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Many Chromebooks now run Android apps, so...

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#1 jrbarnett

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 10:38 AM

...I decided to order a decent one (Samsung Chromebook Plus 12.3") and see how it handles Sky Safari for Android.

 

I'll report back on what I find (compatibility, etc.), but here's my reasoning.

 

1.  I strongly prefer the laptop over the tablet format.  Even tablets with keyboard covers are less convenient than a laptop as the keyboards either don't support the device (Microsoft Surface 3 for example, which relies on a kickstand) or are flimsy.

 

2.  A really nice Chromebook isn't that costly.  The Samsung Chromebook Plus I'm ordering goes on sale on November 19th for $349.  Sounds like a lot for a tablet alternative, but it has a dedicated 2-in-1 keyboard layout (acts as either a tablet or a laptop), comes with an S-Pen standard, is all metal and glass, has a fantastic screen (something many Chromebooks and some tablets do not have), includes a MicroSD card slot for expanded storage (comes with 32GB native) and has quick-charging like a better Android phone.

 

3.  Not too big or heavy for field use (a couple of pounds with a 12.3" screen) but much more screen real estate than even a large tablet.  Decent battery life (about 5 hours of continuous movie playback on full brightness with audio).

 

4.  Wildcard:  perhaps Amazon Music Unlimited will treat this device as a mobile device rather than a laptop computer and allow downloading of music for offline listening, which would be nice in the field since this unit has pretty good sound.

 

More to come.

 

Regards,

 

Jim


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#2 jmorales21

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 11:00 AM

I think your reasoning is solid. I am interested to see your results in the near future.

 

Cheers and clear skies.

 

JM


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#3 Xeroid

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 12:03 PM

Our local Best Buy is selling that unit for $419.99 USD.... eeeeeoooowwww!!

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#4 jrbarnett

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 01:42 PM

Our local Best Buy is selling that unit for $419.99 USD.... eeeeeoooowwww!!

confused1.gif

The sale direct from Samsung stars on Saturday when it will be $349.  By comparison Google's similar high end chromebook, the Pixelbook, retails for $999. 

 

Also it's not really that much of a "Eeeeeeeowww" at $419.  This is not you crummy plastic and low-res-screen Chromebook that only runs Chrome OS.  This is a super high resolution all metal and glass laptop and tablet replacement that runs Chrome OS and Android apps.

 

It's super lightweight - 2# - super thin - 0.5" thick and super rigid.  The two big negs I've read are (1) non-illuminated keyboard and (2) small keys for some functions like backspace on account of the small footprint.

 

If you are someone who can do everything on a computer you need to do in the cloud, in the browser or using Android apps, this is a great alternative to a laptop.  It's 10x nicer in materials, workmanship and display quality than any $300-400 Windows laptop.

 

I was a little concerned by the non-illuminated keyboard for Sky Safari use, but then realized that with a dedicated pen and a touch screen, plus an A-frame positioning possible due to the 360-degree hinge, I could use Sky Safari in tablet mode, using the pen to interact with the app directly on screen, and skip the keyboard altogether.

 

I'll let you know how it goes - this is theory at this stage.  :grin:

 

Best,

 

Jim


Edited by jrbarnett, 17 November 2017 - 01:45 PM.


#5 junomike

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 01:56 PM

Wouldn't it be worth it to wait for "Black Friday"?



#6 jrbarnett

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 04:08 PM

Wouldn't it be worth it to wait for "Black Friday"?

Samsung's "Black Friday" sale starts this Saturday.  :grin:

 

https://www.samsung....p/black-friday/

 

They even have a count-down timer.

 

You can see the discounts on the website, but you can't yet buy at the discounted price.

 

Regards,

 

Jim



#7 ccs_hello

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 07:14 PM

Android apps are designed under Android SDK.

Not sure how under Chrome OS in emulating the Android,

the underlying hardware devices (accelerometer, gyro, and compass) will be exposed to Android apps such as Skysafari.

 

It's going to be an interesting test.


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#8 junomike

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 10:43 PM

 

Wouldn't it be worth it to wait for "Black Friday"?

Samsung's "Black Friday" sale starts this Saturday.  grin.gif

 

https://www.samsung....p/black-friday/

 

They even have a count-down timer.

 

You can see the discounts on the website, but you can't yet buy at the discounted price.

