Just a quick report - I'm 3 days into ownership and I simply can't believe how good this little machine is! I've slowly been picking through various apps to install and have settled on a few - Calmly Writer is a beautiful clean minimalist writing app that supports Markdown, Secure Shell is a great SSH client, Polarr is a great offline photo editing app and Evernote has a solid web option. I've even found a WebDAV plugin for the file manager that works perfectly with my Owncloud install so now I have all my documents etc from my other machines accessible without having to move all the files over to Google Drive.
So yes I'm pretty much sold. There are still things that I can't do on this device, for example yesterday I needed to create a bootable SD card image for a Raspbery Pi so had to use my MacBook Pro, and every now and then I need to create USB installers for physical servers, but for the bulk of what I do a Chromebook is a valid device. In fact I'm starting to see the appeal of a Chromebook Pixel and that's something I wouldn't have said a week ago...
So I've gone and bought myself a Chromebook. It seems crazy to be sitting here typing this on a small screened, plastic device when I've got a full featured 15" MacBook Pro sitting in the other room but here I am doing just that. The model I ended up with is the HP Chromebook 11 (exact model is 11-2203TU), chosen mostly because it was cheap and not too badly spec'd (it comes with an HDMI port which most cheap Chromebooks seem to leave out and has a slightly faster Celeron rather than the original Exynos ARM chip that powered the early HP Chromebook 11). If I'm honest I'd prefer the original Chromebook 11 package - sleek white with no logos and the four Google colours across the lid but that laptop is considered very slow these days having come out back in 2013 so I'll forsake the more stylish casing for a much faster (and more future proof!) machine.
I must admit I've become slightly obsessed with the gorgeous Chromebook Pixel but figured I'd better try something a wee bit cheaper before diving into a machine that costs roughly $1,500 here in NZ.
- Chrome OS
I'd already done a bunch of research with regards to using Chrome OS so I know that I can do most of what I always have from the stripped out OS - browse the web (obviously!), listen to Spotify, SSH access to servers I manage and some other random apps such as access notes in Evernote (I'm a reasonably heavy user of the service), write documents in Markdown and a few other odds and sods. Some of the Chromebook apps are surprisingly "native" looking, and the whole OS doesn't feel like you're living inside a browser, even if the apps are just web views.
Everything else was already covered - I'm already invested in the Google ecosystem (I mostly use hangouts to chat with people, my email is hosted with GMail, I already use Chrome on my Mac) so there was nothing to set up there.
- HP Chromebook 11 Hardware
The Chromebook 11 is a very cheap laptop so I didn't expect anything too amazing from it. The hardware is nice enough with a compact layout and a good array of ports. The screen is OK - crisp enough on the 11" size but a bit washed out. The battery life is amazing - I've only had the machine a few days but it lasts a whole day with my usage and the WiFi strength is outstanding. The biggest downside to this little workhorse is the lack of RAM - you can really feel it start to bog down when you have a few tabs open and go to a heavy website. I've even had Spotify stutter a few times and drop out when opening some of the heavier apps like GMail when I have several other "apps" already open. More RAM would certainly be welcome.
Overall I'm happy with the device - if the last few days have been any indication then I can probably live with Chrome OS full time. We'll give it a few months and see!