Acer was one of the first companies to launch a laptop running Google’s Chrome operating system, and the company has updated its Chrome OS laptops a number of times over the past few years. This year’s lineup includes models with bigger screens, ARM and Intel Celeron and Bay Trail processors, and Acer’s most powerful Chromebook to date.

The company now offers an Acer C720 Chromebook model featuring an Intel Core i3 Haswell processor for $350.

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For the most part the Acer C720 Chromebook with Core i3 looks and feels exactly like the cheaper models which feature Intel Celeron 2955U Haswell processors. I reviewed the Acer C720p with a Celeron chip and a touchscreen display earlier this year, and it was one of the best Chromebooks I’d tested so far.

Acer loaned me a new C720 with Core i3 to test, and honestly it’s nearly identical to the Celeron version. They have the same case design, similar displays, and for most day-to-day tasks you’d be hard pressed to notice any difference in performance.

Sure, the model with the Core i3 processor scores a little better in benchmarks, but web pages load quickly on both laptops, the systems both resume from sleep almost as soon as you can lift the lid, and web apps and internet video work well on either system. But specs junkies will note that from time to time tasks that seemed a bit slow on the Celeron model might be a bit quicker on the Core i3 model… and that might help justify the extra cost.

You can buy an Acer C720 Chromebook with a Celeron chip for as little as $199, while the Core i3 models sell for $350.

For most people. I’d recommend saving some money by picking up the cheaper version. But there are certainly a few situations where the Core i3 model might be a better option.  For example, if you want to load Ubuntu or another operating system on the Chromebook, the extra processing power could come in handy.

Overview

The Acer C720 Chromebook is basically a cheap, portable notebook that runs Google’s browser-based Chrome operating system. Since it’s designed to run web apps it doesn’t need much local storage… and it doesn’t have much.

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The system features 32GB of solid state storage, which is about twice as much as you get on some Chromebooks. But it’s a small fraction of the storage space you’d get with most Windows laptops. However it should be more than enough space to install a handful of Chrome web apps which are designed to function offline and you have some space to store some music, movies, documents, or other files as well.

When you buy an Acer C720 (or most other Chromebooks), you also get 100GB of free online storage with Google Drive for 2 years.

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If you need more storage space for files there’s an SD card slot as well as two USB ports. One is a USB 3.0 port while the other is a USB 2.0 port.

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The notebook has an 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel matte TFT display, 2GB of RAM, and an Intel Core i3-4005U dual-core processor with Intel HD 4400 graphics. It features 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, a 3950mAH battery, HDMI output, a headset jack, and a webcam and microphone.

There’s also a model with 4GB of RAM which sell for a little more money.

What you won’t find are premium features such as high-resolution displays with wide viewing angles, backlit keyboards, or touchscreen.

While this isn’t the first Chromebook to feature an Intel Core series processor, it’s certainly the cheapest. Google launched the Chromebook Pixel with a Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor, a 12.85 inch, 2560 x 1700 pixel touchscreen display, and premium build quality (and pricing) in early 2013. But that was a niche product designed to show that Chromebook didn’t have to be synonymous with “cheap.” It sold for well over $1000.

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The Acer C720 looks more like a typical Chromebook. It appeals to some because it’s a small, easy-to-use laptop that’s virtually immune to viruses and bloatware that could slow down your system thanks to the way apps are run in a sandboxed mode and most content isn’t stored locally. But a big part of what makes Chromebooks attractive is certainly their price points: most Chrome OS laptops sell for between $200 and $400.

While the Acer C720 is at the upper end of that range, it’s still a lot cheaper than most Windows notebooks with Core i3 Haswell processors.

Design

The Acer C720 with a Core i3 processor is part of the same family as the Acer C720 with Haswell… and it looks virtually identical. In fact, it looks a lot like last year’s Acer C7 Chromebook and any number of cheap 11.6 inch Windows notebooks Acer offers.

What I’m saying is, Acer’s been making portable notebooks for a few years, and for the most part the company knows what it’s doing. The Acer C720 Chromebook with Core i3 measures just 0.8 inches thick and weighs less than 2.8 pounds.

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It’s compact enough to throw in a bag and carry with you — even if you’re not sure you’ll need a laptop wherever you’re going. That’s kind of what separates a good portable notebook from a desktop replacement for me. The fact that this model also gets over 7 hours of battery life also helps, since it means you can usually leave the charging cable at home.

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There’s no mistaking the Acer C720 for a premium notebook though. It has a full-sized QWERTY keyboard, but there’s a bit of flex in the center. The case is made of plastic. And the display has limited viewing angles.

Positioned correctly, the screen is adequate for most daily tasks. But tilt the display back too far or bring it too far forward and colors start to look washed out. Keep going and you’ll find yourself looking at what look like photo negatives.

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The screen looks better when viewed from the left or right sides, so you might be able to sit a few people on a couch and watch videos together… as long as you’re all the same height.

HDMI, audio, and a USB 3.0 jack are located on the left side, along with a port for the power adapter. On the right side you’ll find a USB 2.0 port, SD card reader, and a locking port.

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The battery isn’t user replaceable, and while the solid state storage is upgradable, the RAM is not… and you’ll potentially void your warranty if you crack open the case to try any repairs or upgrades.

There’s a sticker covering one of the screws that holds the bottom panel in place that warns your warranty will be void if the seal is broken.

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Like most Chrome OS laptops, the Acer C720 has a full-sized keyboard with dedicated keys for some Chrome features. For example there’s a search icon where you’d normally find a Caps Lock key (although you can change it to a Caps Lock key if you really want). There are also page refresh, full-screen window, and arrow keys above the number keys on the keyboard.

I really wish Chromebooks had a few more keys. There’s no Page Up, Page Down, Home or End buttons. You can still use those functions, but you’ll have to memorize a list of shortcuts including Alt+up for Page Up, Alt+down for Page Down, Ctrl+Alt+up for Home, and Ctrl+Alt+down for End. There’s also no Del button, but you can hit Alt+backspace to delete text.