 

Regards,

 

Jim

 

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#9 btschumy

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 11:13 PM

Jim,

 

Google has abandoned ARC for porting Android apps to Chrome OS.  I believe it can now run straight Android apps.  That said, I haven’t tried it.  I will be interested in your experience.



#10 jrbarnett

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Posted 18 November 2017 - 12:24 AM

Jim,

 

Google has abandoned ARC for porting Android apps to Chrome OS.  I believe it can now run straight Android apps.  That said, I haven’t tried it.  I will be interested in your experience.

Thanks Bill.

 

Yep, I figured that out after I posted (hence deleted) my earlier comment.

 

I will report back after I give it a whirl.

 

Best,

 

Jim



#11 nicknacknock

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 01:48 AM

Jim,

 

Google has abandoned ARC for porting Android apps to Chrome OS.  I believe it can now run straight Android apps.  That said, I haven’t tried it.  I will be interested in your experience.

Bill,

 

SS5 runs just fine on my ASUS Chromebook. I just installed it to test if it works and it does.

 

Jim,

 

I prefer the form factor of the iPad for SS, but if you want to go down the Chromebook road, you will not be disappointed.


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#12 btschumy

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 01:11 PM

Jim,

 

Thanks for the data point.

 

Bill



#13 jrbarnett

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Posted 20 November 2017 - 10:22 PM

A little mishap with my chromebook order.  The first unit was damaged or lost in transit and I received a notice to expect a refund in 2-3 business days.  So I ordered a second one, this time shipped via FedEX, and it will be here Friday.

 

I'm encouraged by Nick's success with SS on his Chromebook.

 

Best,

 

Jim



#14 nicknacknock

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 10:04 AM

Jim,

 

With the pen it will be very easy to navigate. It works more or less exactly like on a tablet. Many other apps on the Google App store play nice as well (full Skype experience anyone?) so if you are looking for a lightweight platform and are willing to make some compromises and learn some workarounds, you will enjoy it. Alternatively, you can always switch the OS to Dev Mode and install Linux as well for more heavyweight work. 

 

I guess I could take my ASUS chromebook with me, but I prefer the iPad form factor (my chromebook's keyboard can pivot behind the screen, but it is not detachable). While I tested it for fun, I am looking forward to your experience and feedback from use "in the field".



#15 jrbarnett

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 08:37 PM

Okay, the Samsung Chromebook Plus arrived today.  In fact, I've just finished setting it up, installing removable storage and downloading some of my android apps from the Google Play Store.  Sky Safari 5 Pro was my first download, in fact.

 

I am typing this post on the device.  First Chromebook post for me on CN.  Here are a few impressions.  First about this particular device.  When I read "aluminum and glass" and considering that it is a $450 device retail when not on Black Friday sale, I was thinking "Macbook Pro".  No, no, no.  It's not aluminum for starters.  It's a magnesium alloy, and rather than uber-stiff like a Mac, it feels awfully light and perhaps a little fragile.  The metal reminds me of an aluminum soft drink can to the touch.  They keyboard is nice in terms of feel but a little cramped.  But that's about it on the "con" side of the equation for the hardware.

 

The screen is bright, sharp and gorgeous.  The fact that it is a touch screen is magical.  The included stylus, too, is incredibly useful if you don't want to use the keyboard or track pad.  Basically you have a device that you can access and interact with in multiple different modes.  Like a phone/tablet or like a laptop.  Marvelous.  For $350 it's a pretty nice personal web and digital media consumption device.  Wholly independent of the purpose of this experiment - to see how well Android apps (especially Sky Safari) run on a Chromebook that is Android-enabled - it would be a good buy.

 

In choosing and Android-enabled Chromebook I chose this one to go ARM rather than Intel CPU architecture.  While IA chips are much more powerful in the context of web-browsing and multi-tasking, they are generally pretty poor at running Android apps, especially graphical ones, as smoothly as an ARM chip and the ARM chip used in this device is a purpose-built for use in a dual Chrome OS/Android hybrid device.  The CPU is made by Rockchip in collaboration with Google.  So how's it do with Android apps?

 

Pretty great.  Fast, smooth, etc.  There's a restart when you launch an app of you maximize the screen (most apps default to a phone sized screen) but startup and launching and restarts of apps are all blindingly fast on a simple, thin and light Chromebook.  With respect to Sky Safari 5 Pro, in particular, it's wonderful.  The 12.3" screen is a monster for sky atlas duties.  But all is not wine and roses.

