After a strange experience with Amazon, I picked up my Chromebook Plus yesterday (Canadian Thanksgiving). At first glance, this is an impressive product. Sleek and crisp are the first two adjectives that came to mind as I removed it from the box. The stylish magnesium alloy body, the firm but smoothly opening hinges, the edge switches (power and volume), and the very thin rim around the ever so slightly recessed screen all contribute to a very classy looking machine.
The usual (I am so used to it I no longer notice it) lower case keyboard – the only nit I have so far is that the right hand edge of the keyboard seems ever so slightly truncated, leaving a narrow backspace, and a none-too wide return key. The screen is superbly crisp and bright (2400 x 1600). The pen (thankfully) has a positive “click in, click out” insertion dock, so I won’t lose it as easily as I have several of my seemingly identical Samsung Note pens.
Powering up, the keyboard has decent feel and travel. the trackpad is faithful and smooth – or at least it was until I used it with a wet finger, after which it messed up semi-randomly until it dried out completely around the edges – don’t do that! I was able to rescue myself as soon as I remembered that it also has a touchscreen. The overall interaction is buttery smooth, with a wonderful glidey feel to scrolling and moving around the screen.
I appreciate the 3:2 screen aspect ratio, which looks as good in portrait mode as it is in landscape, indispensable when you flip the keyboard and turn your laptop into a tablet. I intend to use it as a music score – and my initial tests show it as admirably suited.
The second thing I tried (because of the music score requirement) was Android. It ran the play store upgrade, and synched up the apps I own from my phone. The guitar tab app I use worked just fine (as one might expect from an app that is designed for tablet). I haven’t tried any more sophisticated android apps or games, because, well, time. I did have time to notice (in retrospect) that my brain treated it as an Android tablet once the keyboard was out of the way, but I had a hard time remembering the touchscreen in laptop mode.
The next thing I had to try (as I lay in bed late) was to install Crouton. This is the Linux side-by-side ChromeOS install from David Schneider. The machine took about 5 minutes to switch to developer mode (if you are going to try this, do it early, as it wipes your drive). Crouton xfce installed completely (I had to restart it once because I noticed an instruction for the Chromebook Pixel to add touch screen support right after starting it the first time), but it would shutdown the Chromebook every time I tried to run it. A quick google search revealed that the “xiwi” method might work (as opposed to the regular xorg driver). I ran the crouton installer again with the “-t xiwi -u” options (to upgrade the existing install, and make the xiwi driver default). I had to then add an X driver separately to complete the update, and lo – “sudo startxfce4” worked, and not only did I have Ubuntu running, but it would also run inside a Chrome browser tab (which I can “fullscreen” using the dedicated key). Neat. I then installed “build essential” and some of my favourite apps (gimp, Libre Office), and things are off to a flying start before I succumb to the need for sleep.
The USB C charger is neat and much smaller than the power brick that came with my previous Chromebook. I still look for the “up” label on the plug – USB C doesn’t have it and doesn’t need it. Yay.
The speakers are much louder than the ones in my older Chromebook – audible over the hum of an A/C, and good enough when it is sitting on a bed (I used to put my Chromebook on a hardcover book in bed so I could hear it). They sound quite good, and it has a headphone jack for private/quality listening.
So far, everything seems just fine. Samsung and Google have a solid winner here. I find it hard to find fault with a solid product that meets every requirement I have for it, and looks and feels good besides. Given that my original Chromebook became my daily driver for the last 4+ years, I foresee a bright future for the “Plus”.