Chromebook, Possibly the best deal at the moment

Okay so we know about Chromebooks, They are cheap and cheerful laptops, that work surprisingly well for their price, Although I do not own one... Yet... I follow these closely, Although I am waiting for Toshiba to do something (Any tosh product I have had has never let me or anyone I know down) They are due to release their first Chromebook very soon, Q1 I believe, I feel it is time to explain the best I can about the true power underneath these little things.

Okay, so the chances are the chromebook has an Intel Celeron/Haswell processor or a Samsung Exynos processor, which are Dual cores, 2GB RAM and 16GB SSD based storage, these specs are small, but with a little tinkering can become powerful.

First think to know Chromebooks run Linux, although you more than likely know this, They run an heavily edited version of Gentoo, so you cant use terminal and the repos, Google has full control over ChromeOS. But we are not going to use ChromeOS, we are going to use Linux.

It is recommended a bleeding edge distro is needed, Some devices in the laptop may not work such as trackpads and wireless cards, this is like dealing with a mac, just cheaper and better, So pick something like Arch, Fedora or Sabayon/Gentoo (If sabayon works), Then install coreboot, so you have a free bios that is accessible.

I wont be explaining this, But there is guides all over.

With your distro installed and working, you have just unlocked the true power of a chromebook, a laptop at £200 that can smash a lot of £400/500 laptops due to software, you may only have 16GB SSD, but one you have an SSD and two nothing wireless storage or external HDD cant solve.

Your security is also still superb, I would recommend configuring NFTables and ClamAV if you know how to do this, ClamAV can easily be installed via terminal, NFTables is built into the kernel as of 3.13.

So if you get this working, you technically have one of the best Laptop deals on the planet, Chromebooks are brilliant for linux, and you can then spend the extra £200 in your budget on stuff like external HDDs or software :)

Any other information? Post below please!


Drivers for the trackpads are available since a couple of weeks on Arch and Gentoo. You have to manually install them in Fedora and OpenSuSE, but it's easy.

Anything for CrOS, can be found on the Google dev pages of CrOS. They publish late to boost CrOS use, but they do publish, and you can always pull in the source if you can't wait. CrOS is not entirely open source, the Google bits are closed source, but everything purporting to hardware is open source (but can still be proprietary, like the Acer Trackpad driver for instance).

But the wait is well worth it, I don't expect KVM to work on these, so gaming is not technically possible at any level, Maybe Game Dev Story, but thats it.

I can see the I.T departments been asked to get chromebooks and use them, for there crappy windows PC I suppose but still, let linux leak into everywhere hehe

Well, there is a downside to the Acer C720. It has a REALLY slow m.2 controller. M.2 is supposed to be faster than SATA, but in this case, it isn't, it's slower than SATAI.

So samsung or toshiba, all been well with toshiba, I shall be going with them :)

I've been wanting a Chromebook for some time now, mainly for utility purposes. Often times I find myself working on things around the house and at friend's home and it's terribly inconvenient to not have your own PC to work with. And I especially won't be lugging my desktop around lol. Would be good for school to, as I do not like to mix my work and play machines.

yeah they are brilliantly speced for the price, I cant wait to get one :) 

Nice timing with this post! Just bought an Acer C720 this very week. 2GB RAM, 32GB SSD, Hasewell based Celeron processor (1.4 Ghz if I recall correctly). 260$ (CND, always more expensive over here :( )

So far, one of the best purchases I've made in a while...for the money anyways, a real bargain.

Chromeos is great, for what it's meant to be; doesn't do all that much but what it does it does very well.

I've installed CrunchBang through Crouton (IE run #! in a chroot environment) and that works really really well. Alternating between both environments is seamless. Didn't have to do to much fucking around in !# aside from fixing the touchpad a bit. Also, I need to set it up so that I can use the keyboard shortcuts for volume control & brightness in the !# enviro...but these are just details. Aside from these little quirks, everything runs as expected.