 

Night mode works for the app, but the launcher bar native to Chrome OS remains un-reddened along the bottom of the screen.  Having to red-film the screen of the device is a bit of a pain.  But the use of a stylus with the device in "tent mode" (courtesy of the 360-degree hinge) is outstanding.  Better than fumble-finger mode on a phone or tablet that is not stylus enabled.  Likewise other Android apps scream on the device and are surprisingly lovely on the high resolution big screen.

 

And my goodness the battery life.  Since charging this one, I've used 20% and have 10.5 hours left.  :grin:  Lots more testing to do, but I am definitely warming up to the device.  This fan-free, dead quiet, device.

 

Regards,

 

Jim 


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#16 ccs_hello

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 09:28 PM

Thanks Jim for the great review.

Probably not today's task, I really like to know how close it is to a real Android device, especially from peripherals point of view.

I.e. accelerometer, gyro, compass, and possibly Bluetooth (or WiFi) to move the mount.

 

Clear Skies!

 

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#17 jrbarnett

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 10:02 PM

Thanks Jim for the great review.

Probably not today's task, I really like to know how close it is to a real Android device, especially from peripherals point of view.

I.e. accelerometer, gyro, compass, and possibly Bluetooth (or WiFi) to move the mount.

 

Clear Skies!

 

ccs_hello

Hi.

 

Only two sensors on the Chromebook - accelerometer and gyroscope.  No compass.

 

I'm about to order a Sky-Fi 3 to try controlling a mount with Sky Safari on the Chromebook.  Apparently the latest Sky-Fi device works with Android as well as iOS.  I have an old Sky-Fi and as I recall Android devices would not work with it.

 

A couple of other points worth noting.  The speakers are bottom-facing.  It gets panned in reviews for sound, but on a hard surface the small stand-off feet actually create some space under the device and I thought it sounded pretty good watching Netflix.  It is muffled on my lap though.

 

They keyboard is not illuminated.  Not a biggie for a touch typist except that the keyboard is a little cramped and this sometimes leads to mistypes.  That is, even a proficient typist may need to peek to avoid key misses.  Can't do that in the dark with this baby, sadly.

 

So this feels like a giant $350 Android tablet with a nearly proper keyboard, expandable storage, stylus and 10-12 hour battery life with screen bright and mainly web-tasks.  Running graphical apps or movies consumes a bit more, but still it's a full day machine.  The 360-degree hinge coupled with touchscreen makes it great for plane usage in tight spaces (for movies and such).

 

Next up - Amazon Music Unlimited Android app; will Amazon mistake this laptop for a mobile device and allow downloading of music to the device?  I'll let you know in a few.

 

Best,

 

Jim 


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#18 jrbarnett

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 10:50 PM

So the app thinks it's a mobile device and allows download of content (which it won't do with OS X or Windows devices), but unlike with an Android phone, the app does not recognize the removable media, so music can only be downloaded to the device's internal storage, which is just 32GB.  I added a 128GB microSD card in hopes that I would be able to place all multi-media content on the expandable storage.

 

:thinking:

 

- Jim



#19 junomike

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 08:01 AM

Jim, I don't see why you can't just move the music to the microSD via hookup to a computer



#20 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 10:59 AM

Jim:

 

Nice review. 

 

Here's a question: can you display multiple open windows on screen or is it like an Android device where each app is full screen when in use? 

 

Jon



#21 jrbarnett

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 11:01 AM

Jim, I don't see why you can't just move the music to the microSD via hookup to a computer

It doesn't work that way for Amazon Music Unlimited (AMU).  AMU is Amazon's subscription service.  Amazon's rights with content owners allow Amazon only to permit download of songs by subscription customers (subscribers own no content; they are only renting content so long as a subscription is in effect) to mobile devices.  The way Amazon honors this licensing restriction is to allow only streaming, no local content download and storage, on typically desktop OS platforms (Windows, OS X, etc.).  For content I own - i.e., music I import from CDs I own or buy online, there's no issue.  I can move that content wherever I want on the Chromebook and play it using other music apps.  This rented content, though, can be downloaded only in the apps own format (not as AACs, MP3s, etc.) and only in the case of a Chromebook, to native, limited capacity, storage.  

