73

Chrome OS, once half-baked, finally comes of age

73

When we reviewed the first Chromebook a year ago, we concluded that Chrome OS isn't for everybody. If you need certain desktops apps like Photoshop even when you're on the go, you're never going to appreciate what Google's trying to do here; there will always be some hole in your workflow that keeps you crawling back toward your PC. By design, Chrome OS is at its best when the user has always-on connectivity, which means for the foreseeable future, at least, it's destined to remain something of a niche concept.

The good news is that Google's taken a half-baked, experimental product and done an admirable job of fleshing it out. After spending a few days testing the software, we can confidently say that multitasking is a lot easier when you can view multiple windows onscreen at once, and when you have shortcuts pinned to the bottom of the screen, below the browser. It's also hugely helpful to be able to edit documents offline instead of just view them. Ditto for being able to read books offline, or use Hangouts for video chat instead of the calling feature built into GChat. And it could be even better: It would be nice to add shortcuts to docs, books and other things to the desktop, which currently amounts to a lot of blank, unusable space. More sophisticated photo-editing tools would be welcome, and we'd love to be able to share photos to sites other than Picasa.

Even without these things, version 19 marks a welcome update for existing Chrome OS users, and should suffice for the classrooms that are already issuing Chrome devices to students. Heck, it might even be time for curious early adopters to give Chrome OS a second look. But as Google starts selling more Chrome devices in retail, we have a harder time believing many consumers will be ready to put up with these limitations, especially as tablet apps grow more sophisticated, and as we start to see Transformer-like Win8 devices with touch-friendly apps and physical keyboards. Even Ultrabooks are starting to come down in price, and offer some of the features that have made Chrome OS devices appealing, such as fast resume times. Given how many affordable portable devices there are to choose from, Chrome OS might have the best shot at catching on if companies like Samsung would relax the price of their wares.

Critic reviews

7.2
7 reviews
  • Ease of use
    8.7
  • Speed
    8.0
  • Configurability
    6.3
  • Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.)
    7.6
  • Openness
    5.5

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User reviews

7.2
67 reviews
7.0
Engadget May 29, 2012

Version 19 marks a welcome update for existing Chrome OS users, and should suffice for the classrooms that are already issuing Chrome devices to students. Heck, it might even be time for curious early adopters to give Chrome OS a second look.

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8.0
PC World Jun 1, 2012

If much of what you do happens in the cloud anyway, a Chromebook has a lot of advantages -- it's cheaper, fast, simple to operate and gets great battery life. Google's other OS has grown up a lot in the past year and a half.

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8.0
Computerworld Jun 13, 2012

It's been an interesting two weeks living in the cloud -- enough so that I'm thinking about turning my vacation into a permanent residence.

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8.0
GigaOM May 29, 2012

The ChromeOS and the devices based on the OS have reached a point in maturity where they can be used as an “optional” or second computer. It is also benefitting from the fact that most of us have become used to living and working inside the browser.

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7.0
CNET Oct 18, 2012

Chrome OS struggles with the delineation between apps and Web sites, even though they are fast growing together. Great for students and casual home use, the day is coming when it'll be competitive, but it's not yet a replacement for a more mature OS.

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5.0
CNET May 29, 2012

I applaud Chrome OS and its simplicity, but if you want a taste of it, here's my advice on how to get it for free: download the Chrome browser on your computer, and then install your choice of apps from the Chrome Web Store. There, you're done.

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8.0
TechRadar May 29, 2012

Chrome OS has been hit with some fierce criticism in its short lifetime – some merited and some mean – but this incarnation answers several of its most difficult questions acceptably, if not perfectly.

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4.0
jeo4long jeo4long

The whole notion of Chrome OS is having your world running in one place and one place only, the Chrome browser. This is what Chrome OS all about. The concept is cool and if you like me, you can probably do 50% of your work via your browser. The Chrome OS pretty much cuts and removes all the...

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1.0
Swastyka Swastyka

Google's Chrome OS offers nothing over any other OS as it is simply Google's Chrome browser with some pretty shortcuts attached. All of the services it holds are only accessible while you are online so if you happen to be somewhere without an internet connection or if your connection...

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8.0
rggavgad rggavgad

I searched the web and found instructions on how to load Chrome OS to a 4GB USB dongle. I installed it and used it on my Acer Aspire One netbook. I think it works great. It boots up fast and the wireless works fine. I like the idea of a simple and easy small OS just for browsing and email. I...

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5.0
elkrns elkrns

Yes, we need new concepts. Yes, innovation is important. And that's what makes the whole 5 points I give. I still don't feel in a world where I could be really enjoying this. Maybe when internet is with me all the time and when I get a fast enough connection to feel like having my files...

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1.0
egiblock egiblock

i installed it on VirtualBox and got it going after a couple of minutes to fight the network not found error. once that got going i logged into the machine using my google username and password. It took me to a google chrome browser window. that's it. It's a basic browser window...

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1.0
csiemen csiemen

....it's not prime-time yet. Running it under VMWare Fusion on a MacPro was real slow and pretty much non-useful at this point. You can play with this and see where they are going with it, but it's not there. Not all of my gmail boxes showed up and trying to move around was painfully...

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6.0
UbuntuTerminal UbuntuTerminal

I have used Chrome on an official google chrome book of my friends. I have also tried it on my computer (asus eee pc 1005PE) as Chromium. I have realised, that apart from the 8 second boot, it's speed depends on your computer speed! I would not recommend it, but you can do what you want

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