Performance

Chrome OS is a relatively light-weight operating system that’s designed to run on a range of hardware including computers with ARM or Intel chips. But that doesn’t mean that it runs equally well on a device with a Samsung Exynos 5250 or Intel Celeron Bay Trail chip as it does on a machine with an Intel Core i3 processor.

In terms of benchmarks that test raw CPU and graphics performance, the Acer C720 Chromebook withe Core i3 is faster than just about any other laptop that ships with Google’s Chrome OS software at the moment. But in terms of day-to-day use, it feels a lot like using cheaper models with Intel Celeron 2955U Haswell chips. That’s not to say that the Core i3 model is slow… it’s just that the Celeron models are fast enough to handle almost anything you can throw at them.

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That said, there are other models that do feel a bit more sluggish. There are a growing number of Chromebooks with Intel Celeron Bay Trail processors, including the Asus C200 Chromebook I reviewed a few months ago, as well as models with ARM-based chips from Samsung and NVIDIA. While those systems aren’t exactly painfully slow, they definitely don’t load web apps or other content quite as quickly as models with Haswell chips.

The SunSpider, PeaceKeeper, and Google Octane benchmarks look at a system’s JavaScript and HTML5 performance. In every test the Acer C720 with Core i3 came out ahead of any Chromebooks I’ve tested with Celeron, Bay Trail, or ARM-based chips.

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The closest competition in these benchmark results comes from the Google Chromebook Pixel, which has an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor. It’s an older chip than the Core i3 Haswell in the Acer C720, and it comes out ahead in some tests and behind in others… but it’s also worth noting that I tested the Chromebook Pixel a year and a half ago. While the processor hasn’t changed since then, Chrome OS has and it’s possible that the scores in these charts don’t reflect how the Chromebook Pixel would score if I ran the tests again today.

These benchmarks are handy if you’re looking for concrete numbers to compare. But I still feel like the Celeron model feels just about as fast as the Core i3 version in most tasks.

The magic of a Chromebook is that everything feels just about instant when you’re using a model with a reasonably fast processor on a reasonably fast internet connection. Open the lid and the Chromebook springs to life. Open a web page to read the news, watch a video, or even edit a photo and everything loads immediately.

Acer’s C720 Chromebook with Core i3 lives up to that promise. Everything works exactly the way it should. My demo unit never felt slow. It downloaded software updates automatically and kept up to date during the weeks that I tested it. And it had no problem streaming HD video from the internet (expect when I was trying to do that at a coffee shop with a weak WiFi signal — but that wasn’t the Chromebook’s fault).

There are some things I still find it difficult to do with a Chromebook. There’s an image editor built into the file manager, but it’s not particularly full-featured and doesn’t let you do some things as simple as resizing photos. There’s also no video editing software.

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You can sort of get around both of those issues by using web-based tools or apps available from the Chrome Web Store, but it feels silly to upload a video to the internet so that you can edit it and download it again. Another solution is to sidestep Chrome OS altogether… but installing Ubuntu or another operating system on the Chromebook. This lets you use desktop apps such as GIMP, Lightworks, or LibreOffice instead of web-based apps such as Pixlr, YouTube, or Google Docs to edit photos, videos, and documents.

Google also recently started bringing Android apps to Chrome OS. Right now only a handful of apps are officially supported, but we could see more in the future. If you’re adventurous you can even try porting a few Android apps yourself.

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For now I took the language-learning app Duolingo for a spin. For the most part it worked perfectly, loading in a small browser window and acting exactly like the smartphone version of the app. It quizzed me on written and spoken Spanish and provided a bit of encouragement to keep up with my lessons after I finished a session.

While the Acer C720 with Core i3 has a faster processor than just about any other Chromebook, the notebook still offers reasonably long battery life.

Acer says the notebook should run for up to 8.5 hours on a charge. In my tests, 7 hours of mixed use including some video playback, a lot of web surfing, and some time spent writing blog posts (including this review) seems more realistic.

That’s pretty close to the 7.5 hours of run time I saw with the Acer C720 Chromebook with an Intel Celeron 2955U processor and also pretty close to all-day battery life… if you take an hour-long lunch break.

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If you do need more than 7 hours of battery life the power adapter isn’t quite as bulky as an old-school notebook power brick, but it’s also not as compact as a smartphone charger.

For folks who care more about battery life than bleeding-edge speed, the Asus C200 Chromebook with a Bay Trail processor offers up to 12 hours of battery life, which ain’t bad for a $250 laptop. But it’s also a slower laptop.

Chromebooks for advanced users

Alright, so you can use a Chromebook to surf the web, check Facebook, edit documents using online tools, or play online games. But what if you really want to push the limits?

There’s an HDMI port on the side of the laptop. Plug in an external display and you can mirror or extend your display. Or you can turn off your screen and just use an external display.

Worried that this system might not be able to power two displays? I hooked up a 1080p monitor and had no problems playing two full HD videos at once, with one playing on the Chromebook’s 1366 x 768 pixel screen and another on a 1080p monitor.

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What if you need to use apps when you don’t have an internet connection? While Chrome OS is designed to work with web-based apps, there are a growing number of those apps which work without an internet connection. You can search for Offline Apps in the Chrome Web Store, where you’ll find games including Angry Birds, and Solitaire, and apps including WeatherBug, Kindle Cloud Reader, and Any.do.

Still not good enough? You can also install Ubuntu or another Linux-based operating system.

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To do that you’ll need to enable developer mode by pressing and holding the Esc and Refresh keys and then tapping the power button. Your system will reboot and show a scary recovery screen. Press Ctrl+D to proceed and then confirm that you want to switch to dev mode.

This will wipe all of your data and reboot your device.

Once that’s done, you can enable USB boot or legacy boot modes if you want to load an operating system from an external device.

I prefer to use the Crouton script to install Ubuntu alongside Chrome OS and run it in a chroot environment. This allows Ubuntu to use the same Linux kernel as Chrome OS and it saves you the trouble of configuring WiFi and other settings.

