Why Chromebooks are a Stupid Idea, Part 2: The Reviewers Weigh In

Last Updated Jun 13, 2011 11:15 AM EDT

Last month I raised some hackles when I said Chromebooks are a stupid idea. Some commenters wanted to know how I could judge a product that hadn't been released yet, while others suggested I "don't know much about technology."

Actually, I do know a little, having been a technology writer for over 20 years, but I will admit you can't judge a book -- especially a Chromebook -- by its cover. Heck, I didn't think the iPad would amount to much.

This morning, nearly a dozen tech blogs and magazines have weighed in on the new Samsung Series 5 Chromebook, which was recently made available for review. Here's an overview of some of the more telling comments:

CNET

The Series 5 works as promised and looks good doing it. However, for its price you can buy a more capable Windows Netbook or laptop -- even if you just want something for couch use. You can do a lot of things with one of those (or a smartphone, an Android tablet, or iPad for that matter). Right now, though, there are just a lot of things you can't do with a Chromebook.

Gizmodo

It's not a netbook, Google will tell you. (Vocally.) But your hands will tell you differently. It's squishy in the middle, when you press on the upper section of the trackpad. Almost like it's hollow. The rest of the plastic body bends like stale bread. It's at that weird intersection between meh plastic and good plastic. And it's thin, notably but not remarkably so.

PC World

Its weight doesn't impress, either. At 3.3 pounds, it's no featherweight like the Apple MacBook Air; however, at least the Chromebook felt deceptively lighter than it is, a phenomenon I'd credit to how well-balanced the laptop felt in hand. I was surprised by how easily I could grip the Chromebook in one hand, actually.

Wired

We've seen and touched a lot of web-only notebooks in the $400- to $800-dollar range, and none have felt as promising as the Series 5 Chromebook. If the finished products are as half as nice as this one, we'll be excited to see them hit the shelves in June.
Ultimately, these first-look reviews were all over the place. Where one reviewer admired the Series 5's "smooth and roomy" trackpad, another found it "stiff and clunky."

Meanwhile, Engadget said the system "outclasses the other sub-$450 netbooks we've seen," while InformationWeek noted that "Chromebooks make a lot of sense for businesses that want a system for employees that provides Web access without the management burden of a full-blown computer. For individuals, the Chromebook value proposition is less clear."

Nearly every reviewer praised the Series 5's fast boot time, which routinely clocked in at 10 seconds or less.

I've not yet reviewed a Chromebook myself, so all I can do is reiterate my earlier opinion: why does this thing exist? It doesn't do more than any similarly priced laptop, and in fact is less capable than a lot of tablets (save for the keyboard, something you can easily add).

Ultimately, Chromebooks ask you to make a lot of sacrifices while offering only one tangible benefit in return: fast start-up. For me, that's not enough -- not nearly.

More on BNET:

  • Rick Broida On Twitter»

    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.