throw it in a laptop bag and not worry about the card.

On the 720, the card port is a friction port, no click-in/out, and it leaves almost a full inch of the thin, flimsy, (did I mention thin and flimsy?) card exposed, outside the frame of the laptop. If you leave a card inserted and put it in a bag, you *will* break your storage stick, or the port, or both.

For the wife, it wasn’t a deal breaker, so she seems plenty happy with it. Being able to upgrade the storage internally made the SDCard less mandatory- being stuck with the 16GB SSD would have been unbearable for me.

However, I still wanted something more powerful….and Google provided. The Pixel.

First up: the Acer Chromebook C710.

TL;DR: C710:

Intel 64bit 1.5GHz Celeron, 2GB ram, 320GB disk, 11inch screen.

Likes: Matte screen, lightweight, lots of ports- 3USB, full size HDMI out, full size VGA out, ethernet and SD card slot, 3-4 hour battery.

My likes: full insertion SD slot. (click-in, click out. no card sticking out while in use. I’ll bitch about this later for the C720’s…)Plenty of storage for Linux. Plenty fast for almost everything. Both disk and memory are upgradable.

My dislikes- nonstandard charger, the BIOS is locked, so rebooting into Linux and back require running either commands or a script from the command line, touchpad takes some getting used to.

Most heard complaint: *only* a 3-4 hour battery. (I can’t believe this is an actual complaint, but it’s at the top of most people’s radar.) The spinning disk make the 3 hours more likely, the SSD models get 4.5 hours.

Full story:

This is not Acer’s first (or even second) foray into Chromebooks. Acer first released the AC700- a first gen Chromebook, and then the C7. I’ve never seen either of those in the wild, but the C7 was short lived, becoming the c710. The 710 first was available with a 320GB spinning platter hard disk- the traditional laptop drive. This was almost universally panned by critics of the CB- what good is storage to a online-only device? Theye were quickly “upgraded” to 16GB SSD’s. Personally, I went out of my way to keep the spinning drives- I need the space for the linux partitions. 16GB is plenty, but seriously, I use more than 16GB every photo session with my Nikon- hell, it’s got a 32GB sd card as it’s primary storage- double the whole 16gb Chromebook. So for me, I want the storage.

So, Chrubuntu was the first thing I did. Read about and get it here: Jay Lee’s Blog!

Long story short. The thing with Linux on this CB is that unless you really like typing or like writing your own batch scripts, moving from Chrome to Linux is a pain. And it’s not something the kids will do on their own. Chrome is much better for browsing, FB, etc- it’s fast, all the plugins work out of the box, and the ridiculous fast boot time is teh awesomesauce. However, Minecraft, Skyrim, and anything else Chrome doesn’t support means opening a shell session, swithcing to bash, and entering a fairly complex set of commands, submitting a reboot, and then waiting on it to shutdown cleanly, and powerup, go through the boot process for linux (which is considerably slower than Chrome…) – all that together- sucks…..but it’s still better than waiting on Windows.

So after the fun with the C710’s, eventually one got stepped on in a kid’s room.

Well, I kinda expected that, and with the, being sub-$200, I didn’t mind as much as if it we a Macbook. Also, the C710 has a full HDMI port, so it can easily be hooked up to a TV. Add a wireless keyboard/touchpad, and viola- an instant WebTV machine, with (near) universal logins.

Next: Prescott chips, and the C720.

 

Chromebook reviews and comparisons.

We’ve had the Chromebooks for over a year now, and I thought it’s time to look at Chrome as an actual viable daily laptop. And, surprisingly enough, it’s shone brighter than I expected. I’ve played with four models of them, and I have a Pixel being delivered today. (Verrry excited about that, too :) ) We now own 4 C710’s (320GB spinners), 2 C720’s (a 2GB ram w/16GB SSD, one 4GB ram upgraded to 128GB SSD from the 16GB SSD) and the 64GB LTE Pixel. I’ve played with the Samsung chromebook, and a couple HP11s, and see some of the pros and cons that haven’t really been mentioned in many places, or at least not prominently.

Truth be told, I really like the “cheap” factor of the CBooks, and as a Linux junkie, I’ve made a living taking systems that would be considered obsolete and making them not just usable, but productive. I take pride doing things “on the cheap”. Many *nixers have two or three philosophies when given a task – they ask the following questions of themselves: Continue reading Chromebook reviews and comparisons.

Brave new world…

Chromebooks. We got a few… Acer C7’s.

The twins each got one, and I have one as well. They see to be good little teaching machines.

I’ve already spun Ubuntu onto mine, and will show the kids how to do theirs when they’re ready to load them.

Looking into flashing the bios and possibly adding some other bootloader…these are fairly locked down OOTB. Looks like it’s time to do some good hacking. :)

 

Edit: This post was written back in December, I just forgot about it and it was sitting in draft for months.