Once Ubuntu is installed with the Crouton script, you can switch from Chrome OS to Ubuntu by hitting Ctrl+Alt+T to open a terminal window, typing “shell” and pressing return to enter a command shell, and then typing “sudo startxfce4” to get started. That last command differs depending on the desktop environment you choose. Since I’m running Ubuntu 14.04 with LXDE on my system, I need to type “sudo startlxde.”

Once Ubuntu is running, you can press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Back or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Forward to switch between Chrome OS and Ubuntu. Both operating systems run simultaneously, but you can only see one on the screen at a time.

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With Ubuntu installed, I was able to load a number of Linux apps including the VLC media player, GIMP image editor, Abiword word processor, and even the Firefox web browser. They all work exactly as you’d expect.

You can delete a chroot to effectively uninstall the operating system you installed, or you can exit dev mode to wipe all data from your device again and return it to a normal Chromebook.

Verdict

The Acer C720 Chromebook with Core i3 is one of the most powerful Chromebooks to date, but it’s not a perfect laptop. The limited screen viewing angles can be frustrating, and some folks would also probably prefer a model with a larger, or higher-resolution display.

It’s easier to overlook the Chromebook’s limitations when the price is right: the Acer C720 with an Intel Celeron processor can be yours for as little as $200. This more expensive model doesn’t really offer much more in terms of performance or other features to justify the higher price tag… unless you don’t plan to use it solely as a Chromebook.

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At $350, the Acer C720 is actually reasonably affordable as a Linux laptop with 32GB of solid-state storage and a Core i3 processor. Spend a little extra and you can get a version with 4GB of RAM instead of 2GB. Void the warranty, and you can also add extra storage.

For folks looking for a cheap, easy-to-use laptop that doesn’t need to run Microsoft Office or other Windows or OS X-specific apps, I’d probably recommend the cheaper Acer C720 with a Celeron chip. But for Linux users or Chrome OS power users (there must be a few out there), it’s nice to have the option of a more powerful model.

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42 replies on “Acer C720 Chromebook with Core i3 review”

  1. You mentioned that acer loaned you a new c720p…are they going to release a c720p i3 version?

  2. Wait, Acer loaned you a C720p? With an i3? I thought the -p meant it had a touchscreen…

  3. Will a full sized sdcard stick out substantially like in the original C720? Essentially makes the slot useless if an sdcard cannot be left permanently inside.

  4. Since it is an intel chipset, is it not possible to mount windows? Or maybe windows wont mount on a system with a small flash based hard-drive? Just wondering.

    1. The FW/BIOS usually prevents it for Chromebooks… Much easier to boot a GNU/Linux distro as Chrome is already running on top of one…

  5. My son needs at minimum an i3 class CPU to run Minecraft. ChromeOS needs the killer-apps if they want people to buy higher performance hardware. With Microsoft buying-up the killer-app companies (Skype, Mojang) that will hurt ChromeOS.

    1. Not impressed by Skype, there are better and cheaper alternative. Not everyone has 3G or 4G, and calling to Vietnam cost me 35 cents vs 7 cents per minute sing Hangout call. Viber, Hangouts are much better alternative.

      1. Rates vary, none can claim to be the cheapest for every country… but regardless which you choose, app to app is usually free instead of trying to make PC to phone calls…

        1. My son who was a true Windows believer just replaced a pretty powerful loptop by an Acer C720. I never advised him to swap.He is using the CB for productivity and his laptop for gaming. I believe you totally missed the point regarding productivity.Tell me what you can do with Windows that you believe CB can’t do. I can do everything with my CB even for coding natively. I will do it differently if I can’t do it natively.
          Regarding Android applications, i am using Evernote and it is rather fast on CB.
          Regarding cloud storage i am using jolicloud waiting for CB to support natively Dropbox ( it is coming) in addition to Google Drive.
          Regarding productivity and collaboration, CB is the best device I have ever used.

          1. Sorry but it’s a fact that there are literally no professional productivity apps on either Chrome or Android…

            So whatever productivity your son is doing is not on a professional level…

            There’s no Maya, there’s no Adobe Photoshop, there’s no Quark Xpress, there’s no pro Audio or Video editing apps, etc… Nor are there any equivalents that are anywhere close to what those Pro apps provide…

            For professional level productivity, people have little choice but to choose between Windows and OSX…

            Sure, you can cover all the basics with almost any alternative but I specifically addressed productivity that professional work requires…

          2. Not evey onr need Photoshop. I don’t and I am using Pixlr which is not basic at all.
            Not every one need to run Natively Pro video applications since CB are not powerful enough. However I believe new CB will come with pretty powerful graphic processors and more modern Pro hybrid applications will come ( cloud + native) like Chrome package applications.

            There are a lot of things I can’t do with a laptop alone. As for instance, I can’t do big data ( analytics) with any traditional laptop alone. My laptop is used just to interact with more powerful back end or cloud computing. For that a CB is more than sufficient. That’s come Cloud computing and the CB is the perfect device for collaboration and productivity: fast, secure, instantly ready and powerful enough.

            Not to mention, new enterprise applications are all browser based. CB for modern applications and remote desktop( citrix, vmware, etc.) for legacy applications are likely he future when enterprises are fed up to spend multi millions and months if not years to migrate Windows from one version to another. Every migration is a night mare.

          3. For everyone who doesn’t need Photoshop, when they specifically want to do photo editing, then you got someone who doesn’t need to be productive!

