2011-06-29

Why I'm not keeping my Samsung Series 5 ChromeBook

I received my free Samsung Series 5 ChromeBook (the ChromeOS notebook given out to all Google I/O attendees) a couple of days ago, and was excited to try it out. I decided not to keep it however, because of multiple hardware issues:
  • The touchpad requires you to physically click to generate a mouse click event. It's hard to depress the pad with your pointer finger because of the high spring constant, but if you use your thumb, then the wide click area of the edge of the thumb can hit the pad non-simultaneously, and as a result (as the contact area grows) the mouse cursor can jump away from the click target before you have actually depressed the touchpad, meaning you miss the target and/or click on something else instead.  This is one of the biggest non-starters for me, it's extremely frustrating. I'm not the only person who has reported this problem.
  • External mouse support seems to not be enabled yet -- at least, the mouse I tried didn't even get powered up -- which means I can't work around the touch pad behavior.
  • Thhe keyboardd typpes doubble letterss freqquently. Not sure if it's a hardware bounce or a software glitch.  It feels like it might be a hardware bounce, which implies this may not be fixable.
  • There are no Delete, Home/End or PageUp/PageDown keys. There are alternatives to Delete (Shift+Backspace) and PageUp/PageDown (Alt+Up/Down) but there is no alternative to Home/End. This makes editing text a pain because you have to frequently reach for the touch pad or use Ctrl+Left/Right to move a word at a time to the beginning or end of what you're editing.
  • The keyboard isn't super-nice to type on.  I can't put my finger on why exactly.
  • Scrolling complex pages can be just slow enough that it bugs me, and opening lots of tabs at once (e.g. when the session is restored each time you log in) can slow down the machine.  Even when not restoring a session, there were times when a tab would lock up for 30 seconds, generating a dialog stating "The following tabs are not responding; kill them?".
  • It's really quite heavy (though construction quality is very solid).
On the positive side, battery life is awesomely long, and, other than the speed issues on complex pages and/or when restoring many tabs at once (which is the tradeoff for long battery life, I guess), the Web experience is very smooth and fluid when interacting with most individual pages. The browser came with not just Flash but also the Google Talk voice/video plugin installed, which was a nice addition.

Overall, my experience using the ChromeBook for an entire day while sitting in a conference was just frustrating enough that I have decided not to keep it.

6 comments:

  1. "The keyboard isn't super-nice to type on. I can't put my finger on why exactly." <-- I see what you did there!

    How long does the battery last under your typical usage? Got a number for us?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would say at least 8 hours but I'm not sure. I turned the screen brightness down to make sure it lasted through the conference, and was surprised to find I still had something like 20% battery left at the end of the day. I was on the laptop most of the day.

    For battery life reasons alone I almost want to keep the ChromeBook -- and the extra battery life almost makes the occasional slowdown worth it -- but I'd rather have the frustration of trying to find a nearby power outlet to keep a full-blown laptop running all day than go through the constant low-level niggly frustrations of the ChromeBook.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Why don't you just enable "tap to click"?
    http://chromestory.com/2011/06/10-tips-to-customize-your-new-chromebook/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, somebody pointed out "tap to click" to me on Twitter too. That does help. The other issues (e.g. key doubling, no Home/End, occasional sluggishness) are just frustrating enough that it's still just over the "not keep" threshold.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You hit the nail on the head here. I don't have any real complaints about how the typing feels but everything else you mention is spot on.

    I would add one additional gripe. The text rendering is really sub-par compared to my Mac and Windows systems.

    I really wanted to love this thing but I can't.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The text rendering is sub-par because they have the automatic hinting dialed all the way up to max. Some people like looking at fonts that look like they're made out of purely black and white pixels like on Windows 9x. Personally I prefer non-hinted fonts because they more accurately represent the true shape of characters even though they look "blurrier".

    ReplyDelete