In my First Impressions of the CR-48 notebook, I was very optimistic about the software and hardware. I noted the simplicity of both aspects to be intriguing and very conducive to easy mobile computing. Now that I have spent some hard earned time with the Chrome Notebook, my thoughts have been altered slightly. In a two part review, I will look in-depth at both.
Design and Build Quality In terms of the design of the laptop, it really is a sight to see. I personally hate most mainstream laptops with their loads of ugly stickers, brandings, and awkward curves and lights. The manufacturer of the CR-48 (A company called Inventec) took a much different approach. The CR-48 is completely unbranded, with not a single icon or sticker on the entire exterior. It is a matte black finish, which is very handsome and leaves no fingerprint marks. The Lid is a latchless design, which makes opening and closing it very simple and easy. The laptop is thin, but does not feel cheap or flimsy. There is no flex or bend in the chassis, including the keyboard.
Keyboard and Trackpad The keyboard on the CR-48 is one that should be noted by other manufactures. It is a chicklet style keyboard, and the look and feel is strikingly similar to the Macbook. Typing on it is a breeze, and the new search key that is in place of the Caps-Lock is extremely useful, opening a new tab in Chrome OS. The trackpad is not quite as impressive. The button-less design is also very similar to the MacBook, but its usefulness is subpar. The tracking and two-finger scrolling work well, but are certainly not spectacular. Clicking is a nightmare, with every press causing the cursor to jump up sharply. It seems this is a driver issue, not a hardware problem but being we have no control over drivers; there is no way to tell for sure.
Ports and Speakers On the CR-48 you get a USB port, an SD Card slot, a Headphone Jack, a VGA out and an AC plug port. VGA output is mediocre and certainly not aimed towards everyday use, but it works. The laptop produces good sound out of the internal speakers, located on the sides of the laptop. The headphone jack also produces good sound quality, although your source media is guaranteed to not be so high quality (read on to find out more). The SD and USB are pointless right now, with no software file management available yet.
Screen The 12.1-inch screen is fairly bright and gives an adequate picture. Considering there is no real gaming on the laptop, and movie watching is streaming only there is no way to truly test the screen quality. The view angles are passable and overall the panel seems perfectly suited for the web-centric notebook.
Battery Life and Portability The CR-48 is meant to be a portable web notebook. Weighing in at just over 3 pounds, the notebook is easy to carry. The rubberized finish seems nice to lug around. The battery life is fantastic, with a solid 7 hours of battery life over 3G web browsing.
Internet Connectivity The CR-48 features 802.11n wireless plus 3G CDMA wireless through Verizon. Both function flawlessly, with terrific range. The 3G is straightforward to setup and with 100MB of free data each month, a handy thing to have for an OS that will not boot up without internet. Browsing speeds will be discussed later in the software portion.
Overall Overall, this is the best non-Mac laptop I have used. It's simple, elegant and does everything it needs to. The build quality is top notch, much better then standard Netbooks and Budget Notebooks. The keyboard is the best I have typed on for a non-Mac piece of hardware and the Internet connectivity is great. I wish HP, Dell and others could take note and give Inventec a call for some tips. Although I doubt the CR-48 with ever have an MSRP, I would say it could easy fall into the $500 to $700 category.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for a review of the software!