I'll probably end up replacing !# by Arch at some point, but for now this does the job really well.

As for the actual laptop, the CPU in here is really quite fast, performance is a lot better than those ARM processors (Exynos) in the Samsung Chromebook and the HP 11. Just skip those two entirely and go for either the C720 or the HP 14. SSD is fast enough, boots take about 8/9 seconds. Haven't noticed any issues related to the controller (Zoltan brought that up earlier in the thread), but haven't done any testing at all really.

Anyways, after a few days of use, can't really complain...for 250$, this thing is a steal, no doubt. 

EDIT: Also, battery life is great. I'm at full brightness right now, 90% battery and 5h30 mins left.

M.2 is still in an early stage. Sooner or later, there will be a software update to solve the issue, but for the moment, I have the feeling like the m.2 controller and the m.2 SSD are not really talking to eachother all that well.

Is it possible to upgrade the chromebooks, RAM and SSD? make them even better then :)

Depends on the model. On the C270 (the one I have), you can change the SSD but the options are still pretty limited; I've read that there's a 128GB that can be pretty easily swapped though.

As for the RAM, on the model I have it's soldered on, so no. This is entirely dependent on the model you get though. On the older Acer C7s you could add an other module / replace the one already in place.

I want one I can push to 4GB RAM, even if I dont use 4GB its there for backup, saves my SSD swapping also, I was tempted via the HP 14 Chromebook but 1 HP, 2 its to heavy. but I shall see when I actually get to purchasing one, think I will run Arch or Gentoo

These chromebooks have peaked my interest (thanks to this forum :P). But I have a few questions...

Besides the OS, what is the main difference between chromebooks and netbooks? The reason I ask this is because a couple years ago we bought a netbook for my wife to use but ended up returning it and grabbing a "real" laptop as we found the netbook was just too slow even for regular tasks.

How capable are these low-power, low-frequency processors in these chromebooks? I understand they probably can't multitask all that well, but just how much demand can they actually handle?

If you have ever had the chance to play with one they are amazing at what they are for, Google nailed the OS perfectly with web and Linux combined.

If you want to just browse the web, check emails, watch youtube etc etc, they are perfect for the asking price, if you want to play older style games, 1999 era they should do it fine, my GFs i3 370m 2GB laptop runs dungeon keeper fine, In windows, In linux using wine it would be boss.

Dont think linux is windows, its better optimised from all angles, I mean all, your RAM usage will be lower and CPU resources will be lower in turn making stuff like battery better :)

If you choose to install a linux distro stick to bleeding edge editions as I mentioned and just have fun, it wont slow down without a very specific reason (I.E you messed up the distro)

So if I'm understanding you correctly; basically they are comparable to more expensive windows laptops in terms of performance for the main reason that the OS on a chromebook is far better optimized and thus there is more CPU/Ram resources available to perform more demanding tasks (ie: light gaming, multi-tasking etc.)?

My main purpose for this would be to use for my business (which uses some online utilities), web browsing, youtube, emails, word and excel docs, some multi-media use, in-home game streaming via steam, and for learning how to install/use various Linux distros (bleeding edge distros, as you suggest). Heck, I might even throw AutoCAD on it. :P

Business yes they work fine, office stuff, like excel based stuff, web browsing, media consumption etc, all perfectly fine, its when you begin to start to enter the world of heavy resource usage, AutoCAD wont work, 1 its not on Linux, 2 Its to heavy, Think you have a 16GB SSD and 2GB RAM, Adobe would scream at you for such stuff, mainly because it does not know that 2GB even still exists in modern PCs.

These PCs are designed at users who just want to browse the internet and do home user tasks, they are aimed at people not like us, but at the same time are, they want us to tinker and find stuff out, makes them chromebooks sell better than any MS product.

Light gaming and I mean light, stuff like FTL and other low end indie titles (I mean resource users) and old games should work fine on the Celewell processors, (Haswell/Celeron) if you wish to do AutoCAD then you are out of luck on linux really, I am unsure if there is a port or an application that can do similar things, Blender possibly, but I am no CAD expert.

