Google’s Chromebook, are my expectations really that high?

Asus ChromebookWhat I’m comparing it to

My wife often uses an old 2006 MacBook Pro for web surfing, Google Docs, YouTube and a few other tasks that are generally considered lightweight by today’s standards. The MA610LL model came with a 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo (dual core for those who’ve forgotten that processor), 667MHz system bus and even one of those spinny things that dies and has to be replaced. A DVD player, yeah, one of those.

To be fair, I did upgrade it to 4GB of RAM and put in a pretty snappy HDD – 7200RPM and can do well over 100MB/s r/w. Well, snappy by 2009 standards when I put it in there.

The screen is old, yellowed and looks like some of the backlight might be out. The CPU often runs at about 75%.

A Chromebook, that can run all Google’s stuff, right?

It would only make sense that a Google Chromebook could play 720p video off of YouTube. I mean, if this over eight year old Mac can do it, shouldn’t a current model Chromebook?

I wasn’t going for top-end Chromebook. At those prices, I’ll just buy another MacBook Pro. I was specifically looking at the Asus C300 with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of solid state storage.

Trying the Chromebook for real

So I swung by BestBuy and they had this model on display. I took it for a whirl, though I’d launch Chrome and load a few tabs. I got a little overzealous and thought I’d see how it would handle a 4k video.

I know. But you need to understand I once installed Counter Strike on Virtual PC for Mac, on a 500MHz G4. Sure I got like 30spf (yes, seconds per frame), but it worked.

The Chromebook just hung. It remained unresponsive for about ten minutes before I finally held down the power button. Okay, that was a tough trial. Let’s try a few more tabs and load a video in YouTube.

Sure it plays the low res fine, but what about 720p? The screen supports that.

The Fail

No, this Chromebook can’t YouTube at 720p. I couldn’t believe it. Using Google’s OS, with Google’s browser, on Google’s website… it didn’t work. I was getting maybe 5fps out of YouTube. And, no, it wasn’t due to network issues. It had buffered fully, it just couldn’t render the frames fast enough.

While the screen wasn’t a little yellowed, the backlight wasn’t really any better, and the image quality was worse.

You’re better off buying a used MacBook Pro off ebay

Looking at MBP’s with the same screen size, you can buy one that’s beefier than my old laptop, for about the same price as this Chromebook. And if you go with something that’s about my vintage, or a little newer, you can get a 15.4” screen for about the same price.

And if you have a MBP of this vintage or even a little newer, if you haven’t already, put 4GB+ of RAM in it and a SSD and you should be good for quite a while longer.

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