Bhaskar Karambelkar's Blog

Google CR-48 My Impressions - Part 1 Hardware

 

Tags: chromium os cr-48


This is my series of posts about my impressions of Google’s CR-48 the net-book that runs Google’s Chromium OS.

It was a pleasant surprise when the CR-48 showed up at my doorstep. I had applied for one fairly early in the beta program, but never expected to get one, so imagine my surprise when I opened the UPS box and saw the now famous case of CR-48 inside.

As Google started this program with the intention of receiving feedback from the user/developer community, here goes my impressions about the net-book, it’s hardware and it’s software.

Hardware

The Exterior components

To start with , the box that CR-48 was shipped in is really nice, it has already gained its own fame in a very short time and rightfully so. I am thinking using it as a case for HTPC, should be quite interesting if and when I get around to doing it.

As a lot has been already said about the box, let me talk a bit about the safety instructions leaflet that came with the net-book. This is by far the most interesting and quite amusing safety instruction sheet I have read. To quote a few lines from it …..

Don’t Panic.

Read this paper. Then recycle it.

Or make it into a super cool paper airplane that you can give to your nephew.

….

Do not drop, disassemble, open, crush, bend, bake, deform, puncture, blend (guess we’ll never know if it’ll blend).

….

This product contains small parts which may present a choking hazard to small children, as well as men who have not emotionally matured.

All in all , quite a few amusing lines in there.

Moving on to the actual product, CR-48, The net-book is quite light, although not feather light, feels very easy to carry around and handle. I really like the mat rubbery body, but it is quite prone to fingerprints and smug marks in general. Make sure you’re not eating ribs and using this thing at the same time ;).

The LCD screen is quite nice and pleasing to eyes, haven’t tried using this thing outdoors yet, but so far under normal light the screen is quite good. The 1280x800 max resolution works quite well on a 12”1’ screen. One thing to note is that you can’t open the LCD screen with one hand, in fact you feel quite a resistance even when opening it with one hand on the lid and another holding down the bottom part.

There is a VGA adapter on the left side for external display. This was a major disappointment, VGA adapter in 2010 ? Seriously what were they thinking, plus when you switch to the external display the LCD screen turns off, so no dual monitor setup. Wish list for the OEMs, HDMI please.

The web-cam is mounted on top of the screen, just like any other laptop/net-book and the microphone is right besides it. So everything you need for video/voice chat is right there. The speakers are quite good for casual listening, and there is also a headphone jack in case you need to use your favorite head phones.

The Keyboard is already being discussed in a lot of places, and the main point being replacing F-* keys with function specific keys. So far I haven’t found any problems adjusting to the new keyboard, although it took some time getting use to the top row keys. I do miss dedicated “Page Up/Down” and “Home/End” keys. Having to type Alt-Up/Down and Crtl+Alt+Up/Down is not quite as easy as using a dedicated button for that purpose. I really don’t use the CAPSLOCK key, so I don’t mind the caps lock key being replace by the search button.

The track-pad on the other hand is quite a different story. I am still not getting used to multi-touch, besides I don’t think the track-pad shuts off when you’re typing, resulting in accidental clicks while typing, very very annoying.

Thankfully you can use an external USB mouse. I was able to use a wireless USB mouse very easily, but 2 things I couldn’t figure out were.. - How to disable the track-pad when an external mouse is being used. - How to change mouse settings, like acceleration, sensitivity etc.

The USB port can also be used with a USB-ethernet adapter for wired network access, although I haven’t tried that yet.

There is also a SD-Card slot right behind the USB port, and although there is no explorer style GUI to access files on your SD card, the browser’s file upload dialog box does indeed allow you to navigate the SD card. Also you can use the shell in developer mode to access the SD card. Similarly you can also connect a USB external disk to the usb port.

That is about all on the external, after all this is a net-book so no parallel ports, no serial ports, no docking station connectors etc.

The inner guts

Now on to the meat, what’s inside this thing, the stuff that really matters…

- CPU : Intel Atom Processor N455 1.66GHz 512K Cache. Not bad for a net-book, don’t expect to run a rendering farm on these though.

- Memory : Hynix 2GB DDR3 1Rx8 PC3 – 10600S Ram No complains here, DDR3, 2 GB, what’s not to like.

- Hard-disk : SanDisk sdsa4dh-016G 16GB SATA SSD More than enough for a net-book.

- Display Adapter : Intel Integrated Graphics Controller No HD video playbacks with this one. Why no Nvidia ION , google ?

- Wireless Wan : AzureWave 802.11 a/b/g/n PCI-E Half MiniCard Supports 802.11 N, so quite fast wireless speeds.

- 3g Adapter : Qualcomm Gobi2000 PCI Express Mini Card. With 4G just around the corner, not sure 3G will suffice.

- Bluetooth : Atheros AR5BBU12 Bluetooth V2.1 ED. There is no GUI for bluetooth connectivity though. Has to be done via command line in developer mode.

In my next post, I’ll review the Chromium OS user experience.