 

So it sees the Chromebook as a mobile device (Android tablet), which is good.  But the fact that this is NOT an Android device really means it does not act as a phone/tablet in one key respect.  Add-in storage is NOT recognized by Android apps on the device.  Chrome OS apps can "see" the add-in storage, but not Android apps.  That means music, books, videos, etc., that I download via an Android app all store to device native storage (the 32GB; not the 128GB add-in card).  That's a bit unfortunate, but no doubt is a security requirement of one or the other OS (Chrome OS or Android) in such a hybrid environment.

 

Best,

 

Jim



#22 jrbarnett

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 01:15 PM

Jim:

 

Nice review. 

 

Here's a question: can you display multiple open windows on screen or is it like an Android device where each app is full screen when in use? 

 

Jon

Uno momento, Jon...

 

Yes Jon.  Just like a Windows or OS X laptop, I can open as many apps as I like and they appear along the lower launcher bar with a small circle beneath them indicating that they have been launched and are open and active.

 

More like a laptop than a phone though, since it has a "launch bar" always visible (part of the SS night mode issue) along the bottom of the screen.

 

There's really a trade-off though.  While this ARM chip is grand for Android apps, it's much weaker than an x86 chip at multi-threading/multi-app use.

 

There is an otherwise identical Chromebook from Samsung (except I think you can get black or silver rather than silver only)  called the "Pro" (this one is the "Plus) that instead uses an Intel Celeron processor and costs $100 more.  It's hard to say which would be better for having multiple Android apps open at once.  The ARM chip is much smoother on Android apps with just one open based on numerous Youtube comparisons of the two systems, and the Intel based system is much better with multiple browsing window and streaming/flash-heavy sites window use.

 

No one that I've seen has tested the two using multiple open/active Android apps though.

 

One other interesting thing to keep on mind - there are many Chrome OS equivalent apps to the common Android apps like Netflix, etc., that are much thinner and lighter than the Android equivalents.  With an Android enabled Chromebook you have the option of really stretching battery life by using the Chrome OS rather than Android app when available.  You don't have that option on an Android-only device.

 

And one last point.  Playing with Android on Chrome can be much cheaper.  The Samsung Chromebook 3 with an 11.6" lower res screen, Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage is on sale today for just $139.  It is also Android ready, just like the Pro and Plus.

 

https://www.samsung....xe500c13-k03us/

 

That's an awfully versatile, capable, worry-free travel/field use laptop, for so little money.  And while the screen is lower resolution and a bit smaller than the metal Chromebooks from Samsung, in tests it had almost perfect color rendition - rare for affordable screens.

 

Best,

 

Jim


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#23 nicknacknock

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 01:36 PM

Jim,

 

You can also install Adobe Lightbridge on your Chromebook and edit raw files directly (creating a free account unlocks some options). Snapseed has also excellent filters and presets and also there’s a ton of HDR image enhancing apps for free.

 

If you use Skype, the android app allows for full videoconferencing Vs the chrome client which is just for voice. You can install Microsoft office and it runs just fine. 

 

Basically, if one is willing to work in a slightly different way and sacrifice some options of a full fledged computer, a Chromebook with Android makes a perfect laptop...


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#24 ccs_hello

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 02:18 PM

Can someone summarize the technologies behind the "Android app on Chrome OS based device"?

Is it running emulation, an Android OS-like JVM, how much overhead it is, is it a temporary loophole or it's intended to work as dual-n-simultaneous co-existing world, will it quickly run out of the resources (RAM, CPU juice, etc.)?

 

Clear Skies!

 

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#25 jrbarnett

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 07:42 PM

Can someone summarize the technologies behind the "Android app on Chrome OS based device"?

Is it running emulation, an Android OS-like JVM, how much overhead it is, is it a temporary loophole or it's intended to work as dual-n-simultaneous co-existing world, will it quickly run out of the resources (RAM, CPU juice, etc.)?

 

Clear Skies!

 

ccs_hello

It is not emulation.

 

Later versions of Chrome OS actually have tightly integrated Android code included.

 

"In 2016, Google introduced the ability to run Android apps on supported Chrome OS devices, with access to the entire Google Play Store. The previous Native Client-based solution was dropped in favor of a container containing Android's frameworks and dependencies (initially based on Android 6.0), which allows Android apps to have direct access to the Chrome OS platform, and allow the OS to interact with Android contracts such as sharing."

 

Best,

 

Jim


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