CR-48: The Hardware

This brief review covers the major user experience problems I encountered using the CR-48 Chromebook prototype.

Input Devices

The tactile feedback of the keyboard is soft, quiet and satisfying to the touch.  But there are several problems with the primary mode of input, as listed below (in no particular order):

  1. Good riddance to CAPSLOCK… but where are Delete, End, Home and F2 (Rename)?
    Google has simulated most function keys with these Vulcan death-grip key combinations, but they are frustrating finger positions to learn.
    Deletealt+backspace
    Home: ctrl+alt+up-arrow
    End: ctrl+alt+down-arrow
    F2: no replacement
  2. Pressing the Alt-Tab key directly above the 6/7 keys (or pressing alt+tab) doesn’t do anything except briefly shimmy the screen. [UPDATE: I have since a discovered that this key only functions when more than one instance of the browser is open, allowing the user to flip between instances.  Perhaps only I was confused, but I still think this function needs clearer documentation.]
  3. The keyboard real estate used by the refresh-key is redundant (see ctrl+r) and would be best served as a rename function key or a toggle to disable the touchpad.  Better still, the touchpad should automatically disable when the USB port is occupied by a mouse.
  4. Speaking of the touchpad… while larger (I presume) for ease of use, it is problematic for those of us that fail to properly hover our wrists while typing.  Otherwise imperceivable wrist contact with the touchpad causes the cursor to erratically flit around the screen as if possessed.  Not a fan of touchpads in general, I attempted to utilize this one and found it to be far worse than others I have used in the past.  Clicking is not a simple matter of tapping the pad, it is more like a mouse button you have to depress on the bottom corners (left and right) [UPDATE: I have since a discovered tap-to-click touchpad toggle setting, which makes clicking behave like other touchpads I’ve used] and scrolling is a frustrating ballet of two fingers.  Suffice it to say, this touchpad is a complete fail.
  5. It would be nice to have  keyboard illumination (some HP laptops have flip lights mounted next to the webcam) or better yet, a fancy backlit keyboard.
  6. A final commentary on the keyboard: when removing common keyboard functionality (regardless of  reason), allow key remapping to both minimize frustration and reduce the learning curve for efficient input.

Wi-Fi

I didn’t expect to have problems connecting to Wi-Fi1 and I didn’t – setup was quick and easy.

Unfortunately, the connection speed2 is entirely a different matter.  The CR-48 is significantly slower than my laptop, which utilizes the same wireless router.  I scoured the discussion boards and several posts make mention of resolving the slowness by changing the router encoding to AES.  I confirmed that my router was similarly set but still no success.  I put in a request to the Chrome OS team for help, and will post an update when I hear back.

I’m making an assumption the slowness is a wireless network configuration issue and not the result of under-powered or faulty hardware.

  1. I have setup several Linux distros in the past, and there was no reason to believe this occasion would be different.
  2. I have yet to try the built-in cellular support

Comments ( 2 )

  • Andrew says:

    Hello. I am very impressed with your overview of the google cr-48. Unfortunately, I don’t agree with your comments about the touch pad. I believe it is safe to assume that you have never used an Apple computer. If you had gotten used to an apple computer, then you would have probably enjoyed the cr-48 touch pad more in regards to the scrolling and the clicking. The issue about touching the touch pad while using the keyboard, however, I do agree with you. I haven’t ever really had that problem, but I see where you are coming from. Thanks for the great post!

  • Andrew says:

    Also – the backlit keyboard is a good idea. I have it on my macbook pro, and it is very very useful!

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