Samsung Chromebook 303C12
Looking for a cheap laptop for traveling, the cheapest one below 1.5kg I quickly found the chromebook to be the only reasonable choice. So a quick review:
- CPU: EXYNOS 5250 Dual-core 1.7Ghz ARM Cortex A15
- Memory: 2Gb ram
- Storage: 16Gb emmc
- Screen: 11.6” 1366x768 matte (not very good quality).
- Connectivity: 1xUSB2, 1xUSB3, card-reader and hdmi
- OS: ChromeOS
- Weight: 1.1kg.
One curious thing is; it looks very nice, new out of the box. But it is the least scratch resistant thing I ever owned. So it will look ‘used’ very quickly. Given the price, the build quality is still pretty OK, it has a large touchpad, decent full size keyboard and reasonable sound, but scratch resistance over design would have been nice.
This must be the most useless (for me at least) OS ever. Everything runs inside the browser, very little that I tried worked off-line. However it is very fast, going into and out of standby is very fast. (near instant). The battery lifetime of the stock ChromeOS is good, around 8 Hours. (more on this later). Some basic things seems to be lacking though, I cannot use bluetooth tethering to get internet on the device. Plugin in an external monitor makes the device go crazy and adding a usb mouse just made it crash. This is kinda disappointing.
Making things more useful
To make the whole thing more useful, I quickly put the device in developer mode. This works fine and allows you to tweak some things. It does however make a very annoying warning beep when you switch on the device. (As I do not turn the device off, this is not a big issue). The developer mode let me tweak the OS a bit, the first thing I changed was the cpu frequency governor to ondemand (it was stuck at 1.7GHz stock), this gave me a huge boost in battery lifetime. Currently I get slightly over 10 hours. This is best I got from a laptop (while actively using it) yet. Also switching to the BETA channel improved the device a lot, suddenly the external monitor started working and the device seems to be more stable. The device quickly goes into standby and has a low drain, I am convinced I can easily use it for 2 days without charging. That is better then my phone.
While the device is fast and useful, the online bit is very annoying. So to be productive I installed linux in a chroot. This is made very easy using crouton. This allows you to easily create an ubuntu/debian chroot. To start I installed a quick ubuntu 13.04 chroot, allowing me to switch to my I3 desktop using a keycombo. Everything else still works fine, it goes in/out of standby very quickly, battery lifetime is unaffected. While I cannot run every program and still have an issue with Gtk3 app not rendering the GtkDrawable area most things work. I now have firefox, Notes.txt, ssh, vim, xfig, etc.
If you need a cheap, lightweight linux laptop with long battery life it does not get better then this. However there are limitations like limited storage, ARM based, small screen and not to forget scratch-fest.
The next thing to try is to actually dualboot with ArchLinux ARM (ALARM).
- Logitech wireless mouse causes X to use 100% cpu.
- No bluetooth tethering with mobile phone.
- Dual screen in linux chroot does not work well.