            Gimp, even Photoshop Touch, etc are for basic usages that only covers the needs of non-professionals…

            Web based apps in general are pretty basic and rely on maintaining a connection, a few can work off-line but mainly if they’re also apps…

            While again, most Android apps are made for phones… even for tablet usage you aren’t going to have access to 100% of all apps that are properly optimized for tablet usage… Let alone that can still work well without a touch screen as most would on a Chromebook…. At least until touch screens become standard…

            There are alternatives, like professional services that allow remote access to Pro apps but you are essentially just running the pro app on a remote desktop and not really being productive on the device itself…

            Even the choices of games are pretty limited for both Chrome and Android and combining them won’t change this as they were never geared toward professional users with high end system needs…

            So, basically, don’t confuse being adequate for average use with it being a good replacement for everyone…

            And no, most business don’t migrate until they have to… it has been that way for decades now… and there’s the matter of reliability as not all business can afford outages or leave themselves open to denial of service attacks, etc that putting their resources online 24/7 leaves them open to…

            Really, read the news about how often we see business get hacked already and that it has been increasing in regularity… Neither the bandwidth or the security is at where it needs to be to adequately prevent such issues and pushing it now will only make these problems more glaring…

            Besides, the pricing of Citrix and other services is still too steep for the average user that can’t have most of their costs handled by the company they work for…

            Leaving these devices still primarily in the fun & hobby range for most people…

            Sure, a few who have small needs can get enough for their needs but anyone needing anything really professional will have to look elsewhere…

          4. Pixlr is pretty powerful and you can do a lot. However have you ever heard about rollApp for ChromeOs, you can run Gimp and Open office. There are other alternative as well.
            Evernote and Vine for Android looks pretty nice on CB. More applications like that will come for sure.

          5. Compared to Photoshop, no… Pixlr isn’t pretty powerful… and it’s far less reliable as you can lose everything you’re working on if you lose your connection or the browser crashes… Though, it’s a nice alternative if you need something in a pinch but no plug-ins, etc. means it has far less potential and a lot more need to do things manually at every step… Never mind the lack of related apps like Light Room, Illustrator, and even Premiere as you can use Photoshop for some video work as well…

            And yes, you can even make a Chromebook run full GNU/Linux… partly because that’s what Chrome is running on to begin with on a Chromebook…

            The Office programs are pretty much the closest you’d get to professional quality but that’s because Office suites don’t need to be particularly powerful and can run on even low end hardware…

          6. You can run the most intensive graphical Windows or other applications on a Chromebook with the Tegra K1 ship. (see above). I don’t know about Pixlr, but you generally won’t lose data on a web app – you will on a native Windows app if your program crashes before you save it, as it autosaves on the cloud server. It is impossible to lose more than 3 seconds of work when you edit a document using Google Docs for example. Even if someone runs over your Chromebook with a steam roller or a tactical nuclear attack on the western half of the US takes place while you are typing. No problem, just log into another Chromebook, and carry on typing from where you left off.

          7. Sure you’ll lost data… it happens all the time and for Professionals, they can’t really afford to have it happen even occasionally!

            And the cloud only saves it if you have an account for it to save to… and 3 seconds is more than enough for a fast typist to lose most of a page or even more if they were cutting and pasting and waited longer than three seconds to paste… So, don’t say impossible… nothing is foolproof and every solution has its downside…

            Besides, Chromebooks aren’t immune from crashing… Especially, now that they’re moving more and more to running native apps…

            And no, the Tegra K1 is better than most integrated graphics but nowhere near better discrete graphic cards and there are apps that push the limits of even high end graphic rigs…

            Never mind some professional programs also need a lot of processing power and anything that needs a Core i7 or better is still many multiple of times beyond any mobile SoC…

            The present K1 can’t even run 64bit yet as the 64bit version hasn’t come out yet and will only be a dual core as well… Versus quad core laptops many professionals use these days… Really, no contest…

            Sure, basic computing has come a long way since the early netbook days but there’s still a big gap between general consumer and Pro level…

          8. First of all, Pro applications can’t run on low cost Windows laptop that are compared to Chromebook. On same hardware, CB outperform Windows.

            Second and unsurprisingly I never lost a single page using Google Drive, as soon as you update, changes are immediately saved. Depending on your network, it usually takes much less than 1 sec. Cloud applications are integrated with Cloud storage and you can choose your Cloud storage provider.

            Third, no one pretend that every professional should replace traditional laptop by Chromebook. However with Cloud computing, some professional can work and collaborate much better than what they actually do with their traditional Windows PC. Windows are not essential for these professionals at all.. Some Chromeboxes are powered by i7..

          9. Yes, many Pro applications can’t run on low cost laptops of any OS but they don’t generally make high end systems for anything but Windows and OSX… So, there’s been no market for Pro applications and thus none have been offered for those other OS that have been primarily targeted for low end hardware…

            Going to a Core i3 here still doesn’t emphasis how big the difference still is as this uses a U-Series chip that’s lower powered than the higher end chips you see in the systems made for professional usages…

            Google did try to help change this with the high powered Pixel Chromebook but without a good enough market and consumer interest the developers never really exploited that option and they’ve all but given up on it now… Even the Chromeboxes are more novelty than changing anything in the Chrome market… Especially, when most just boot something else besides Chrome on those…

            While Android doesn’t even have a proper desktop mode and again, most of the apps available for Android were primarily meant for phone usage and you can’t really do much with apps meant to be used on a phone…

            So, even combining the Android and Chrome apps ecosystem won’t immediately change anything except maybe boost Chromebook sales…

            GNU/Linux like Ubuntu has had the best potential for being a good alternative but the problem is partly the paradigm of how most developers treat GNU/Linux in insisting on not having legacy support and often having OS designs that can conflict with other distros and thus make it harder to have a unified front that would help spread the OS and let it appeal to the average consumer… Who are mostly very technically limited…

            Problems like graphic drivers constantly breaking, etc plague them because they’re constantly changing things… So users would run into issues they wouldn’t on a Windows or OSX system… Like suddenly finding that they can’t watch Amazon Instant Video because they removed an old dependency that the developers felt was outdated and thus removed from even the repository for the newer versions of the distro…

            So users have to do their own support and figure out ways to put it back if they want to continue using such online services…

            The main reasons why Android and Chrome have done so well is because the user usually doesn’t have to do their own tech support… but again, those are limited OS options compared to GNU/Linux that can give you the full desktop experience and don’t have to worry about being mobile and power efficient, which is another reason higher end apps haven’t been made for Android or Chrome…

