If you aren't familiar with the saga, the HP Chromebook 11 was greeted with much fanfare, only to be pulled from the Google Play store thanks to an overheating charger. This charger saga garnered more attention than actual incidents.
Google announced a new charger to replace the faulty model, rolling out free replacements to those who purchased the little laptop. Now, with a new charger firmly in place, the Android maker has returned the device to its Play Store.
It's Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Day 0, and we have hands-on with new Acer and Toshiba Chromebooks -- and both share the same flaw: Yes, flaw. Not enough memory, like HP Chromebook 11, among other newer models. I know margins are tight on these things, but how much more costly really would be 4GB? I can say from absolute experience that 2GB simply isn't enough, particularly if the objective is Chromebook replacing Mac or Windows PC.
Shared memory takes a good chunk out of that 2GB, let alone Chrome running atop Linux. What are these manufacturers thinking? One foot in the Chrome OS outdoors, but rest of body inside Windows? Because Chromebook with 2GB of RAM, even running a Haswell processor, stretches to replace a Windows PC. Make that 4 gigs, and the experience can be as good or better. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, you can stop laughing now. I can hear you all the way down in San Diego.
While the percentage of incidents was rather low, Google was forced to pull the HP Chromebook 11 from the market due to an overheating charger. Since then, the company has come out with a replacement model, and has begun shipping them out to customers who were affected.
Though the notebook has not yet reappeared in the Play store, it has now gone back up for sale via Amazon. The device is once again listed as "in stock", selling for the $279 that it previously went for.
Besides girth, Oprah Winfrey and I have something else in common -- we both like to share our favorite things. At the end of every year, I like to reflect on some of my favorite tech products.
This was a very wild year for me as most of the things on my list changed the way I both interact with and think about computers. It contains both hardware and software. So, without further ado, please read on for my list.
Throughout the year, I work pretty darn hard -- I wear multiple hats. Because of this, I decided to spend the holidays in sunny Florida as a working vacation. Sadly, the airfare was a bit too expensive, so I decided to drive there from New York.
Unfortunately, the place at which I am staying does not have WiFi or Television -- a nerd's worst nightmare. As a tech-writer, I was going to have to think smart about which devices I would bring and which would stay home. You may be surprised by my choices.
Chrome OS is primarily a laptop-focused affair. In other words, most users of the platform utilize Chromebooks. Sure, there have been mini-desktops called Chromeboxes, but they have been few and far between.
This is problematic for some consumers interested in Google's Linux-based, web-dependent operating system. Believe it or not, there are people that still enjoy sitting at a desk with a large screen, keyboard and mouse; myself included. Today, LG announces it is filling the gap with Chromebase -- a Chrome OS all-in-one desktop computer.
As someone who has lived through a home fire, I am very anxious about it. Any time I smell a neighbor's fireplace, I will investigate. I am still haunted by the night that I lost all of my belongings -- standing barefoot in the street watching the brave firemen fight the blaze.
When Google stopped sales of the HP Chromebook 11 due to a faulty charger, I was faced with a major conundrum. I love using that computer, but now I was scared to charge it. Even though Google suggested charging it with any other microUSB charger, I was still too concerned to leave it charging unattended. Plus, when I did use a different charger, I got a warning message that the charger was underpowered and charging would take longer. Finally today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announces an official recall of the dangerous charger.
This is an oversimplification, but Chrome OS is a Linux distribution that serves one purpose -- to run the Chrome browser. Chrome apps then run within that browser. This enables the apps to run on any operating system that can run the Google browser. Essentially, Chrome OS can run from within another operating system by way of the browser.
Back in July, Google released Chrome launcher for Windows 7 and 8. This allows users to interface with the Chrome OS launcher from the Windows taskbar. Sadly, this was a Winows-only affair. Today, Google announces that it is bringing the Chrome launcher to Apple's OS X. In other words, Chrome OS and apps are invading Mac.
Microsoft has been busy attacking the Chromebook recently, trotting out spokesman Ben Rudolph to handpick "people on the street" to tell him why the Google-branded laptop wouldn't work for them, and hiring Pawn Stars to call the notebook "a brick". The problem for Microsoft is this -- many of its biggest OEM partners, including HP and Acer, are producing hardware running the rival operating system.
