My Journey into Chrome OS

I took a giant leap last night. I went to Wal-Mart and bought my first ever Chromebook. I’ll give you some background to get this story started off, and then, I will spend the next few days detailing my experience with this new device. Each day, I will sum up the major things I did with this chromebook. My goal is to give someone else, my age or higher, an idea into what this operating system is like. Ideally, this will help inform you to make a decision when it comes time to acquire your next piece of technology.

Background:

When it comes to personal computing, I have many different devices that serve many different functions. I think the best way to present this information is to just list them off and give a brief description of what I use them for:

  1. 17″ Toshiba Satellite Laptop
    • I bought this laptop to replace the laptop I’m going to mention in #2 below, it was January of 2016 when I bought it new for about 400-500 dollars. This was my main laptop the last few years of school. I played games on it, did all of my usual web browsing. Not to mention, I did all of my school work on the laptop as well. I got a lot out of that laptop and logged some heavy mileage on it over the years. These days, it’s the device I use to log online and pay bills.
  2. Sony Vaio 2-in-1 Laptop
    • This was my previous school laptop. I had that laptop from 2014-2016 when i started my Bachelor’s degree at UCA, after completing my Associate’s degree at Arkansas State. Again, much like the other laptop, it got a lot of good use out of it, and it was also fun to experiment with having it be a tablet and a laptop. Mostly at the time, I used it solely as a laptop. It was thin and quite portable for class. This laptop was passed down to my wife as her computer where she just does stuff she can’t do from the phone. It also served as her Cricut Machine Design tool.
  3. 10″ Samsung Tablet
    • This tablet is what I like to use in the evenings to do general web-browsing and eBook reading. It’s got a large screen, is quite lightweight, and it’s also a good device I can play a couple of mobile based games on. Usually, I like to play around on this device when my phone has ran out of juice from my 8-5 job or I will use it to listen to podcasts, control my satellite radio, or watch YouTube videos while I do my 8-5 job. The main problem with this device is that if you want to get on it and pay bills, the keyboard is your worst enemy. Also, it is not a good device for some of the productivity ideas churning in my head right now. I will elaborate on that later.
  4. Apple iPhone 6s
    • This is my go-to. It’s a helluva cell phone and does me quite well on a day to day. We all know what we use our phones for, and this damn thing does it’s job well.

With all of this in mind, it was a great setup and, for the most part, it still is. The two main issues stem from the first two devices. My wife needed to free up some storage on her phone so that it could run better. It took a long time just for her to get the computer booted and I had to do some diagnostics just to load up iTunes. Eventually, I’m talking about 2 hours later, she finally got her task done but she was not pleased with how long it took just to backup her phone so she could free up some space.

Yesterday morning, I had a similar experience with my Toshiba laptop. I had to log online and pay for the next month of our phone service. You would think it was such a routine task but I have noticed over the past few months, my computer struggled more and more to just boot up properly and get me to Google Chrome. I spent some time around January or February optimizing the laptop and doing all of its updates and cleaning it up. For about a month, I thought I gave it a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, it’s going back downhill.

I spent about an hour trying to boot the computer up a few times and getting my initial task completed. I knew right then and there my laptop needed to be put to rest. It’s got enough juice to last one more person and it has one last leg, but it needs a full factory reset in order to do so. This experience is quite familiar to me, and it has led me to creating this quote below:

“No matter how good or bad your components are, Windows 10 will make your computer obsolete. At first you will be able to overcome it, then after a few years, the software will take its toll”

~Shane Johnson

Windows 10 is a beast of an operating system. It requires a lot of power to run itself optimally. You need to be spending 700 dollars and upward to be able to have a machine that can communicate with Windows 10 and give you some longevity.

After so many years, I decided that I have grown tired of Windows and that it was time for me to explore other options.

I started looking into Macbooks. You have Macbook Airs, which are ultra lightweight devices. Then, you have Macbook Pros, and they have some insanely powerful hardware. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a good $1,200 to spend, then go for it! My main issue is that it cost so much money just to get into the Mac ecosystem and I did not need all of that machine just to log online and do some browsing, blogging, shopping, and bill paying.

After looking into that option, I gravitated back to Windows. For work, I have a Lenovo ThinkPad, furnished by my employer, that has Windows 10 Pro. On its third year, it’s working just as good as day one. The reason? They spent 900 dollars on it. It’s a prime example of Windows 10 being more geared toward higher end laptops.

So I found a few options for about $400 dollars. I was about to go down the same rabbit hole as before. I *almost* had my mind made up. Chromebook crossed my mind for a split second but I thought “That’s for kids to do their work.”

