Sick of Windows’ bloat and security issues, I’ve been rooting mightily for the Chrome platform to take off. I love the speedy Asus Chromebox I’m using as my main desktop.
But how do Chromebook tablets and convertible laptops—able to function as tablets, too—work out for reading e-books?
I lack enough firsthand experience to generalize, but based on my frustrations with a 9.7-inch Acer Chromebook tablet and an 11.6-inch Lenovo C330 laptop, I’m not exactly a booster.
Given the stakes here for K-12 students and others using Chromebooks—in some cases at schools without paper-based libraries—I’m not the only one with an interest in these matters.
I’d welcome some perspective from other TeleRead community members.
A major problem with the Acer tablet was that it could not run the usual Kindle reading app in Android—just the Web-based version, which is not as responsive and doesn’t have as many features. Also, the 9.7 inch screen seemed a little too small for the Chrome interface.
The 11.6-inch Lenovo laptop was worse, in that I found it too heavy at 2.6 pounds to use comfortably as a tablet.
What’s more, the Lenovo didn’t work well with my favorite ebook app, Moon+ Reader Pro; the touch screen was not very responsive to my taps. On top of that, the Lenovo could not automatically change its screen orientation from landscape to portrait when I went into the tablet mode by way of the hinge. I called Lenovo tech-support. No solution. So I returned the Lenovo as well as the Acer.
On the plus side, Google is constantly upgrading the Chromebooks’ operating systems and apparently is supporting them for a good five years or so. Updates arrive automatically, and you can almost instantly install them.
Furthermore, with the cloud-based approach, it’s a snap to switch to a different machine.
Now—if only Google and partners can refine the related software and hardware! Already the voice recognition is more accurate than Apple’s (see my iPad Pro review).
A greater and better selection of ebook apps for Chrome would also help. Same for higher screen resolution for most low-end Chromebooks (even though the Acer tablet itself was fine at 2048 x 1536.)
Google and Amazon have been feuding in various ways, but providing a really good Kindle app for the Chromebook OS would really help.
So what are your own thoughts on Chromebooks, and do you have any suggestions to share with others–either about picking the right one, or about using Chromebooks for ebooking?
What I didn’t test on the Chromebooks: I should have tried out OverDrive’s Libby library software. Anyone care to try it?
Two other Chromebook tablets: Asus and CTL models.
Note: The image is of the 2019 New Lenovo C330, slightly more recent than the C330 that I checked out. It shows how the hinge works to turn a laptop into a tablet. Hmm. I wonder how the very latest model would do with Moon+ Reader Pro, and whether it can now automatically change the screen orientation.
What about Google Play Books for Chrome:
We recently bought an Asus Chromebook hybrid (laptop/tablet) for my not-very-tech-savvy, 70-something-year-old mother-in-law, to replace her ancient Macbook Air. Beautiful, crisp 14″ display, excellent build quality, very impressive package for $400. The OOB experience was a breeze – just find the Wi-Fi, log in to your Google account, and you’re off and running. It was very easy for her to learn to use; she just had to change her idea of “saving files to the hard drive” to “saving files to Google Drive.” We love the zero software maintenance, zero malware (so far…) aspects. This really opened my eyes – I now feel that if you have a reliable Internet connection and you aren’t a power user with special needs, Chromebooks are the way to go. I’m a fan.
@Bill: Re malware: One thing I’ve done to be on the safe side is to install the Malware Bytes extension on my Chrome OS devices. If nothing else, it might help with Android apps. But all in all, yes, in terms of security, I’m much better off than with Windows.
@Bill: You’re absolutely right about the Chromebook’s virtues, and I’m delighted that your mother-in-law has enjoyed hers. Is she using Google Play Books? So glad you mentioned it.
As mentioned, I’m certainly a fan of the Chromebox. These days, I’m not running that many apps requiring Windows, so it’s easily become my main box.
On a grander scale, the whole experience makes me wish the Justice Department had been more aggressive about separation of the Windows OS from Windows apps. Perhaps the Chrome OS or an equivalent would have arrived earlier. Feel free to disagree.
Actually, “Chrome OS or an equivalent” arrived in the late 1990s. It was called SunRay, from Sun Microsystems (where I worked at the time). It was a device that ran some kind of Java-based OS without a hard drive (or maybe with a very small one) and downloaded Java apps for its functionality.
Its boot time was about 37 zillion years.
It was inflicted on the Sun sales force at the time as an alternative to Windows PCs (during the days of Windows 95). The only actual such device I was ever aware of was on Scott McNealy’s secretary’s desk. She used it for printing his emails and giving him the hardcopy.
All snide joking aside, you have to consider the surrounding enabling technologies that make something like a Chromebook feasible as a practical product. IMHO it has nothing to do with separation of Windows OS from Windows apps – it has to do with availability of reliable, ubiquitous high-speed broadband and sufficiently capacious flash memory. Kind of the same factors that made the iPhone possible in 2007 after a few years of other smartphones that went absolutely nowhere in the market.
Now if only Google could only produce a decent user interface for gmail……
P.S. I should clarify: the OS that the SunRay ran was HotJava, a Java-based web browser.
@Bill: Excellent points about bandwidth and memory. But I still think more aggressive separation would have helped. Microsoft might actually have ended up better off by being forced to care more about its apps, including the Reader. Big thanks for your story of Sun device. Know of any pictures anywhere? As for Gmail, amen! I myself would also like it to have an all-bold-text option for some older people and others with contrast-sensitivity issues.
Actually I misremembered: it was called the JavaStation. The SunRay came later. Just do a Google image search for JavaStation. It was sold without a monitor.
@Bill: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/JavaStation and https://youtu.be/yxV_pR1ZsXM
When it became apparent that there is more money in Android than in ChromeOS, Google discouraged developers from creating ChromeOS apps and prefers that they produce Progressive Web Apps and Android apps.
ChromeOS computers are mainly used for web browsing and Google web-based apps, and, for newer models, Android apps (many of which don’t work too well on ChromeOS).
Some time after vehemently denying that it was working on a new operating system, Google revealed that it is developing the Fuchsia OS. Fuchsia will run an Android runtime, according to the latest reports.
I hope this new OS runs on existing Chromebooks including the ARM based models. I especially hope they give it a new name.
@Tunguska: Thanks very much for the information. In terms of security and updating, Chrome is so much better than Android and Windows. If Fuchsia picks up Chrome’s positives and can run on Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, then terrific! It apparently will be able to run Android apps. I agree with you about the name. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Fuchsia