Asus c300 Chromebook: Final Verdict

After using a Chromebook almost daily since December 30th, 2014 I’ve discovered how awesome they can truly be. Now I already owned a MacBook Air and a Windows 8 PC but wanted to see what all the fuss over Chromebooks was about. As discussed in my previous post ‘My Chromebook Experiment’ I purchased the Asus c300 Chromebook after having so much success with Asus when buying a PC and that it was $50 cheaper than the Toshiba Chromebook 2.

About a month and a half later I’ve become really accustomed to using a Chromebook as my daily computer. I’ve found that I can do almost everything with a Chromebook that I could with a Mac or PC. For the limitations I do come across I have been using my MacBook Air. You have to remember that a Chromebook, while it can do a lot of things it can’t be your only computer if you need to run programs and software locally on your computer.

What a Chromebook can do?

Create and edit documents, spreadsheets and slides

The easiest way to create and edit documents, spreadsheets and slide presentations is to use Google Drive which allows you to store and save the work you do in Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms. If you want to use Microsoft Office you can, albeit an online version offered through One Drive that gives you access to versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote with limited features.

Surf the web, watch videos, stream music

Since a Chromebook is built around the Google Chrome web browser you can imagine it performs very well when it comes to surfing the web. I tend to have a lot of tabs open and multi-task a lot with what I’m working on and my Chromebook seems to handle this quite well.

Watching videos on YouTube and sites like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon also works very well and almost never has a problem during playback except for a small stutter that doesn’t happen too often.

When I want to listen to music I stream my music collection that I have stored on Amazon Music or I stream my favorite radio stations. It seems to be that the stuttering happens for the most part when I’m streaming music and have 6-8 tabs open. As it happens so quick and only happens once or twice a day depending on how long I use the computer for I don’t really get bothered by these small glitches.

Edit pictures with Pixlr Editor

Save and backup media to usb devices like a Flash drive or an external hard drive

Print using Google Cloud Print

What a Chromebook can’t do?

Install and run programs and software

This is where my MacBook Air comes into play. Before using a Chromebook I used iTunes on a daily basis to listen to my music but since Chromebooks don’t have enough space for all my music and can’t run iTunes I uploaded my music to Amazon and can stream it on amazon.com. When I want to buy new music I buy MP3s through Amazon instead of iTunes. When I need to use iTunes to sync music to my iPhone I just decide to use my MacBook Air that day.

The other program I need to use my MacBook Air for is Kodak All-in-One Printer Home Center when I need to use my printer to scan a document or photo to my computer. Now if I just want to print something I can still use my Chromebook because I set up my printer for use with Google Cloud Print.

I usually end up using my MacBook Air about once or twice a month so I can use iTunes to transfer my song purchases to my iPhone. I don’t always get around to it though because I can access my newest music on my iPhone with the Amazon Music app.

Store all your media locally on the hard drive

Since most Chromebooks come with a 16 or 32GB flash storage drive it doesn’t leave you much space at all to store music, photos and files. That’s what your Google Drive is for. You are encouraged to store everything in the cloud with such little storage offered locally.

Now that I’ve covered what a Chromebook can and cannot do I will try to explain what Asus has done on top of the basics to improve a Chromebooks functionality.

Asus c300 Chromebook features:

Long battery life

After fully charging it the battery life easily lasts 10 hours. It would probably last even longer if I decreased the brightness of the screen I’m sure I could most likely get another couple hours. Most of the time I can get two days out of the battery life if I use the computer for 5 hours a day. On the third day I will plug it in and it fully charges after only 1 and a half hours to 2 hours of being plugged in. I’m very impressed with the battery life and now when I use my MacBook Air I’m annoyed how it goes from 100% charged to 5% after only 3 hours of use.

Largest touchpad available on a Chromebook

Since I’ve never used any other Chromebook I wouldn’t know how the touchpad compares to other Chromebooks or if it really is the largest available; that’s just what Asus states. As for how it stacks up to a MacBook Air or Windows 8 PC touchpad it’s more responsive than what a PC offers but still not as great as a MacBook Air. Basically it’s not the worst when it comes to responsiveness but it could be better in the clicking and dragging area.

High-quality audio

When you play music or anything with audio without headphones you will have to turn it all the way up and silence your surroundings in order to hear it. Otherwise you will be straining to hear what you’re trying to listen to. That is why using headphones to listen to audio is your best solution and it doesn’t seem to be very fussy when it comes to using any brand of headphone unlike Apple products. Whether I’m using my $10 JVC Gumy Earbuds or my $99 Bose Earbuds the audio sounds very nice and gets even better when I use the Bose ones that have a better range.

Ultra thin and light

At just 3 pounds it is very light to pick up and move compared to most Windows Laptop PCs that I’ve owned which weighed around 10 pounds and up.