My teammate called me to discuss the current job he was working on. During the conversation, I asked for his advice regarding a new laptop. He did the same thing I used to do for other people. He asked what all I would do with it and wanted to do with it. It was nice being on the other end of that conversation for once, and getting a fellow techie’s opinion. He told me: “Shane, I think you should try a Chromebook.”

After our call, I decided why not? So I did some research and learned the basics for how Chrome OS works. In short, anything you can do within a web browser or an app you can download on the Google Play store, you can do on a Chromebook. It also has a terminal for Linux, for those of you hardcore Linux fans out there.

I am quite familiar with all of the Google applications like Docs, Gmail, Chrome, etc because I was an early adopter when they all released. Eventually, they became mainstream. Our company even uses Gsuite to do our office work, project management, emails, chat, etc. It has been quite impressive to see Google really adapt and make itself a formidable tool for the work place as well as the classroom. No wonder why kids get Chromebooks.

I figured at this point, I was sold. It basically met all of my checkmarks for usage. I can do most of my work within Google Chrome and the other Google apps. I can do my writing here on the WordPress webpage, and I’m sure I can use this device to do my future podcasting as well.

So, I decided to drive around Conway and explore different stores and see what kind of Chromebook I could get. I’m very surprised at all of the options you can get a Chromebook for. You can get the smallest, 11.6″ screen Chromebook for 150-200 dollars. You have to spend about 250 if you want a Chromebook with a bit bigger screen, 14″, and it has a little more beef to it. Then, you have to go 300 dollars and north if you want even better hardware, or perhaps the 2-in-1 functionality of having both a tablet and laptop. I opted for this latter option. I got a HP Chromebook x360 14a, to be specific.

Day Zero

Let’s call this day zero, since all I really did was the initial research, the laptop purchase, and then the initial start. When I got home, I unboxed everything. It comes with your basic charger cable and the laptop itself. Pretty simple. Then, it prompts you to plug in the charger and boot it up for the first time.

After startup, the computer prompts you to link to a Google account, which was no issue for me. Then, it opened up to the main screen and let me run it free reign.

I opened up Gmail, checked my email. Then, I got on YouTube and made a quick comment on my friend’s livestream. Finally, I loaded Facebook on Google Chrome. This is the first time I used Facebook on the desktop in about two years. Good lord what a gigantic mess compared to mobile. I don’t know how some of y’all do it with all the litter it has on the screen!

After that, it was time for bed!

Day One

On this day, my main task was to get a lot of my items transferred from my old laptop to my new laptop. Usually, this task is quite the chore. It’s about like swapping from an Android to Apple phone. Thankfully, I was able to make this process a lot more simple this time.

First, I wanted to import my favorites over. It’s got all the places I pay bills, shop, and etc. All I had to do was open Google Chrome on the Toshiba laptop, and click the sync button within Chrome. It added my favorites to my Google account. Then, I booted up the new Chromebook and Google Chrome on that device. Right then and there, my favorites were exactly how I had them on the old laptop. 5 minutes was all it took for my first big task.

Second, I wanted to transfer my photos, music, and documents over from my old laptop to this laptop. This again was an easy task. I just copied my folders onto a USB flash drive and then plugged it into the new laptop and copied everything over. We’re talking another 5-10 minutes for that step.

Third, I wanted to get some of my favorite apps I use on the Play Store installed. I got the usual entertainment apps like Disney+, Hulu, SiriusXM. Then, I downloaded a couple of social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. This is the part of the article to where I remind Blair that I still do not have TikTok. I do not want the Chinese spying on my internet. Having our government constantly snooping is worrisome enough, dude.

Again, took another 5 minutes to get them all installed and another 5 minutes to log in. This is where I stand currently and I think this is all I plan on doing for today. A friend of mine wondered how I planned on gaming without a Windows operating system. I told him that’s what my Xbox is for. I like to do my gaming on console.

All in all, it took less than an hour to seamlessly transfer everything over and get right back to where I normally am. I must say, this is quite impressive!

Day Two

Chronologically speaking, this isn’t my second day since I’ve had this device. This is actually more like day four since the purchase. For all intents and purposes though, we will call this day two of actual use. The past few days I’ve been pre-occupied watching sports and doing things around the house. Nothing that really requires me to use the chromebook. To be honest though, I’ve had thoughts each day consisting of “You know, this would be a good time to play around on the Chromebook.”

The first thing I noticed immediately is that within 30 seconds of opening up the chromebook and turning on the power and then of course logging in, I was taken immediately to this article I left open on WordPress. Gotta love it! It’s literally got the tools to take you right back where you left off.

