A week with Chromebook

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I’ve been a Mac user for many years, in fact, for the last decade, but over the last couple of months, I’ve found myself moving across more to what some call ‘the dark side’. I’ve begun the transition from Apple to Google and my most recent purchase was the Asus Flip C434 Chromebook.

Firstly, I should explain my reason for slowly departing Apple and why it will still play a role in some elements of my work.

Back in October 2019, I was given the opportunity to ‘trial’ a Google Pixel 3XL. That trial soon turned into ‘you’re having this phone’, so my mindset is to now go big or go home. It’s not been the easiest of transitions and in parts, it’s a huge learning experience, but because I’m a fan of tech, it’s been equally as fun and exciting as it has difficult on occasion. 

So that’s the background, now let’s delve into how my week with a Chromebook has gone. If you’ve got one for Christmas, or you’re considering the switch, you might find the following section handy!

Setup

As quick as anything. Literally ‘plug and play’. Take it out of the box, plug it in, and away you go. Luckily I already have a Google account, so this was a breeze. Literally, around two minutes after taking it out of the box, it was pretty much set up.

Tip: You do need to ensure it’s connected to a power source when you first turn it on. I think this is a security feature by Google. That, and it begins its battery charge.

Chrome OS

Chrome OS is different to the OS counterparts of Apple and Windows. It’s pretty much web-based apps, with the ability to work offline and send your revised documents or data to the cloud once you’re connected again. Chrome OS 79 is the current release at the time of writing this blog and, it seems sturdy enough. There are heaps of keyboard shortcuts and finger gestures for the trackpad, I’ve found my way around Chrome OS relatively easy. It’s also got built in virus protection, is smooth running and super fast.

Battery life

In the week I’ve had this Chromebook, I’ve only had to charge it up once and that was a quick charge of about half an hour. The battery genuinely does last 10 hours, occasionally more. I don’t play games on my devices though (boring, I know), so I suspect if you’re playing games, that 10 hours might be pushing it a bit, but for everyday use, from checking emails to writing documents, listening to Spotify and watching funny cats on YouTube for hours on end, this does the job well.

What about the apps? No Photoshop?

You’ll find the Google Playstore on every Chromebook you purchase, where you can buy apps that install straight to your device. Now, this is the Google Playstore, which is predominantly found on Android mobile phones, so not all apps will be optimized for the big screen.  

In fact, the only apps I’ve got right now that are optimised for the big screen are Google’s own apps. Sadly, Spotify, Messenger and Twitter aren’t optimised for Chromebook yet and simply take you to their small landscape mobile window, or blow up their UI to become large, ugly and annoying when viewed on Chrome OS. Which is a shame, but I hope developers and Google will rectify this in 2020 and more Chrome OS specific apps will be available, after all, it’s a fastly growing OS. 

There’s no running the Adobe Creative Cloud on Chrome OS. But I have found a free web-based alternative in Photopea. That’s pretty decent. For office, I use Google Docs, Slides and Sheets. Admittedly, some of the formatting doesn’t look quite right on sheets when someone sends you an MS Excel spreadsheet, but that’s a small inconvenience for me.  

Day-to-day, what has it been like to use?

I’ve used my Chromebook solidly for the last week as my main computer (outside of work) and have to say it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s been seamless to work on documents on my Chromebook and instantly have them appear on my work machine (running Windows 10) instantly. Seamless transitions between the two, which is down to it all being available on the web.

I can have multiple tabs open on my browser with no issues; listen to music on Spotify; watch videos on YouTube and generally do everything I did on my Macbook Pro at a fraction of the cost of what Apple offer. Admittedly, as mentioned above, there’s no way of getting full versions of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite on Chromebook, but given I do less design and creative work these days, this isn’t a problem for me. If you’re somebody who’s creative and needs the Adobe suite of packages, then perhaps a Chromebook isn’t for you.

The Asus Flip C434

There are hundreds of Chromebooks out there on the market, ranging from £150 up to £1,000, including Google’s own brand of devices including the PIxelbook, Pixel Slate and the soon-to-be-released Pixelbook Go. 

I’ve had my eye on Chromebooks since I made the transition from Apple to Google in October and the Asus Flip C434 was always the one I warmed too when window shopping in my local John Lewis.

The build quality is excellent. The outer casing is made of aluminum which makes it easy to keep clean of grubby finger marks and whilst the inside element surrounding the keyboard and trackpad may be plastic, it doesn’t detract from the softness of the keys on the keyboard. These keys are the quietest keys I’ve typed with and are smooth to the touch. 

The keyboard itself does take a little getting used too though. There’s no caps lock (but there is that handy shortcut of holding down shift), in its place is a search bar option. I often press this by mistake, but the more I use the machine, the less I’m sure that’ll stop happening. The backlit keys also help at night.

The trackpad is smooth to the touch and has a decent click. For me, it’s a reasonable size.

There are some very handy ports on the machine too. There’s USB-C ports, USB-A ports, the option to add some SD card storage and a headphone jack port. All in all, if I wanted to hook this machine up to another monitor, add some additional storage or bring out an old external HD, this will handle it, no problem.

The flip function of the screen is smooth. I’ve used it in what I’ve called ‘entertainment tent’ mode as well as tablet mode. The touch screen also works when it’s in laptop mode, which I’m beginning to find very handy for some functions like opening apps on my taskbar and other odds and ends. 

Overall, I’d highly recommend.

This is a smooth running machine and perfect for what I need it for on a daily basis. This is now my daily computer, the one I’ll take around with me and the one I’m writing this post on right now. It’s got the functionality I need for a laptop; a nice 14inch screen for entertainment in tent mode and whilst it might be a bit big for a tablet, that does come in handy on ocassions.

I must stress, I’ve not been paid by Google or Asus to write this post. I’m just writing it as a lover of technology and an honest users review of something you may or may not with to purchase. Though, if Google do want to send me something, you’d be more than welcome!

As for my Macbook, that’ll mainly be used by my other half and I’ll only use it for the odd bits of design work I do, which I can’t quite do on this Chromebook or indeed Chrome OS.

The transition from Apple to Google continues.

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