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Google Cr-48 Chrome OS netbook ‘shiny and tarnished’

A hands-on report on Google’s Chrome OS-powered CR-48 ‘preview program’ netbook has called the new cloud-computing device ‘both brilliant and bewildering.’

Following three days use of the Cr-48 netbook, TechCrunch journalist MG Siegler was rather less than impressed with the hardware, calling it “pretty bad” and “annoying as hell” but said that the weaknesses in the hardware were all the more apparently since Google’s Chrome OS is “even in its very early, fairly rough stage, is that good.”

Siegler compared the hardware to that of an older 12-inch MacBook, adding that the Cr-48 was bulky compared to a new device like the MacBook Air. The Cr-48 itself will not be offered for sale by Google but is serving as a reference test platform while the internet giant works out the kinks in Chrome OS.

As expected, the Cr-48 powers up quickly and set-up is a breeze with a simple log-in to the Google cloud resulting in Chrome bookmarks, extensions and apps from the newly launched Chrome Web Store automatically syncing to the device. Seigler called the process the “future of computer set-ups.”

Less impressive were aspects such as the oversized trackpad on the Cr-48 which has won few fans among those given the opportunity to put the device through its paces. Siegler said it was the “worst excuse for a piece of technology that anyone has created in the past five years”.

Other elements of the Cr-48 and Chrome OS combination also failed to impress such as general sluggish performance of the Intel Atom-powered netbook, boot times aside. Flash performance in particular is said to be virtually useless with Adobe promising performance improvements ahead.

The performance issue is perhaps surprising given the notebook contains an Intel Atom capable of running Windows to acceptable levels of performance, however Siegler said that merely typing into WordPress in the Chrome browser was laggy and at the end of the review said this was seriously enough to force him back to a Macbook Air.

The aesthetics of Google’s OS also came in for criticism with Siegler failing to be impressed by the themes and the look and feel of the UI, also saying that “fonts look like shit”.

Siegler said that the biggest hold up for the cloud-based netbook concept was that of Internet connectivity saying that the OS was “completely and utterly useless” without Internet connectivity. Yet for all that Siegel didn’t dismiss Google’s strategy of the always-connected netbook.

“I don’t think anyone disagrees that computers that are always connected to the Internet are the future, it’s just that Google is taking it to the extreme right now with these machines. It’s Internet or nothing. It’s bold.”

Pricing of eventual third party Chrome-OS netbooks will also need to be very low, said Seigler, with prices preferably sub $500 US. At these prices Siegler said that Chrome OS could well put the pressure on low-end Windows-powered netbooks, assuming that Google improves the Chrome OS to the same degree that the firm has improved the smartphone OS Android.

“If I could buy the Cr-48 right now, would I? No. But I’d download Chrome OS and install it on some cheap netbook.”

Click here to read the full TechCrunch review.

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