Now Dell is the latest hardware maker, generally associated with Windows, to experiment with alternatives. No, Dell isn't abandoning Windows, just cheating on it with Chrome OS. The Texas-based company has strayed before, producing Android tablets, but this is its first flirtation with a Chromebook.
While the staff here at BetaNews is a fairly close knit bunch, that doesn't always mean we agree on everything. In fact, debate is a part of daily life. To that end, earlier today my colleague Brian Fagioli took it upon himself to call the latest Scroogled ad, this one against the Chromebook, the "best Scroogled ad yet".
He seems to think all of this behavior is acceptable, even amusing and honest. I suppose if you are a fan of the show Pawn Stars, then you may find it of mild interest. However, what it also turns out to be is utterly untrue.
When it comes to TV advertisements, they can usually go two ways -- flashy or informative. For the most part, flash dominates the airwaves. Sometimes I watch an advertisement and have no idea what the product is. Microsoft is no stranger to the flashy commercial. If you recall the original Surface ads, they featured trendy people dancing, with a focus on the sound that the kickstand made. It was an overall dud.
It is hard to fault a company for taking this approach, as informative ads can be considered boring. However, Microsoft may have found the perfect balance in its latest Scroogled ad, which features the stars of hit TV show, "Pawn Stars". It is one of the best advertisements I have seen in recent memory and Microsoft deserves applause.
When it comes to new and affordable Chromebooks, there are two standouts -- the Acer C720-2800 and the HP Chromebook 11. Even before the HP model was plagued with a defective charger and pulled from the market, I preferred the Acer for its better processor and increased RAM. Not to mention, the Acer is $249, which is $30 less than the under-powered HP.
Today, Acer announces that it is expanding its offering of inexpensive Chromebooks with the C720-2848. This laptop is nearly identical to the existing C720 model except for two things -- it has half the RAM (2GB instead of 4GB) and is $50 cheaper. The question becomes, is the cost saving worth the reduced performance?
My relationship with Chromebook and Chrome OS has been rocky. When Google first announced the concept, I was highly dubious. After all, I had done all of my computing on Windows and Linux -- locally installed apps were all I knew. Ultimately, curiosity got the best of me and I bought the Samsung ARM Chromebook. The simplicity of the platform melted my heart and I became an enthusiast.
Sadly, I outgrew the Samsung model due to its poor performance -- it is slow on certain websites, like Google+. I decided to postpone the upgrade until the Haswell models would arrive. However, in the midst of the Haswell-Chromebook revolution, HP and Google threw a curve-ball and released the wonderful Chromebook 11, that has an ARM processor, which took an Apple approach to laptop design.
Steve Ballmer's departure from Microsoft will be a series of epitaphs written over the coming months. Many arm-chair pundits and analysts will scrutinize his 13-year tenure as chief executive, and you can expect him to be the scapegoat for all things wrong with Microsoft. Most assuredly, Ballmer could have done many things better, but he also contended with forces out of his control: government oversight for anti-competitive practices conducted under predecessor Bill Gates' leadership; maturing PC software market; and rise of the Internet as the new computing hub, among others.
For all Microsoft's CEO might have done wrong, he was right about something dismissed by many -- and I among them: Google. Ballmer started treating the search and information company as a competitive threat about a decade ago. Google as Microsoft competitor seemed simply nuts in 2003. How could search threaten Windows, particularly when anyone could type a new web address to change providers? Ballmer was obsessed, chasing every Google maneuver, often to a fault. Execution could have been better, but his perception was right.
Many people reading this review tangle up in features. They have a spec-sheet mindset that obscures seeing some products' benefits. Google gets the difference, and you should too. The paper holder that wraps around a Starbucks coffee cup is a feature. Protecting your hand from burning is a benefit. While related, the two are distinct. Any evaluation of Chromebook -- or any other thing to be purchased -- should focus on benefits first. Specs are a distraction.
In offering my first impressions about HP Chromebook 11, I step back from features and focus on benefits and who gets the most from them. Based on the out-of-the-box experience, for most people reading this review, I would not recommend the computer, which Google co-designed, over Intel Haswell-based Chromebooks. However, keeping with suspicions expressed yesterday, the tiny Chromebook would be right for students. Design, size, portability, functionality and value for price offer the right mix of benefits for preschool-to-grade 12 students. HP Chromebook 11 is what white MacBook was to kids last decade.