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Initial Chrome OS Cr-48 Hardware Impressions

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 48 comments

This is the Google notebook.

Less than a week ago, Google took the wraps off of its Chrome OS, the search giant's take on the modern, lightweight operating system. Along with it, Google launched a pilot program by sending out specialized hardware loaded with Chrome OS.

We finally got our hands on Google's "reference design" Chrome OS Notebook called the Cr-48. To be clear, the Cr-48 isn't ever going to be a commercial product like the Nexus One (or S) is for Android, but rather the notebook pilot program is for Google to gather feedback data in preparation for when Chrome OS hits stores in 2011 with products from Acer, Samsung, and others.

Even though it isn't a commercial product, the lack of the usual commercial design thought in the Cr-48 is one of its most attractive traits. There's no logo on the back of the lid – or anywhere else on the notebook – making it a stark, bare and arguably quite beautiful. It shares a few of the design qualities of the black MacBook from years ago, minus the glowing Apple logo on the lid.

Going hands-on, the soft touch plastic feels great. It's the sort of rubbery-feeling coating that we've felt on ThinkPads, which are great in this day and age where everything gets either scratched easily or is a fingerprint magnet.

The keyboard is the island-chiclet design, but Google has made several changes. One notable change is the replacement of the Caps Lock key. Instead of TOGGLING LETTER CASE, the Caps Lock by default is mapped to Search. For those who want the old way back, a systems setting will allow the key to be mapped back to Caps Lock, or even changed to control or alt.

Borrowing another Apple design, the trackpad on the Cr-48 is one big clickable surface. Right clicking is accomplished by putting two fingers on the trackpad and then pressing down. There's basic multitouch that is only used for a two-finger scrolling gesture.

As far as inputs and outputs, on the right is the charging plug, headphone jack, a single USB port, and an SD card slot. On the left there's a lone VGA-out and a fan vent. There are speakers on both sides of the notebook, but covering them up with our hands didn't seem to do much to muffle the tinny sounds.

The Cr-48 is a 12-inch notebook that has a footprint of 9.8" by 6.1" and is 0.9" thick. It's fairly portable in its weight too at 3.8 lbs.

Even before powering up the notebook, we knew that there was an Intel processor inside the Cr-48, which was made clear thanks to the "If you cracked this open, you'd find Intel" card inside the box. We appreciate that it was a card, rather than a sticker on the palm rest.

The Intel CPU inside is the Atom N455, which is a single core solution, on Intel's CG82NM10 PCH. It's believed that the market versions from Acer and Samsung will use dual-core Atom N550. For memory and storage there's a 2GB stick of Hynix RAM inside, plus a 16GB SanDisk SSD. Its Verizon 3G chip is the Novatel Gobi2000 PCI Express Mini Card, the Wi-Fi is handled by the AzureWave Atheros 9280 802.11 a/b/g/n part, and there's also Bluetooth thanks to the Atheros AR5BBU12 with V2.1 EDR. [Corrected with new information.]

Stay tuned for more about the software and in-depth experiences with Chrome OS Notebook.

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  • 11 Hide
    burnley14 , December 13, 2010 5:48 PM
    Really love the minimalist design here. I haven't really fallen for the idea of Chrome OS, but the hardware itself looks awesome.

    A little meatier CPU would be better in my mind (ULV i3 perhaps), but other than that I think they nailed it.
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    burnley14 , December 13, 2010 5:48 PM
    Really love the minimalist design here. I haven't really fallen for the idea of Chrome OS, but the hardware itself looks awesome.

    A little meatier CPU would be better in my mind (ULV i3 perhaps), but other than that I think they nailed it.
  • 0 Hide
    ap3x , December 13, 2010 5:59 PM
    I am not sure if I like this. Looks like a Macbook and a Macbook Air had a kid that was deformed because it did not have a dvi port but grew a vga port instead.

    I am interested in checking out the OS but this hardware is a strange animal given what is out there today.
  • 1 Hide
    Travis Beane , December 13, 2010 6:01 PM
    burnley14Really love the minimalist design here. I haven't really fallen for the idea of Chrome OS, but the hardware itself looks awesome.A little meatier CPU would be better in my mind (ULV i3 perhaps), but other than that I think they nailed it.

    Agreed and agreed. Simplicity is beautiful, and the only improvement I can think is a ULV C2D or i3, and maybe 4GB of RAM just because it's so damn cheap (for those of us who want to dual boot Windows, though I found Win7 x64 to be perfectly fine with a Pentium D and 1GB DDR2). For something like this, the IGP on a i3 would be perfectly fine.

    I don't care if it's only a dev model, I still want one. :) 
  • 2 Hide
    toddybody , December 13, 2010 6:08 PM
    it better be 200.00...
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , December 13, 2010 6:19 PM
    Just to clear up any confusion on the Wi-Fi and 3G parts:

    The Wi-Fi is handled by the Atheros 9280 part from AzureWave and the Verizon 3G by the Gobi 2000 part from Novatel.

    -Chrome Team Member
  • 2 Hide
    squanto , December 13, 2010 6:34 PM
    Travis BeaneAgreed and agreed. Simplicity is beautiful, and the only improvement I can think is a ULV C2D or i3, and maybe 4GB of RAM just because it's so damn cheap (for those of us who want to dual boot Windows, though I found Win7 x64 to be perfectly fine with a Pentium D and 1GB DDR2). For something like this, the IGP on a i3 would be perfectly fine.I don't care if it's only a dev model, I still want one.


    Agreed, Agreed, Agreed, however supposedly it will not be possible to put a Win os on it says Google, but then again I'm sure some clever 12 year old will figure it out.

