Google CR-48 netbook (preview)

Google CR-48 Chrome review: Google's prototype Chrome OS computer delivers little more than the company's browser in a box.

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Google CR-48
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Pros

  • Google CR-48's minimalism isn't necessarily a bad thing

Cons

  • You're at the mercy of your 3G provider

Bottom Line

Try this: shut down every application on your PC except for Google Chrome. Maximise the Chrome window. Voila! You're now looking at an amazing facsimile of Chrome OS. Add a few apps from the Chrome App Store and the resemblance will be exact.

Would you buy this?

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    TBA (AUD)

Working on the Google CR-48 can feel like walking a tightrope without a net (pardon the pun). If you're not connected to the internet on the Google CR-48 laptop, you're dead in the water.

Google CR-48: Sticking to the web

I wrote this article in Google Docs on the Google CR-48 laptop during my commute. I should have been fine, because I had a Verizon Mi-Fi card for connectivity (our Google CR-48 arrived without a SIM card, so I couldn't test out the built-in 3G connection). But halfway through my commute, Google Chrome reported that it couldn't reach Google Docs. On any other laptop, this would be no problem. I'd copy my existing text into Word and continue working there. But on the CR-48, my options were severely limited. I pasted my changes into an Evernote note instead, and hoped that I wouldn't lose my connection to that service.

Of course, there are some real advantages to the Chrome OS's minimal approach. The Google CR-48 takes only about 15 seconds to go from off to the login screen. And once you login, you're ready to work in only a few seconds more. Unlike Windows or Mac systems that have to load multiple pieces of software once you login, a Chrome OS system has only one program to load: the Chrome browser.

And I'd hope that the Google CR-48 would be admirably reliable - after all, there's just not much to go wrong.

Google_CR-48_350

Google CR-48: The hardware

Since Google has no plans to sell the Google CR-48, the hardware isn't really the point here. But if you do end up getting one, there will be some quirks to deal with. Most famously, the laptop has no Caps Lock key. Instead, there's a dedicated button for running a web search. All the button really does, though, is open a new tab in Chrome. By design, if you open a tab in the Chrome browser, your cursor ends up in the address box, which doubles as a search box. So you can dig into the Google CR-48's settings, restore the Caps Lock key and accomplish the same thing as the search key by clicking Ctrl, T.

The top row of the Google CR-48's keyboard has buttons dedicated to web browsing - forward and back arrows for going between pages, a key to reload a page and a helpful button for toggling full-screen view on and off. Another button is supposed to jump you from one browser tab to another. On my system, though, it only made the right edge of the window shudder in to the left for an instant, then pop back out.

The Google CR-48 has a VGA port, USB port and an SD card slot. The only function of the USB port, though, seems to be to allow you to charge devices. Try as I might, I couldn't access any files on a USB drive I put in the port. I could access files on an SD card, but only through the strange dance of going to a site like Picnik with a file upload function so that I could see the files in the popup box.

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