So today, my main objective is to try some of the different apps I use a lot, get registered, and then just see how it performs. I know how these apps already perform on my Samsung tablet, so I’ll keep that in the back of my mind.

The battery went from 100% to 81% after just sitting for two days unplugged. It says I still have five hours and some change left to use this device before I really need to plug it in. Another nice feature for sure because when I leave my tablet unattended for a couple of days with a video I left open, or perhaps a book, I’m usually greeted by a 30% or less battery charge.

I was surprised that the apps ran very well. One thing I did notice is that with certain apps such as Facebook, you’re getting the blown up jumbo version of the same app that you see on your phone. It just does not look right. Same with Twitter.

So, I did some research and I called my co-worker as well. He mentioned that he only uses apps that he cannot access via the Chrome web browser. So for example, he will do all his Facebook posting within the browser instead of the app.

I tried doing this and it worked a lot better!

Day Three

Hang in there folks because this review is about to get a lot more complicated! So on Day three, I got on WordPress and got the bold, underlined text above typed up and then I had about a paragraph typed as well. This paragraph was myself explaining that I was going to spend the day using everything I set up and log some solid hours on this device.

I started to notice WordPress started to flicker and blink when I was moving this story up and down, editing some previous paragraphs, and etc. As I became aware, I started to go to other websites and I noticed my dashboard would shake from left to right and then from right to left every minute or two.

Naturally, I started to research this issue on the internet. As I researched, the issue was still prevalent and annoying. I tried a few different things, recommended by various sources. I did the usual power cycle first. Didn’t help. So I tried to take care of everything software and I even did a factory reset of the chromebook.

(This is where I mention that even after a factory reset and new setup, I’m impressed how it imported all the previous work I did under my Google account such as arranging documents in the clouds, and also my favorites via Chrome browser.)

I also tried to put the chromebook into beta mode and install the latest updates that have not rolled out to the public yet, a few people mentioned this would work. I thought it did until the issue just returned again.

It’s really hard to explain but the display would blink as if you’re staring and blinking your eyes and then if it wasn’t doing that, it would shake the screen. We’re talking once a minute.

I also read that it could be a hardware issue with the laptop itself. Perhaps a display cable ribbon was pinched and it very well could have been because I bent the screen completely backward a few times just to try the two-in-one option.

Regardless, it was only a few days since initial purchase and I was able to eliminate the issue being the software, so I just did one more factory reset, boxed up the chromebook, and returned it to the Wal-Mart where I purchased it.

To be fair, this might have been one faulty unit out of 1,000 but I do have a tendency not to go back to the same product that faulted on me.

It was time to do more research. I already knew what all the local stores had in stock due to my visits the previous weekend. Nothing else impressed me. So I decided to look into the Lenovo brand of chromebooks since they were the other manufacturer on my target list.

I was comfortable spending the $325 again if need be, but I wanted to take the time to get a similar machine but perhaps with less to it, since I already got a window into the two-in-one option.

After thinking hard, I figured I wanted something with 4GB of RAM, and then at least 64GB of storage because I was quite happy with the specs of the HP model. I decided that I was not impressed with the two-in-one capabilities. I laughed to myself because I knew there was no way I’d use this as a tablet when I already have a device for those on-the-go needs.

Needless to say, I ordered the Lenovo Chromebook 3. 4GB of RAM, 64GB of memory, and it was the same size screen, 14 inches. The only thing I left on the table was the fact that the laptop did not have a touch screen, nor could it serve as a two-in-one. I got it for $280, after taxes of course.

Now, the matter at hand is the wait. Best Buy is usually quick about their shipments but I do know we are coming up on a holiday weekend. I did learn some things about Lenovo when reviewing some YouTube review guys. Reviewing the reviewers, I know….

They mentioned Lenovo Chromebooks are a good bang for your buck, and not to mention, I’ve had a great experience with the Lenovo my company has bought me for work. They kept mentioning a device to consider was this tablet called a Lenovo Duet Chromebook. It was a similar price range but it was practically designed for the two-in-one experience. They spoke very highly of it and of course I shelved it in the back of my mind for whatever reason.

Day Four (Interlude)

As I spent the weekend doing things around the house, I talked with my wife about what kind of device she might want for her computing needs as well. She was using a machine that was in worse shape than mine. She has this crafting device called a Cricut and she is needing something that can help her design patterns and she also needs something to do her basic computer needs like me.

She did her own research and she told me that she is leaning toward a refurbished Apple Macbook. She agreed with my complaints about Windows because she saw the effects first hand on her laptop. She told me that this is her chance to finally get something new and not a hand-me-down. She was quickly moving the Apple option to the shelf.

