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Take a look, it’s in a Chromebook

I’m trying out a Chromebook at the moment, but I’m not sure if I like it or not yet. It’s an Acer CB3-111-670. I mostly bought it to be a writing machine – I bought an Apple eMate off of eBay a few months ago figuring that it would make a great writing machine if I could get it to interface with some modern technology so I could extract the files from it (which hasn’t gone well so far) – and I figured that by having a cheap laptoppy-type machine to bang away on wouldn’t be so bad. Plus, I was able to get it for only $160, so I won’t have to be so anxious about something happening to it, and it weighs just over 2 lbs so easy enough to carry.

This is my first attempt at typing for an extended period on the Chromebook; before now the extent of my typing had been trying a few different Markdown-based editors, but the one that’s working exactly the way that I was hoping for is Calmly Writer. So far Calmy Writer on the Chromebook is a good distraction-free writing experience, which is exactly what I was going for. Unfortunately, as for the general Chromebook browsing experience, I think for the most part I’ll stick to my MacBook Pro. It’s 3 years old now, but I’ve maxed out its RAM and upgraded its hard drive with an SSD so it still runs well. My problem with internet browsing is that I’m so used to using 1Password for all my passwords and I can’t really replicate that sort of password management and syncing on the Chromebook.

My complaints about this Chromebook are really down to two things: the screen, and the trackpad. The screen itself doesn’t really have that much of a viewing angle, so if you’re not looking at it straight on it’s not a great viewing experience, and the trackpad itself is very plastic-y and sometimes difficult to track accurately — the cursor jumps around a bit and I’m not sure if it’s the sort of thing I’ll get use to maneuvering with practice or not. But then again, this laptop did cost only $160, so the quality is exactly what I’d expect from a $160 laptop. That’s not to say that it feels cheaply made, it’s just that you need to think of exactly what’s going to go into making a machine at that price point and it’s not going to be retina screens and glass trackpads.

I have 14 days to try it out before I decide if I’ll keep it or return it, and while I was on the fence before about keeping vs. returning, after spending this time writing on it I’m leaning a bit more towards “keep”. It’ll probably be more of a browsing-as-a-last-resort machine (because of the lack of 1Password syncing1, but also because of the jumpy cursor. Seriously, it’s that annoying.), but as a writing-first machine it’s so far doing exactly what I wanted it to do: be a machine for me to write on and not find myself tempted by other distractions.

(Hm. A few typing drawbacks discovered since writing that but before I posted it:

Typing an en dash is a lot more complicated than typing one on my Mac. Here it’s ctrl-shift-U + 2013 + enter, while on the Mac it’s just option-hyphen.

Copying/pasting the text of my document from Calmly Writer didn’t copy over the Markdown formatting like I expected it would. Marking up words in italics, for example, had those words show up as italic in Calmly Writer, and I thought that copying that text would cause the Markdown formatting to copy along with it. Also, I thought I exported my text from Calmly Writer as a Markdown file in my Google Drive, but it seems to be an HTML file? That could be user error, though.)


  1. And yes, I know that I could put my 1Password Anywhere file on the machine, but I wouldn’t be able to sync that file with my other devices. 

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