            So, yeah, lots of things preventing progress and why it’s best to not expect too much… at least for a few more years… as we’ll see what happens as the technology improves…

          10. You seem to know Windows desktop computers, but not about enterprise computing or cloud computing!

            Yes, losing data happens all the time with a Windows desktop, and if Chromebooks behaved like Windows desktops, they would too. Let me re-iterate so you can actually grasp what I am saying: you are typing on a Chromebook using Google Docs to edit a document, and you yank out your WiFi connectivity in mid sentence just before a bus flattens your Chromebook. How do you recover from that? You just log onto another Chromebook using your Google account, and carry on typing where you left off. You will only ever lose the last 3 seconds of typing that you did. Your data will also survive fire, earthquake, or a tactical nuclear strike, because Google redundantly stores the data at different geographical locations.

            Also you have misunderstood what I was saying about the Tegra K1 cased Chromebooks. I should perhaps have explained this to you in more detail since you do not seem to have read the links I included. The high end graphical workstation Chromebooks based on the Tegra K1 do not run applications like AutoCAD, Pro-Engineer, SolidWorks, Adobe CS, Photoshop, Blender etc. natively. They run the application on a server (which may be on the same LAN, WiFi link, or broadband connection to a cloud server or corporate server), and use a custom version of the HTML5 Blast protocol to render the screen output on the Chromebook. In other words, the Chromebook is running Windows applications the same way it runs all web apps – the apps including data storage, and most of the program execution and accelerated graphics rendering actually run on a server, with the Chromebook displaying the results and doing some of the local processing – primarily to handle user input and local hardware control, and the decompression and compositing of the raw streamed partially rendered data blocks. I am not sure exactly what this involves, but according to nVidia, the Tegra K1 with its 192 CUDA supercomputing cores, is the first of a new breed of chips which is capable of decoding the streaming protocol that is produced by nVidia’s new server GPU virtualization boards which for the first time allow use of nVidias CUDA supercomputing GPU cores to be time shared between different users according to need for GPU acceleration.

            The bottom line is that no Windows laptop/desktop running Windows apps locally can get close to match a Tegra K1 Chromebook for performance. The server which runs the Windows application used by the Chromebook user can have many times the amount of storage or processing power (CPU and GPU) of the Windows laptop or desktop running the app locally,while weighing 3lbs, having an 11 hour battery life (say 7 hours while running intensive graphical apps), and costing $350 or so compared to a Windows high end graphical laptop with lower performance weighing 6lb, 4.5hr battery life (2hr when using graphical intensive apps), and costing $1669). On top of that you have the advantages of real time data sharing with other team members, and you can’t lose data if anything happens to your local device – if you lose your connection, then the session will continue to run. you just need to log back in and continue where you left off.

            I have also noticed the use of disparaging terms by the Microsoft Scroogle campaign to try to denigrate or dismiss the Chromebook by attaching terms and phrases with negative psychological connotations to the Chromebook. These are clearly aimed at the less intelligent members Windows fanboy and tech journalist communities. You know the sort of thing – “not a real computer”, “Windows are enterprise computers, Chromebooks are not enterprise computers, they are toys”, “Chromebooks are just browsers and you can download those free”, “Chromebooks are limited, you need a full OS like Windows to be productive”, “Chromebooks are OK for doing menial work like email, web browsing, simple productivity tasks etc. but to do productive things, you need Windows.”Chromebooks are for lower grades of education, Windows is necessary for higher education and to get a job in a professional.”.

            These are all claims that are false or completely the opposite of the truth, as I will explain in due course.

            I have noticed that you have used some of the standard Microsoft Scroogle terms, namely “professional”, and “productive”.

            The reality is that Windows is a “hobby computer” pushed into service for business use, and it suffers from low productivity. Windows is based on the first personal computers like the TRS 80 or Commodore Pet which were designed for computer hobbyists as disconnected personal use, and therefore wasn’t designed to be centrally manageable, was heavy on maintenance, and requires end user management tasks. This is because those computers were designed for computer hobbyists, for whom doing things like messing about with configuration settings, hardware, drivers, defragging the hard drive, reinstalling the OS, etc. was a labour of love rather than a chore, and was the whole purpose of getting the personal computer in the first place. Windows unfortunately still retains these square “hobby computer” traits although it has been forced into the round “business computer” hole.

            Chromebooks on the other hand are Enterprise computers. They are network authenticated client computers which are designed to run applications and store data on a server. This is the way Enterprise data, security, interoperation between teams, and enterprise applications work – enterprises do not store their corporate data on user desktops, although very small business might be able to work this way. A Chromebook isn’t just a low spec’ed computer with a browser installed on it – a Windows computer with a browser installed would be, but a Chromebook is a networked client computer which comes with a server infrastructure back end and a professional IT team who regularly manage security, and maintain and update both the client and server backend.

            As far as productivity is concerned, schools and businesses that have adopted Chromebooks report that Chromebooks are far more productive than Windows. Why? Because according to them, ChromeOS is invisible – it stays out of the way so they can concentrate on their work rather than the operating system. An interesting post from a Windows fanboy explains what their reasons for calling Windows more productive actually are. The post said that “Chromebooks are OK for menial tasks like email, web browsing, simple productivity apps etc. but you need Windows for real work”. For him, a computer hobbyist, real work means configuring Windows, installing apps, troubleshooting hardware drivers etc. – work that business users that are trying to do productive work would consider menial and unproductive work, and what he considered to be menial – are what business users would consider their core productive work eg. simple office productivity, emails, web browser access to server based EIS, CRM, accounting/purchasing/invoicing/inventory control/trading/HR/timesheets/project control etc. enterprise data applications running on servers.
            Chromebooks are more productive in terms of business productivity than Windows running on desktops with its high maintenance unproductive overheads.

