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Reviewing Chrome OS 21: Google gives the operating system a face lift

Written by Andre Yoskowitz @ 17 Jun 2012 11:28 User comments (8)

Reviewing Chrome OS 21: Google gives the operating system a face lift Over the last few weeks, Google has introduced new Chrome OS products like the Samsung Chromebox and a line of new notebooks.
More importantly, however, was the unveiling of Chrome OS 20, the first real "face lift" for the operating system.

For this review, we will take a look at what's new in version 20 and 21, as used on the Google CR-48 beta Chromebook.

First off, I will be clear in saying that Chrome OS cannot yet compete with Microsoft, Apple or Linux, but it is slowly but surely getting there. The lack of offline abilities (for now) and the need to have apps for most tasks make it a bit daunting for consumers used to the openness of traditional operating systems. Then again, the main benefits of Chrome OS is quick boot-up, and the ability to survive without very much internal storage, thanks to cloud storage of your files. If you are a power user, who needs video/photo editing and other memory intensive apps, Chrome OS will not be for you, probably ever. For the average consumer, however, Chrome OS is becoming a viable alternative.

In Chrome 21 (and 20), Google completely changed up the operating system's user interface, making it more familiar to those used to Windows. There is now a taskbar on the bottom which pins your favorite apps. Starting off when you get the update there is Chrome, Gmail, Docs, YouTube, Google Search and the app launcher. On the Quickstart side of the taskbar, there is your login details, battery info, date and time and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth set-up.

New to the OS (although not yet live), is the addition of offline Google Docs. Eventually, users will be able to write their papers, spreadsheets and more offline (including ability to save), just as if they were using Microsoft Office, and then sync it to the cloud when they get back online. Google added offline functionality to Gmail last year, making the email service significantly more useful. Google says the addition of offline Docs is coming in the next few weeks.

Additionally, the search giant has begun grouping offline apps in the Chrome Web Store while also allowing files to be copied to the local drive from external drives. Supported files are .doc, .pdf, .zip, .rar and certain standard video and audio files.

Google Drive will be better integrated into upcoming updates to the OS, notes Google, and will likely be a centerpiece.

The app drawer, as seen on Android, is new to the OS, as well, and makes it easier to access your Chrome Web Store apps and games from a convenient place. Before OS 20, you had to open a new tab in the browser and search through your apps to open them. Not all that inconvenient, but the update is certainly a huge improvement.

Google's search function has been improved mightily, as well. Using the Search key (where Caps Lock is on normal keyboards), a small window will pop up with your recent apps and the Google search function. It can search the web as well as your history and your apps without you ever needing to open a new tab or window.

Finally, you can use more than one window a lot easier now, since the browser doesn't take up the entire screen. Windows can be moved around at your convenience, as well. Big improvement from past versions.

Multi-tasking is vastly improved, as well, thanks to the taskbar as multiple applications can remain open at once in in new windows. They are easier to find on the lower taskbar and can be easily re-opened.


Chrome OS has taken a giant leap forward with their operating system, making it much more user friendly. Boot time is still 10 seconds and integration to Google's ecosystem is very strong. Once offline support is added to Google Docs and Drive is given a native app, Google may have the real beginnings of a competitor on its hands.

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8 user comments

117.6.2012 23:46

I was aware of Chrome OS but never thought that it'll succeed or yet live on

218.6.2012 00:55
Unverified new user

Whatever facelift they're going to plaster, this crap OS is just only a toy. I won't even call this an Operating System, a browser only for grade schoolers.

318.6.2012 03:26

Originally posted by Nickoliee:
Whatever facelift they're going to plaster, this crap OS is just only a toy. I won't even call this an Operating System, a browser only for grade schoolers.
I don't understand why you think that. This OS carries the unique ability to utilize the Cloud to its fullest, though I'm not sure of the specifics myself. A while longer in development and it'll turn out to be another market broken into by Google.
All we need is a Google console, eh?

418.6.2012 07:20

I'd say this OS has the unique ability to tie you to a company's revenue stream, nothing more. "Cloud computing" was EXPRESSLY invented to keep people on the corporate teat, after all.

519.6.2012 16:06

Until they increase it's offline abilities it's still severely hindered.
I have a CR-48 and for a free computer it's very cool, but completely useless without net service.

Oh, Im sorry... Did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?

628.6.2012 18:25

i want google to get into the automotive market

729.6.2012 00:54

If android is anything to go by I think chrome os should succeed. BTW how is this any different from the diskless stations. In today's times internet connectivity is almost as good as network connectivity. All they need to do is have something like possibility to mini boot from an sd card !

I am looking forward to getting my hands on the latest iteration of Asus tablet or Google Nexus. I just might abandon my desktop systems altogether!. As such we already have 7" tablets with addon keyboard, 720p display, 12mbps 1080p capable mini hdmi and USB ports for under US $ 170/=

811.1.2013 02:43
Unverified new user

Originally posted by senator29:
i want google to get into the automotive market
Because you want a free car , that drives by itself ? :-)

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