She told me that she was quite impressed with the Chromebook. She was watching me use the previous chromebook and she listened to all my comments as I used it and it seems like I sold her on this option. Also, she didn’t want to sink too much money into it was well.

I told her, “Hear me out, I think I have an option for you.” The first option that came to mind was that Lenovo Duet Chromebook. She has an iPad mini that she bought used for about $75 dollars. For about a month, she used it quite a bit versus all her other devices. Even with her Cricut machine. Her main issue with the iPad is that the screen’s crack was getting worse and she wasn’t so sure she wanted a new one. She mentioned that she enjoyed the whole tablet concept but “sometimes I just want a keyboard and a mouse.”

I mentioned the Lenovo Duet to her and immediately I could tell she was entertained by the idea. So, that afternoon, we went to town and went to a store that had one on display. She used it for a good 20 minutes and tried a little bit of everything. She was sold!

So we went and bought her one at a different store that actually had one in stock for $250. One thing about that device that impresses me is the keyboard. It’s a keyboard that has a trackpad (mouse) and it can serve as a cover for your screen when you’re not using it. It just folds over the tablet screen cleanly. Not to mention, the 10 inch tablet itself is very lightweight and my wife was having a blast snooping on Facebook and playing her PUBG mobile game. The keyboard can also detach if you just want to have the device as a tablet. Now to me, that device right there is how you do a two-in-one.

Day Five

This is the day I received the Lenovo Chromebook 3. So far, it has been working well! It’s got the same perks as the HP did and it runs very well. Plus, my screen hasn’t blinked or shaken itself one time so far.

All of my Chrome bookmarks carried over, so it was quite simple to boot up WordPress and type up quite a bit of lost ground from not having that other machine.

One impressive aspect is that the Chrome OS remembered the six apps I installed on my previous machine and it knew to download those to this chromebook first thing!

Now for this day, I do not have a lot to say because I am just getting this device set up once more. I’m importing some files that I haven’t uploaded to the Drive yet and I’m logging back in to my bookmarked sites since I do not save my passwords.

Tomorrow though, I plan on putting some major use into this laptop, like I intended on doing the first time. We’re going to try doing a little bit of everything. I’m going to play some videos in the background while I work. I’m going to read one of my ebooks for a while. Also, I’m going to type a little bit on Google Docs because I have a story to begin. We’re going to try the bluetooth as well and play some music on my big speaker. I’m telling you, day six is going to be busy!

Then for day seven, I’m just going to log on and summarize my take as much as possible and type up a decent conclusion to this experience that is both a review and a blog.

Conclusion (Day Eight)

You might have noticed I decided not to elaborate any further on days six and seven. They went exactly as described. I had some of this part of the post already typed on day seven; however, I’m spending some time here on day eight to finish this long post.

My overall impression of Chrome OS is that I am very happy with the decision I made. I had to pay bills yesterday and then later in the day I got stuck on a dungeon in Zelda. You have no idea how quickly I was able to take care of both things. After four days of solid use, my Lenovo Chromebook still has about 35% of battery life left. I haven’t been charging it on purpose.

Ironically, I started to see rumblings of Windows beginning to introduce their new operating system, Windows 11. Sometimes they tell me “Shane, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” I’m here to tell you, in this instance, the grass is just fine. I do not wish to revert back to Windows anytime soon.

So if you are a person looking for a new machine to handle basic needs that you would rather not do on a smartphone or a tablet, then try Chrome OS. If you can find an app for it on the Google Play store or get to what you need on the Chrome internet browser, then this type of operating system is for you. It works very quickly and does a great job synchronizing with your Google account if you have it set up to do so.

Of course I will warn you as well. If you plan on doing professional productivity such as photoshop, video production, music making, etc. then Mac is probably where you need to go.

Likewise, if you plan on gaming on your PC and setting up a high end rig, then Chrome OS is definitely not for you neither.

This is not a bad thing and Google is in ways ahead of the curve in terms of having a web based and cloud based OS. Right now, it’s perfect for my needs just for everyday use, blog posting, web browsing, and it’s just a blessing to have a lot of my Google favorites synchronized and easily accessible depending on if I want to use my tablet (those are times I don’t want to type my fingers off) or go get the Chromebook and type up a blog like this.

Thank you for reading and bearing with the blog. I’m still shaking off a lot of rust in terms of writing. I just felt like there weren’t many takes out there of a mid-20s tech guy trying Chrome OS and just using it everyday. Most of the takes I found before I jumped in were either from reviewers biased toward or against Google, or school kids that have been forced to use Chrome OS.

Have a great day out there and remember that you matter! Carpe Diem!

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