            Of course productivity requires that you are provided with the applications to do your work, and Chromebooks can do this including providing Windows apps by running Windows virtualised on a corporate server or cloud server. This is coincidentally also the most secure, most manageable and lowest cost to maintain way of running Windows applications.

            The use of the word “professional” connotation by the scroogle team tries to psychologically link being highly qualified and successful with using Windows only apps like MS Office, Photoshop, AutoCAD etc. The reality is the opposite. It is the low end, low paid grunts who are the ones likely to benefit from learning those apps – typists, CAD draftsmen, graphics artists. High level professional staff rarely need to use apps like that, and if they do they will only use a few features. They would be far more productive using simpler apps like Pixlr, Google+, Google Docs, Google Drawings etc. for inclusion in their productivity apps instead. For preparing CAD drawings, type formatted forms, mail merged letters for mass mailing, proper photo retouching, someone in a senior position will not be doing these things themselves, but will employ a typist, CAD draftsman, or graphics artist to do it, and for these people you can provide a Tegra K1 based Chromebook with a server side virtualised Windows application, or a high end Windows workstation with two 22″ displays and Chrome browser/runtime installed to make it able to run all Chrome apps/Google drive apps for seamless team communications.

          11. Sorry, but the problem is I do understand everything and it’s people like you who don’t grasp the problems that the industry still has to face before these solutions can be relied upon enough to be used in the way you’re thinking for everyone!

            Like first, Professional is not spin or a misleading phrase… it’s simply the reality of the industry! And no, it’s not limited to just Windows but also OSX…

            And no, they are not low paid grunts either! The lower end are just people who use basic programs and do things like data entry, accounting, Office, Google Docs, etc… These are also the programs regular people use…

            While People who use AutoCAD, Photoshop, Maya, etc. scale up much higher in the industry… and yes, many do employ a team or a assistant… While leaders may scale even higher and not do all the work themselves but that doesn’t change that the work requires professionals who know what they are doing and have been thoroughly trained in using high end software specifically created for Professionals…

            You won’t find anything on that scale for the average user!

            Many business even go to the lengths of creating their own software specifically for their business… which is one of the reasons why most rarely transition to the latest OS right away because they have an invested interest in what they have already worked on…

            Really, Linux has been around for well over a decade now and yet it has never accounted for more than 10% of the PC market… In most of that time it accounted for even less…

            It has only been in specific roles where it can be customized for a specific need that it has ever excelled… Like namely the server market… and more recently the mobile market, thanks to Android… though, neither Andoird or Chrome really give users the full Linux experience and mainly just use Linux to run the hardware while running the rest of the OS on top of it…

            Sure, Linux is great for servers, great for creating systems for number crunching for everyone from scientists to movie makers…

            But you won’t find most companies that produce professional software making them available on GNU/Linux…

            And yes, I haven’t said the cloud services don’t have their advantages but you are ignoring what I’m pointing out in that they have their weaknesses too and I’m not exaggerating them!

            Really, companies like Citrix have been around for many years… Yet how many companies do you see using them and switching away from having their own in house PC systems that run the full OS?

            Where are Chromebooks really selling? Not in the business sector but in the regular consumer market!

            Ditto with Android, because it was never intended for professional usages but for low end hardware to help make affordable mobile devices!

            Really, let’s not forget that Chrome is still mainly just a browsers… They even had to put it on top of a custom Ubuntu layer to get it to be its own OS!

            And everything I’ve stated about servers being hacked and the unreliability of connections is true… Even with so called broadband connections are often lost and for a cloud based business that can easily result in hours of no work and that often can mean big losses for the company…

            We aren’t yet living at a time where the cloud can be fully relied upon to always work… Nor are we fully prepared to deal with all the hackers that will take advantage…

            There’s hardly a month or sometimes even a week that goes by without some big news about yet another company being hacked and in most cases it was because of being connected!

            Everything from BT to our Broadband needs to be much more secure…

            Also, our so called broadband is still too limited for many companies that need really high bandwidth to handle their needs… Companies like Google are helping with that transition but it will still be decades before enough of the country is covered to ensure businesses can use it and be sure to always have what they need for whatever part of the country they need to work with…

            Really, stop confusing the potential with the reality we deal with now!

            Btw, I do understand what you were trying to say about the K1 but you can say the same thing about any hardware and is not an argument about the OS!

            While such promises aren’t new either… making Clusters, etc have been done before with previous ARM SoCs but you can only scale up so high…

            Sure, GPU number crunching has potentials but it has had that potential for over a decade now… So, again, don’t confuse enthusiasm with how fast things will progress in reality..

            There’s nothing magical about the K1 except it’s one of the first successful ports of Nvidia’s previously discrete GPU to a mobile SoC… giving it good potential for power savings and lower costs but that move wasn’t without reducing performance and limiting some capabilities… Though, those may not effect using it for super computing but there’s still the problem that the reason why GPU super computing hasn’t really taken off before still applies and that’s because it’s still not easy to switch work to another project rapidly…

            Custom coding is still required for every project and much of that work is still in progress to finally make it easy but till then these type of solutions will still struggle as being too one off and not general purpose enough…

            Sure, they have made some progress but business will still stick primarily to solutions they know will work and the industry you are talking about is one that doesn’t change quickly either!

          12. Business is always behind the consumer trend. Windows was for consumers and OS2 was for Businesses and Windows won.
            Times will say if CB + Android applications will attract the consumers first and the business after.
            However, it should be noted that most new enterprise applications are browser based. Legacy applications can run on virtualised servers using whatever remote desktop technology. So may be this time, CB may invade Business first.
            Businesses can save a lot of money with disrupted technology or new model if their transformation and transition period are well managed.

          13. This is possible, we’ll see… a lot will likely change in the next decade but like history shows, rarely how we expect it to…

          14. Draw IO Pro ( yes Pro) is awesome. The pro version is also Free and can replace Visio for many users.

          15. Pixkr is rich and reliable and I can’t even switch off my CB without loosing data. Sure you need good internet connexion for autsave and I believe professional should have. Granted, Photoshop is more poweful but editing images and photos with Pixl is very easy and intuitive.
            This being said, you can lose data with traditional laptop when Windows or applications crash if you don’t have autisave.