    Sweet/cheap(hopefully) netbooks for all!!
  • 0 Hide
    liveonc , December 13, 2010 6:35 PM
    Damn nice. What the OLPC should have been.
  • 2 Hide
    Marcus Yam , December 13, 2010 6:35 PM
    Chrome Team MemberJust to clear up any confusion on the Wi-Fi and 3G parts:The Wi-Fi is handled by the Atheros 9280 part from AzureWave and the Verizon 3G by the Gobi 2000 part from Novatel.-Chrome Team Member

    Thanks for clarifying, Chrome Team Member!
  • 2 Hide
    hellwig , December 13, 2010 6:36 PM
    I understand the push to the cloud, but even HTML5 requires some processing power, is that single-core atom going to be capable, or is this going to be just another underpowered netbook? My wife has an Aspire-One, and it chops a little with basic videos on YouTube (could be Windows, could be flash, who knows). Just because its from Google doesn't mean sub-standard hardware is going to cut it. Though, if other manufacturers put in more capable hardware, I suppose it will ease my concerns.
  • 6 Hide
    segio526 , December 13, 2010 6:49 PM
    But, without a logo, how will people know that I'm better than them and the products they associate with aren't as good as mine?
  • 5 Hide
    jabberwolf , December 13, 2010 6:52 PM
    "Borrowing another Apple design, the trackpad on the Cr-48 is one big clickable surface. "

    First "another"? I hope you're not talking about SONY'S keyboard chiclet design that Apple copied?

    Second - I HATE HATE HATE the 1 large mouse-pad. Sure it looks nice but I dont want the mouse moving (even the slightest) when I'm trying to click.
    Its a nice looking design but functionally stupid!
  • 7 Hide
    segio526 , December 13, 2010 6:56 PM
    ap3xI am not sure if I like this. Looks like a Macbook and a Macbook Air had a kid that was deformed because it did not have a dvi port but grew a vga port instead. I am interested in checking out the OS but this hardware is a strange animal given what is out there today.

    I would like to see them do away with analog on this new initiative. They could probably stack a DisplayPort on top of an HDMI port in the same amount of space as that VGA.
  • 5 Hide
    eklipz330 , December 13, 2010 6:57 PM
    no stupid stickers, no stupid logo... a thin, edgy, black matte device

    i... love it. tired of glossy surfaces that just attract finger prints, i'm also fonder of square looking objects... rounded edges are just ehh

    reminds me of my black nintendo dsi... oh god it's so pretty
  • -1 Hide
    nevertell , December 13, 2010 6:58 PM
    WHY OH WHY IS IT ON X86 ?

    Even if it'll be cheaper than windows netbooks, people will buy them and put windows on them again.
  • 1 Hide
    segio526 , December 13, 2010 7:00 PM
    jabberwolfI HATE HATE HATE the 1 large mouse-pad. Sure it looks nice but I dont want the mouse moving (even the slightest) when I'm trying to click.Its a nice looking design but functionally stupid!

    Couldn't agree more. If it like super cost effective just make the one big track pad, then at least make like the bottom quarter inch not sensitive for cursor movement.

    I do like the two finger scroll though.
  • -1 Hide
    noblerabbit , December 13, 2010 7:20 PM
    Screen res? is it the famous 1366*768 ? or will they go newgen and start crafting scrolling marquees 15,360 x 96
  • 4 Hide
    thejerk , December 13, 2010 7:31 PM
    nevertellWHY OH WHY IS IT ON X86 ? Even if it'll be cheaper than windows netbooks, people will buy them and put windows on them again.


    Kind of an unstated sales point, really.

    I mean, when I sold sheep Intel Macs, I'd tell them, "Hey, if you don't like osX, you can always buy Windows and install it on this thing. Then you have something that looks like this... and you can actually use it."
  • 1 Hide
    ddragoonss , December 13, 2010 7:38 PM
    THE DESIGN IS PERFECT, clean and black, it could be more black in the details, but still perfect. Methinks chrome OS is dead before released, but this design is so hot.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , December 13, 2010 8:18 PM
    Quit getting hung up on the design and specs of the hardware. This is a testing unit given out for free to the pilot testers of the Chrome OS. It's strictly for feedback on the OS. You will not be able to buy this laptop. Google is not going to sell a Chrome OS laptop. They're not Apple... When Chrome OS is available pre-installed on laptops/netbooks, it will be from companies like Acer and Samsung and they will have their names on it and have their own designs.
  • 1 Hide
    hellwig , December 13, 2010 8:41 PM
    MokenQuit getting hung up on the design and specs of the hardware. This is a testing unit given out for free to the pilot testers of the Chrome OS. It's strictly for feedback on the OS. You will not be able to buy this laptop. Google is not going to sell a Chrome OS laptop. They're not Apple... When Chrome OS is available pre-installed on laptops/netbooks, it will be from companies like Acer and Samsung and they will have their names on it and have their own designs.

    I agree the design isn't something very important, for any computer, much less a reference sample. However, I think the specs of the machine ARE important. Google evidently thinks this software will run smoothly on a single-core Atom. Microsoft never made such claims until Windows 7 (in fact, they refused to sell Vista licenses to netbook OEMs because they knew it wouldn't work, and sold XP because they had nothing else). Apple doesn't make a "netbook" because of their own claims of inadequate performance (the iPad runs a different OS, so no telling when we might see an iOS netbook). Therefore, the inclusion of a single-core Atom (which puts this in a netbook class) is a statement being made by Google that says "look, we not only claim it should work, we're giving you a computer to prove it". Of course, if you can't even stream videos chop-free off YouTube (which Google owns), then they've only served to throw egg in their own face. Hopefully performance on these test samples does not suffer, else ChromeOS might not make it far off the ground.
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