For the next five MMObility columns, I'll be taking a look at my new Chromebook, a device I have dreamed of owning since it was first announced some time ago. I've decided to name it the "All In One" project, representing the ability of a Chromebook to do almost anything, all within the confines of a browser. Today's Chromebooks are much different beasts than the first CR-48s that were sent out for testing and reviews. The current flagship Chromebook, the Samsung Series 3 XE303C12 model that utilizes an SSD and a processor that you would normally find within a tablet, is well-built, instantly and silently updated, fun to use, and best of all, pretty darn inexpensive at $249.00 US.
Over the course of these columns, I will cover gaming on the device. Yes, gaming, as in MMORPGs. I've been a massive browser fan for a long time, so I already have access to a list of at least 100 different MMOs that run on very basic tech. I will be listing these games over the next few weeks while explaining how they work.
Don't worry, techies; I'm covering the guts and tweaky stuff on my personal blog at Beauhindman.com. This will be a two-pronged attempt at using the Chromebook in real scenarios, something that is often missing from tech reviews. So let's get started!
Be sure to watch the embedded video in this article and visit my personal blog to keep up on the techier side of things. If you have any tips or questions, be sure to put them in the comments section. These new Samsung Chromebooks seem to have been the most popular of all the models. During the holidays (and even now), they are very hard to find and are on backorder on major sites. I lucked out and nabbed one at my local Best Buy, even though the staff insisted that they had none in stock. In fact, that's my first tip of the column: Go to the store directly and ask if ever you can't find a piece of hardware.
Once you get the device home, you'll find a setup process that is as easy as signing in, letting a small update run, and voila! -- you'll be looking at the same bookmarks and Chrome browser settings you are used to. As I said earlier, the new Chromium OS versions are so much more than they used to be. While the OS almost always depends on a constant connection to the internet, the abundance of wireless internet or free hotspots makes a connection almost always guaranteed. If you find yourself without one, there are so many offline options available now. I'll be listing many of my favorite offline options and apps, as well as favorite tools and extensions, over the next few weeks on my personal blog.
But this is a gaming website. Specifically, you're here to read about MMORPGs. I am often met with disbelief or even mockery when I tell players or readers that I play most of my MMOs through the browser. Surely, they say, the quality of experience is nowhere near the level of gaming on the PC? Well, it's a different experience. Gaming on my gaming PC means that I can jam on the highest-end MMOs out there and can jump into high-graphics games like Skyrim or the latest shooters. But sitting at a desk is but one way to game. Tablets are showing just how much convenience can win out over power; even now, the tablets and other portables are capable of truly high-end graphics.
It might seem that MMOs are often left out of the general gaming equation simply because only the largest titles are usually featured on major sites and in gaming magazines. If an indie title is featured in mainstream coverage, it's because it is the indie favorite at the time. There's only so much indie coverage a mainstream site wants to use up, and it usually goes to the title that is creating the most buzz. That's why a lot of games I play and will talk about are independent titles. They take chances and often use more modern coding like HTML5. Independent MMOs are not massive-budget deals, either, so the graphics can be more primitive or will rely on charm more than anything. That means that I can get cute, stylized, or just plain cool MMOs that will run on minimal tech. Also, the indies need the coverage.
So, as I answer in the video above, why am I interested in Chromebooks so much? What's the point of a Chromebook when for just a few hundred dollars more I could have a portable device that will run almost any MMO out there? There are several reasons.
First, cost. Chromebooks have now hit the sweet spot for pricing. At $249 US, the Samsung series 3 is a steal. There is also an Acer C7 that is only $200 US. It doesn't have a solid state drive, but in exchange, it's got a 320gb HD in place of the Samsung's 16gb SSD. The Acer's processor is about the same at performance, and it has a glossy screen instead of a matte screen like the Samsung model. The biggest deal-breaker for me is the noise that is caused by a netbook with a standard HD. The Samsung model is fanless and silent. Also, the Samsung model barely gets warm, much like a tablet.
"The key to gaming successfully on minimal tech is the same as it is on any machine: You must search, search, and search. I currently have 60 or more MMOs that run beautifully on this Chromebook and that offer a lot of different styles of gaming."
MMO gaming on the Samsung is not as difficult as you might think. The fact is that browser-based gaming is a mixed bag even on a gaming rig. Some games, whether they are made in Flash, HTML5, or another engine, can run like crap no matter how powerful your PC is. The key to gaming successfully on minimal tech is the same as it is on any machine: You must search, search, and search. I currently have 60 or more MMOs that run beautifully on this Chromebook and that offer a lot of different styles of gaming. Yes, many of them are graphically basic, but others are no different from many client-based MMOs. Primitive gaming will not be so primitive later on. The even pace of technology will guarantee that today's "inexpensive" Chromebook will cost nothing and be much more powerful one day. Even then, I find myself drawn to minimal tech. Consider it the same as a high-end obsession, but instead of concentrating on massive heat sinks and gigs of RAM, my mania looks at doing a whole lot with very little.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be offering many different games that will be tested on this Samsung Chromebook in the hopes that players who received one over the holidays will have somewhere to go to for a list of games and that people who cannot afford anything more than something as powerful as this Chromebook will find that the internet -- and MMO gaming -- is still very open to them.
Next week, I will start by highlighting Flash-based MMOs. If you have any questions, email me or contact me on Twitter. See you next week!
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.