            I did not want to mention Linux besides ChromeOS since ChromeOS alone should suffice. With Nitrous IO, I can start Linux instances in a few seconds. In fact i have uninstalled Linux beside my ChromeOS. I did not mention developer mode as well since it is not for every one.

          16. Yes, Chrome runs on top of a custom version of Ubuntu… So the system is pretty much already set up… Solutions like Crouton just install the rest of the Ubuntu GUI to get full access to it… While, you also have the option to install or dual boot another, compatible, GNU/Linux distro…

            Benefits being GNU/Linux is a full desktop solution and gives you far more control over the apps and how the OS works…

            But, like you said, it’s not for everyone and is not as easy as just having a GNU/Linux setup from the start… Especially, when you need to work with the SeaBIOS or even replace the firmware altogether in some cases…

            While, please understand… I’m not saying solutions like Pixlr suck, just that they’re not real replacements for Professional apps…

            Besides, reliability… Professionals also need consistency of the work… For those working in graphic arts it means getting a customer file and giving a product back that will print the same no matter where the customer takes the file…

            Similar constraints effect other professional apps… including features that only professionals use but are often missing from the general consumer apps…

            Like, even Adobe makes both the professional Photoshop and the consumer range versions… Photoshop Touch is an example of the consumer range, along with Elements, etc. Like Pixlr they perfectly fine to use but they aren’t meant for professional usages…

          17. GIMP (and its 48 bit HDR cousin Cinepaint) does pretty well everything Photoshop does. GIMP/CinePaint has fewer tools and presets but more powerful scripting and automation features than Photoshop. Photoshop users claim that GIMP’s user interface. Gimp/CinePaint is a profession industrial strength application, not something designed for non-professionals as you claim. Indeed it is more of a hard core professional’s tool than Photoshop. CinePaint is the film industry’s preferred tool for has been used for touching up or enhancing movies. GIMP is the 24 bit colour version for general use.

            Contrary to the Windows fanboy rants, less than 1% of computer users actually use Photoshop, and Pixlr, or Google+ automatic photo processing etc. both of which are free and easier to use is a much better option than Photoshop or GIMP which are more complicated and therefore less productive for non-professionals.

            By the way, you can run the full Photoshop and AutoCAD suites, high end streaming games, and other high end graphical applications on a Chromebook, along with high end CAE applications like Pro Engineer – with the Tegra K1 Chromebooks and an nVidia GRID virtualization server. This will give you high end graphical workstation performance, lighter weight, and a much longer battery life when running high end CAD than is possible with a high end Windows CAD laptop running the apps natively.
            https://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/08/26/vmware_google_nvidia_chromebook_vdi_alliance/
            https://www.anandtech.com/show/8435/nvidia-vmware-preview-vgpu-chromebook-support

          18. No, gimp does not do everything Photoshop can… Like, Gimp has some CMYK support, but not to the same degree as Photoshop, and it has to be downloaded separately… Photoshop is still way faster, especially since they started hardware accelerating many aspects of it… Gimp often requires more steps to get the same job done as Photoshop…

            Many of the advance features have to be downloaded separately as optional instead of part of the package as it is with Photoshop… you don’t get access to anywhere near as many plug-ins options as Photoshop allows…

            With Photoshop, something goes wrong and you can get direct tech support… With Gimp you have to search the web and hope someone has an answer somewhere…

            Really… Aside from the simple fact that Gimp is free and you have to pay hundreds for Photoshop, there’s no reason a Professional would ever resort to GIMP as a last resort!

            So don’t confuse accepting it as a nice free alternative from anyone considering it really worthy of professional usage when there’s better out there!

            Really, if Professionals really thought as you think then they wouldn’t be spending upwards of thousands of dollars on Photoshop when they can just use free GIMP but they don’t, even the freelancers don’t!

          19. There is a strong element of fanboyism in most GIMP vs Photoshop posts. Sure some people might have a personal preference for Photoshop, but it is ridiculous to say that GIMP is something that professionals would not use – are you saying that the film industry aren’t professionals?

            GIMP is the industry standard for the film industry – they could use Photoshop, but they go for GIMP (the 48 bit version called Cinepaint (formerly FilmGIMP)) because of features lacking in Photoshop such as more powerful scripting capabilities and the ability to customise to a greater extent and the better performance required to process very large numbers of frames).

            CMYK is about the only feature lacking in GIMP, and it is brought up very often by anti-Linux advocates for this very reason. The point is that you should not need to use CMYK unless you are the owner of a printing business. CMYK is used in the context of offset printing, and CMYK output is specific to a printer. RGB is a more generic format for pictures, and is the format used for general purpose use including digital transfer, computer displays, film, photos, web pages, etc.

            CMYK is used for the narrow confines offset printing, and if you want to print something on an offset printer, you would not normally produce a CMYK print file, but rather produce an RGB file (the appropriate format for digital transfer and archiving) and send it to the printer who owns the offset printer and they would make the CMYK conversion to suit their printer model and inks. This is quite nicely summarised in the following link:

            https://www.business2community.com/digital-marketing/pdfs-appearing-different-color-cmyk-vs-rgb-0974410

            The printing process uses CMYK by combining small dots of cyan, magenta, yellow and black to create new colors. This process is a “subtractive color model” meaning that the ink used “subtracts” brightness from a white background.

            RGB is used in photography, TV, and computers and is known as an “additive color model”.

            The answer is simple and I’m pretty embarrassed to say that it took me so long to figure it out. When you’re working in an Adobe program simply make sure you’re in RGB color mode if you’re making something exclusively used for the web. For Illustrator: File > Document Color Mode and for Photoshop: Image > Mode. My advice to you? Always make sure that you’re using the right color format for any graphics work that you’re doing. That means CMYK for printing and RGB for photography or anything that will appear in a digital format.

