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. Lots more testing to do, but I am definitely warming up to the device. This fan-free, dead quiet, device.