Booting and Shutdown Speeds
You might be doing yourself a favor to just simply read the two words in the next sentence and then skip along to the next section. It’s fast. If that’s all you wanted to know, then go ahead and move on. The system boots up in about 1 second. It shuts down just as quickly. This is quite a bit more impressive than the last Chrome device I had my hands on. The CR-48, while being incredibly underpowered, still had a lot smaller of an OS footprint when compared to Chrome OS with the Aura Window Manager on board. Even still, the old CR-48 took several seconds to boot.
You’ll only find 4gb of RAM on board, which even though this is a browser-driven OS, I still consider it to be modest. Regardless of that invisible wall, I was able to manage 3 browser windows with ten tabs open in each for over 1 hour. Five of these tabs were Google Plus tabs, which are known for an exorbitant amount of resource consumption. Three of these tabs were consuming an average of 250mb of memory a piece. One of those three tabs maxed out at 330mb. Also, I streamed an episode of WWE NXT with Hulu Plus at 480p, and a 1080p video from Youtube. Those were not amazing experiences by any stretch of the imagination, but they did not impact browsing performance at all. Read more about my streaming experiences below.
Window Management and Graphics
The Aura Window Manager. Some might believe that it is Google’s way of admitting that a completely web-based operating system is impossible. When using it, it becomes painfully clear how stubborn Google is about Chrome OS and how it should operate. Many options and features are still nested inside the browser settings menu, and purposely not available in a global system settings menu. Though it does perform, and is quite beautiful to behold.
Aura has subtle, gorgeous effects scattered all over it. The depth of each window shadow and the opacity level of the taskbar at the bottom of the screen are all perfectly calculated. Now matter how busy my desktop became, the desktop compositor never skipped a beat, and not once did I see any tearing, ripping or artifacting.
Streaming Video and Audio
This is easily the weakest link of the whole system, and at the same time reveals the disturbing irony of the state of web-only computing. I’ll touch on that later, but it’s important to note that streaming video on the Chromebox is a wasted effort in futility. Watching a 1080p video on Youtube is possible, but the quality is so poor that you could easily spend your time better doing anything else. Hulu will work for you too, but even a video at a paltry 480p resolution is horrifyingly awful to watch. It seems strange for me to say this, but it’s true. Linux is a better platform for streaming video than Chrome OS, which (Chrome OS) is an operating system and experience that has been carefully curated by Google for the masses. Better yet, Android will happily stream from these services in the highest possible quality.
This is a hard review to write. Why? The entire operating system involves interaction with Chrome, an immensely popular web-browser that many computer users are already familiar with. It is not my aim to review the latest release of Chrome.
Aura is the desktop metaphor that you interact with on a Chromebox. If I were to sum up the Chromebox experience using Aura in one sentence, it would go like this; Chrome OS is equal parts beautiful and frustrating. That is not to say that Chrome OS does not have redeeming aspects, because it does. I will touch on those items first.