            So there you have it – if you have an offset printer, then you may need to get Photoshop, although probably you would have a professional publishing application instead. I have never had reason to use to use CMYK printing in my entire life, and I would suspect that 99.9% of Photoshop users wouldn’t either.

            Here is another link, which notes that CMYK is dying out as more and more images are stored in digital form (in RGB format) rather than as printed hardcopy.
            https://gizmodo.com/when-these-cmyk-coasters-are-stacked-a-masterpiece-is-r-1631179791

            As newspapers, magazines, and books are slowly replaced with electronic alternatives, the art of CMYK printing is slowly dying alongside them. So now’s as good a time as any to grab a souvenir before the technical process becomes a forgotten art

            Of course CMYK is not really disappearing since offset printer output is still required for various things, but rather, the art is becoming restricted to a very tiny number of people.

          20. No, sorry but GIMP is not something professionals would use if they could help it… Simple fact of the matter is it’s not something that’s really geared toward true professionals…

            There are thing GIMP is not geared for like consistency in CYMK… Sure, if you stick to RGB you’d usually be fine and film work can get away with a lot more than you can get away with desktop publishing and similar fields…

            GIMP also lacks many tools to get the job done as fast as you can in Photoshop, along with more and professional apps that Photoshop will work with much more seamlessly than GIMP would…

            Really, what professional is going to triple their work load working with GIMP when working with Photoshop is a lot easier and faster?

            So, even discounting CYMK work, you’re looking at tons of stuff that GIMP is nowhere near as good a tool for as Photoshop…

            Sure, GIMP can be made fairly powerful with the right plug-ins… Resynthesizer has actually been around longer than Photoshops Content Awareness in fact, but it’s usually a lot more work getting everything set up properly and there remains the lack of consistency that many professionals need for a proper work flow, especially on projects that require multiple people/teams all working on the same project…

            GIMP is a nice alternative but it’s still short of a professional replacement… Really, Adobe would have long lost market share if that wasn’t the case as paying thousands for one solutions and the other is free is a no brainer for most people if the solutions are really equivalent!

            Really, there’s nothing preventing it otherwise as Gimp is available on pretty much all platforms!

            So, sorry… No fanboyism… Just cold hard reality… Sure, some may prefer the cheaper solution and even get a lot done with it but for the industry as a whole it’ll take a lot more than just being workable but be the consistently better tool to use…

          21. So the film industry are a bunch of cheapskates who can’t afford Photoshop, and want to triple their work by using a program which according to you isn’t even suitable for use by the ordinary user who makes up 95% of image editing needs. Yeah, right.

          22. Don’t be silly, the Film industry uses professional software… Many of the big name companies like Pixar even create their own Proprietary software specifically to fill their needs and are not made available to the general public at all… though, they are selling some of the older software creations like RenderMan, etc.

            Anyway, you really have to get this notion that just because some companies may use Linux that they’re somehow using what regular people use… or that they stick to Open Source…

            Can you, for example, work edit more than one frame at a time with GIMP… no, you can’t so don’t pretend the film industry is going to be using it instead of a programs that can do both Photo edits and video edits and easily transfer files to other apps… some without even closing the previous and going back and forth as needed…

            Really, there’s software that makes Photoshop look dirt cheap in comparison!

            Sure, you can find plenty for the average user but for professionals, they need the best and the best software makers don’t work for free!

            Examples like Photoshop are just what’s available to both the public and professionals but professional software scales well beyond just Photoshop…

            While, there are plenty of other professions besides what Hollywood covers… So stop it with the trying to find an exception when we’re talking about whether the platforms are equivalent or not and it’s pretty clear they’re not!

            Besides, most people never change the OS from what it comes with and we did start all this discussing the actual product of the article, which is just a Chromebook!

            And neither Android or Chrome will give full access to all that’s available for GNU/Linux, especially without the users modifying the installation! So they’re definitely going to be more limiting for most people…

          23. Btw, I’ve actually have over a decade experience as a Graphic Artist and have worked with Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark Xpress, Corel Paintshop Pro, GIMP, and lots of others over the years… along with Windows, OSX (actually, go back all the way to OS9), multiple Linux distros, etc… and have worked with people who worked in many other professional fields…

            While, again, the CMYK was just one of many examples… So stop trying to nitpick or assume I don’t know what I’m talking about just because you don’t want to believe it… The industry is what it is and it’s not going to change overnight…

            Nor can you ignore all the factors that have kept alternatives from becoming more dominant all these years!

            Sure, they have certain strengths but that doesn’t change they still have things holding them back and until that fundamentally changes then the status quo isn’t going to shift significantly…

    2. Moreover very soon, most Android applications can run on Chromebook. Finally, Chromebook users will probably have access to more applications than Windows.

      Well done Google.

      CB = productivity + collaboration + fast + secure + cheap + Play store

      Perfect dream

      1. More apps? Depends what you mean… more mobile apps, yes… Definitely and by a large margin… But more total apps, no… not when you factor in all the legacy apps for Windows…

        There’s also the issue that most Android apps are optimized to be used on a phone with a touch screen and thus won’t all adapt well to being used on what is essentially a laptop…

        While, neither Android or Chrome offer any professional level productivity apps… So it also depends what the user wants from their system… but most who would use Android or Chrome are generally more interested in consumption that productivity… Otherwise there would have been more interest in GNU/Linux distro offerings, which are far better for productivity…

  6. If one wants a laptop for Ubuntu, wouldn’t it still be better to get one that has Windows installed so you can get the standard keyboard? It’d be nice if Asus, Acer and other vendors would have Ubuntu-ready laptops to avoid the MS license fee.

    1. Depends what you want to get… hardware that’s $250 or less gets Windows for free now and Intel is subsidizing most mobile devices, including Chromebooks, to help them better compete with ARM versions…

      While Dell, System76, Emperor Linux, LinPC, and a few others I can’t remember right now all offer systems with Linux pre-installed…

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