If you want to use Linux for advanced apps such as AutoCAD, get a dam powerful laptop, with AMD GPU inside it, and then run Xen or KVM and then make a windows VM, otherwise you are stuck I am afraid :(

Sounds like it will do everything I need it to and do it well. 

My apologies, I should have been more clear when I said AutoCAD. I didn't mean the full-blown desktop version. That wouldn't even fit on the 16GB ssd. lol. There is a cloud-based version of AutoCAD called AutoCAD 360. You can use their browser-based AutoCAD program for free which is a VERY light version in which you can edit and create drawings on a very basic level. There is an actual AutoCAD 360 app for android and IOS which allows you to download, open and edit/create drawings from the cloud, locally on your device. I run it on my nexus 4 all the time and it handles it quite smoothly. Saves me from having to print and fumble with paper copies when I go out on-site. Upon further searching, AutoCAD 360 is available as an app for ChromeOS. The fact that the browser version exists means it can be run on anything with a browser. 

Been doing some more research on both the Samsung and Acer models. Sounds like the Acer model might be the better of the two with the ability to upgrade the ram and internal storage, as well as a replaceable battery. I can get a refurbished Acer C710 locally for about $189. Seriously thinking about it...

Yeah I was thinking you memt AutoCAD 360 but was not 100% sure lol

Anyways they are good for the price and if you begin hacking them they become better I am tempted between one of these or a custom laptop, as I want to play stuff like dungeon keeper 2 offline :) and possibly war of the over world when its out :)

Give us some feedback if you get one I would like to know what there like to live with :)

So today I just picked up an Acer C710-2490 for $189. If I so choose to toss the 320GB HDD and throw in a 120GB SSD, it'll end up costing about the same as the Samsung chrome book that only has a fixed 16GB SSD. 

Been doing a ton of research and the Acer really is the best choice chromebook for enthusiasts. You can upgrade the ram, swap the storage as well as use VGA, HDMI, and Ethernet. the keyboard even has a full complement including caps lock and delete, which are both missing from the Samsung model. CPU and GPU tests performed by Anandtech, even with the Acer's Intel Celeron throttled back to 800mhz (from 1.1ghz normally) it still outperformed the Samsung Exynos ARM processor in nearly every test.

The only thing the Samsung has going for it over the Acer is the aesthetics. After seeing them both in person, the Samsung is definitely the sharper-looking of the two. That being said, the Acer is no ugly duckling, it's just more basic-looking and not as thin. For what it offers over the Samsung and for $70 less, I can overlook appearance in exchange.

Haven't had a good chance to put it through the ringer yet, but I did have half a dozen tabs open while streaming 3 HD videos from youtube all at the same time and that didn't seem to slow it down at all. I can tell already that the major bottleneck is the slow mechanical HDD. I have 7 days to "try it out", and if I end up keeping it, I will not hesitate to slap a 120GB SSD in this thing as that will really speed it up (not that it's terribly slow to begin with, it isn't). Regardless, it still boots fast and does everything quite quickly.

The Chrome OS is interesting. It is fairly light on resources and is literally "the chrome browser". Nearly everything is done through the browser and it's actually not a bad way of doing things. Makes it easy to switch tasks and keep tabs on what you're doing (pun intended). If you already use chrome a lot, you'll have no trouble using something like this. 

Can give a more thorough review after I've had more time to play round with it. I honestly think that chrome OS on a far less expensive laptop or PC would make a much better solution for a lot of people that don't really need full blown windows. For someone who mainly uses facebook, email, youtube, netflix etc., this is all you really need. I think these are just a little ahead of their time...

Can you do me a check with that chromebook, run a game from like 2000 and see if it runs in wine/pol I want to play dungeon keeper etc on one :) and I may go for an i3 model when they are released :) just want to know the celeron can handle light gaming