We still see reviews as a snapshot in time -- our job, after all, is to size up the products folks might be thinking of buying today, and it's not fair to stay mum while we wait for companies to tweak products they had no business shipping half-baked in the first place. But we don't think the conversation should end with the review. You guys already get to sound off on the things you own in the "How would you change?" column. Consider this our turn.
Netflix on Chrome OS
Well, here we are. Last month, Chrome OS got VPN and (huzzah!) Netflix support. The funny thing is, I sat down prepared to write a few paragraphs about what it's like streaming movies on my Series 5. What can I say, though? It's just like using Netflix in Chrome, or any browser, really. I will say that that bright, matte display I loved so much the first time around suddenly became even more useful. Remember that without Netflix support, I was mostly using the screen for checking email, web browsing, chatting and watching "Best Cry Ever" approximately eighteen times. Leaning back and watching Mad Men reminded me what an excellent display this is (especially for a $500 system!), and I do hope it'll make a cameo in more Samsung laptops. As for movies, they looked smooth when I streamed them over WiFi, and actually held up better than I thought when I switched to the built-in Verizon Wireless connection. As you can imagine, though, I encountered some hiccups, and quickly ditched 3G for WiFi.
And while I'm on the subject of things I didn't delve into in my original review, let's talk updates. Availing myself of Netflix support was intuitive enough: just to go to the settings menu, select "About Chrome OS" and click the box that says "Check for update." Once I did, it told me what I already knew -- that an update was available -- and promptly began downloading it. The next time I had to click anything, it was to restart the computers the changes could take effect. That's simple enough; it was nice that for the most part I was able to dispense with clicking through dialog boxes while the OS just did its thing. Still, why did I have to dig for the update manually? My security software downloads updates of its own accord. When I use Windows, I have it set to download updates automatically (my Mac presents me with a pop-up alert). Google tells me my machine should have updated itself, but in this case, that didn't happen. Frankly, I don't care so much if Chrome OS asks me for permission or just goes ahead and brings itself up to date; I'd just rather the onus not be on me.
But I digress. All told, Netflix support is a welcome (and unsurprising) update. Now, can we get some offline action up in here?
Acer Iconia Tab A500 in coach
Sure enough, the A500 works like a charm, chatting with the keyboard like the two were meant for each other -- except that I can't hit Ctrl + Backspace to delete whole words. I'm beginning to see some of the appeal of working with a tablet and a keyboard, rather than a laptop -- it's certainly lighter, takes up less space in my bag, the battery life is great and instant-on everything is always nice -- but now that I'm actually here typing I'd still rather have my laptop. And, when using it as just a tablet, I can't help but think I'd rather have the Galaxy Tab. The Acer's a nice piece of hardware, sophisticated and serious looking, with battery more than adequate to manage my musings from 7B, but the off-angle contrast on the screen disappoints, and finding a good way to situate the thing next to the keyboard is something of a challenge.
About that 11-inch Air...
There's much to be said about the form factor. My main laptop is a 2010 15-inch MacBook Pro with Core i7 decked out with a 1680 x 1050, anti-glare display in the usual 16:10 aspect ratio. The 11-inch Air's 1366 x 768 resolution is nothing to scoff at, although the 16:9 orientation does appear a tad vertically challenged. When it comes to working in a cramped bus seat, however, I find the extra bit of scrolling a fair trade-off -- not least because of the functionality OS X Lion brings. For one, I usually have room to position the screen without hitting the backrest in front of me, and with Lion's multiple desktops I can easily simulate my usual dual-screen desk setup. The only issue I've come across with real estate is that certain overlay windows in web browsers get chopped at the bottom when there's no option to scroll. Trapped!
My major qualm is with the 11-inch's screen hinge -- sure, you can easily open it with a single digit and the level of torque feels acceptable, but any minor bump sends it flying all the way back. The Air's otherwise a particularly travel-friendly gadget, to say the least, so I'm amazed that I constantly need to reposition the screen if I don't feel like having it at full tilt. Furthermore, even though they add just a paltry few ounces, cases like the Speck SeeThru only exaggerate the weight distribution, which is disappointing for an
One e-reader to rule them all
I don't miss the keys much, either -- in fact, I don't type on the thing unless I'm looking for a book in the store. The social functionality is wasted on me. The whole going two months without a charge thing was a bit overstated, it turns out -- I've had to charge it a bit more than I'd anticipated. As for the software itself, I've had to do a few hard reboots after having the Nook freeze on its own screen saver, but still, nothing too earth-shattering.
- Key specs
- Form factor Tablet
- Operating system Android (Honeycomb [3.x])
- Screen size 10.1 inches
- Storage type Internal storage (8 GB, Flash), Memory card
- Camera (integrated) 5 megapixels
- Maximum battery life Up to 10 hours
- Dimensions 10.24 x 6.97 x 13.3 in
- Weight 1.69 lb
Google Chrome OS
Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (early 2015)
Samsung Series 5 XE500C21