$200 ChromeBook Runs Ubuntu!
This article was updated on 03/12/2012The C710-2847 (Acer) Chromebook is now available at the Google Play Store for $199 plus shipping.
If you are already convinced, here is the link to our simple guide to installing Ubuntu on the ChromeBook.
Read my review.. after the break…
I have used the Chromebook (modified by installing Ubuntu Linux as a second Operating System) for about four weeks now and here are my PRIMARY impressions of Ubuntu on the device. Other updates will be merged into the original article below:
- Ubuntu is FAST! The ChromeBook (running Ubuntu 12.04) seems faster than my HP laptop (DV6, running Ubuntu 12.10) even though the CPU and memory of the laptop have much better specifications than the ChromeBook. It is not just an impression – calling up the same web site on both devices, the ChromeBook always loads the site first!
- Battery life using Ubuntu appears to be slightly less than when using the Chrome OS. My general use of Ubuntu allows the device to operate around two or three hours before the battery needs recharging. However, I set the scren brightness much higher than it was on the default ChromeOS setup. For general computing, it is difficult to measure battery life since any particular use is different from one time to the next. Work that makes use of the network adapter and/or the hard drive will reduce the battery life.
- Ubuntu’s Chromium Browser (Chrome for Linux) hangs. This is an issue on my laptop as well as my ChromeBook. It does seem that the ChromeBook does it a little more frequently. If I have several sites loaded in different tabs and begin interacting with one (entering data in forms, for example), it may lock up. On a few occasions, I have had to hold the power button until the device powers off. Then, I can restart and Chromium will restore the tabs and the sites will respond properly. I rarely use the Windows version but, when I have used it, it has not hung on me.
There is no Screen Print function (that I have discovered). I don’t use the screen print a lot (maybe a couple times a month) but, when it is needed, there is no substitute. I really miss this function.I have discovered that the <alt><F10> keys will create a screen shot of the current window. Thanks Ubuntu!
I LIKE IT! Having listed only one positive and
three two somewhat negative points about Ubuntu on the ChromeBook, one could assume that it is not worth while – NOT SO! This is definitely a great little device. It functions as a full fledged computer. It has become my “Go To” daily computer. I use my Nexus 7 (tablet) and my HTC One X (phone) for reading email or Facebook. But, if I need to use a keyboard, or for true Internet browsing, or any other real computer tasks, I grab my ChromeBook. And, I have it set up to default to Ubuntu. I don’t recall the last time I booted it to the stock Chrome OS. And, the laptop has been sitting idle for most of the time.
What to like about the Chrome Book and Chrome OS:
Boot Time: The C7 ChromeBook boots in about 25 seconds! If you set up a password, then you will have to add some time for that but it is still very quick. NOTE: when you enable Developer Mode (necessary for Ubuntu), the boot time is extended, due to the warning screen that is displayed for approximately 25 seconds at each boot-up.
Load Time: Practically everything you do on the ChromeBook is done via the web (with the embedded Chrome browser). Whatever Google & Acer have done to “tune” this device, it runs FAST! Sites load almost instantly.
Integration: One of the very best things about the Google ecosystem is the close integration of all the various components. You can observe this from any computer using the Chrome browser. You are simultaneously logged into all the components (click here to check the Google products page to see all that they offer). You can seamlessly move between these products.
Synchronization: All your data, once saved to the “Google Drive” (cloud storage for all kinds of documents), or to PicasaWeb (for photos), or to YouTube (for videos), or to GMail, etc., is synchronized across all your devices. This is automatic for Android devices but is also easy to do via the appropriate apps on iOS, or via the standard web interfaces for PC, Mac, or Linux. What this means is that you can access (stream or download) any of the data with any device. For GMail, when you read an email on your phone, it will show up as “read” on all other devices. If you delete an email on from your tablet, it will be in the “trash” on all other devices.
Size and weight: The C7 (folded) is just slightly larger than a 10″ tablet. As a matter of a fact, I use the same sleeve that I used on my 10″ G-Tablet. I have to stretch it a bit before zipping it up but it fits. It is a bit thicker than the G-Tablet and weighs a little more. It is very convenient to throw into a briefcase, or the side of a small overnighter, or to just carry underhand. (More technical specifications at the end of this article.)
Keyboard: Although the C7 keyboard is slightly smaller than a full-sized keyboard, it works well for a touch-typist, such as myself. I miss on a few keys that are miss-placed but overall, it is much better than the on-screen keyboards of most touch devices – and CERTAINLY better than the miniature slide out keyboards on some phones. The keys have a decent separation and have some resistance and “feel” to them. After several weeks of use, I still like the keyboard.
What is NOT to like on the C7?
Touch Pad. Although I dislike ALL touchpads (see my article here), this one may be the worst of all. It does not have the mouse keys – just a large touch area. You are supposed to use a single finger to move around, then tap to click. To simulate a right-click, you place two fingers on the pad and click with one of them. (I find this very difficult to do.) Scrolling is done by dragging with two fingers on the pad. This will work with both horizontal and vertical scrolling. What I found impossible was to drag and drop using the touch pad. Fortunately, the C7 supports a USB keyboard and/or mouse. I ALWAYS have a small USB adapter plugged in so that I can use my Logitech wireless mouse (and optionally, the wireless keyboard that works with it).
I predict that in the next two years, as much as 90% of all (common user) computing will be done via touch based devices and that their associated data will be stored on the cloud. This device does not utilize “touch” but the C7 is the epitome of web based computing.
Given that this device is basically “web only” it is not for everyone. However, if you (like me) do practically all of your work online and store everything on the “cloud,” then the C7 is certainly worth considering.
UPDATE: By installing Ubuntu, the ChromeBook is transformed into a full fledged computer of amazing ability. I would recommend it to anyone.
Based only on the C7’s designed functions, the $200 price point is about right. It would provide good value and appears to be of pretty solid construction. As a web-only device, I would rate it 7/10.
However, since the C7 is already running an embedded version of Linux, it is no big surprise that users can adapt it to run a full version of Ubuntu Linux! Google provides some of the instructions and there is no need for any physical changes to the device, therefore, I doubt that loading Ubuntu will void the warranty (I leave that question to the lawyers.) Here is the link to our simple guide to installing Ubuntu on the ChromeBook.
As a $200 laptop running a fully functional copy of Ubuntu Linux and it can dual boot as a nice web appliance, the C7 moves from an “also ran” to a “WOW!” In that case, I rate it at 10.5/10 – especially for VALUE. It is amazing that you get a great laptop for such a small investment.
[important]Will you buy a Chromebook? Leave a comment. Tell us which version you plan to buy (or already have); whether you will (or have already) load Ubuntu on it; and what do you think of the resulting computer? Would you recommend it to others?[/important]
For instructions on how to load Ubuntu onto the C7 Chrombook, visit the next article… HowTo: Ubuntu on ChromeBook.
Here is a video of the device running Ubuntu:
Tech Specs of the Acer C7 ChromeBook:
[important]Note1: The website Toms Hardware states that Acer has a newer version of the C7 that will be released soon. It has some improved features and a $100 price increase (up to $299). The biggest difference seems to be… “local storage capacity, increased from 320 GB to 500 GB (5400 RPM HDD)… 2 GB of DDR3 SDRAM has been increased to 4 GB. The Chromebook’s battery has also doubled in capacity, moving up from a 2,500 mAh li-ion pack promising 3.5 hours of runtime to a 6-cell 5,000 mAh li-ion pack with an estimated 6 hours runtime.”[/important]