Larger than Average Screen size

When researching Chromebooks I found that most of them had 11.6 inch screens and if you wanted the bigger 13.3 inch size you would need to pay more for it. Since I was accustomed to 13.3 inch I wanted to stick with it. The standard size for Acer, HP and Samsung was 11.6 and the 13.3 models were sometimes $100 or more. Then you have Asus and Toshiba who both sell affordable 13.3 inch Chromebooks. Now in 2015 Acer will be the first to sell a 15.6 inch model; this will most definitely inspire the other brands to make a 15.6 inch Chromebook too. I’ve found the perfect size Chromebook for me is right in the middle, 13.3.

100GB of Google Drive space free for 2 years

When you purchase a new Chromebook and log onto your Google Drive with it, it will automatically claim your free 100GB of space. Now since I bought mine during the holiday season I got 1TB of space free for 2 years because Google was giving away more for the holidays.

Asus c300 full specifications:

Intel Bay-Trail Dual Core Celeron Processor

Chrome operating system

4GB RAM

13.3 inch 16:9 HD Display

16GB eMMC flash storage

HD Web Camera

802.11 b/g/n

Bluetooth 4.0

1 x audio jack

1 x USB 3.0 port

1 x USB 2.0 port

1 x SD card reader

1 x AC adapter plug

13.0 x 9.1 x 0.9 inch (WxDxH)

3.08 pounds

Kensington lock

Final Thoughts:

As you can see depending on what you need to do with a computer a Chromebook can be a very useful device and possibly even a computer replacement if you don’t need to do anything locally. The thing that got me to seriously consider a Chromebook in the first place was that unlike a MacBook Air, where you have to download and install updates leading you to have to babysit your computer all day and make sure the update is going right, you don’t have to mess with updates as Google takes care of those. When I first bought a Chromebook I never expected to be able to do all the things with it I do, especially being able to update this blog. As a matter-of-fact I wrote this whole post on my Chromebook with the help of Google Docs and Drive. If you’ve been contemplating buying a Chromebook but don’t know if you’d be wasting your money just remember if you already do everything in the Chrome browser anyways you’ll feel right at home with a Chromebook.

Why Hulu Plus is Worth $8 a month

Hulu Plus is a video-streaming service that allows you to stream full episodes and clips of TV shows and movies for $8 a month. I don’t watch movies on Hulu Plus just TV shows so I won’t be able to review what the movie variety is like.Hulu Plus logo
Basically when you sign up for Hulu Plus you gain the ability to watch any current season episode of primetime TV shows from most networks excluding CBS. Your favorite shows you like to watch and the day after the new episodes air on traditional TV they will be added to your Queue. I’m not really sure what time they get added although other users say around 5:00am.

The thing I like best about Hulu Plus is that it provides DVR-like access for only $8 a month. A traditional DVR from your local cable provider normally costs somewhere north of $10 a month. I pay $16 a month for mine. I use Hulu Plus to stream my shows from ABC, CW, FOX and NBC and use the DVR from the cable company to record shows that don’t stream. I find using both services together helps me to never miss an episode of one of my favorite shows.

Another thing I like about Hulu Plus is how many places you can watch your shows. They have apps for your tablet, phone, video game console, TV, blu-ray player and media set-top box. You can also stream on hulu.com on your computer. My set-up is PS3 for the living room, Roku streaming box for my bedroom and occasionally on my MacBook Air when the living room TV is in use.

The one thing I find a little annoying about Hulu Plus though is that they have commercials. Now for the most part they aren’t that noticeable on most shows since each commercial break normally only has 2 commercials and are in the same place as if you were watching them on traditional TV. For some odd reason though shows on NBC can have anywhere between 2 to 5 commercials each commercial break. But for $8 a month I’m willing to overlook this one caveat.

For cord-cutters Netflix and Hulu Plus together make for incredible value providing you a vault of older shows, trailing seasons of current shows and access to new episodes of your favorite shows provided they aren’t shows from CBS. You have to use cbs.com to watch The Big Bang Theory. Although CBS has created their own streaming service they don’t have apps for many devices yet.

For anyone who likes to watch TV but doesn’t want to pay for cable, Hulu Plus is a must-have. You get access to many shows you like to watch and can watch them on your time just like a DVR. Watching a commercial here or there is not too big of an issue and they go by very fast anyways. All in all Hulu Plus is great service worth having and makes keeping track of new episodes of your shows a breeze.

Why Netflix is Worth $8 a month

Netflix is a video-streaming service that allows you to stream as many movies and tv shows as you want for $8 a month. They also still offer dvd by mail rental plans. This review is just for the streaming part of Netflix.
Netflix
When you sign up for Netflix you get a My List which is a list of shows and movies for you to choose from that you want to watch. You add shows to your My List by clicking on Add to My List when checking out a title.

Netflix has so many choices available that you’d be hard-pressed not to find something to watch. Of course on the other hand with so many options to look through you might waste all the time you had to watch in the first place. Luckily they do show you recommendations on what to watch based on your interest in another title that’s similar.

The thing I like best about Netflix is the ability to binge watch tv shows. I always think I will get around to watching 3 to 4 episodes a night of a drama that’s around 42 minutes but I never do. 2 is usually my max for dramas and 4 for sitcoms. I guess I just like the idea that I can watch as many episodes in a row as I want.

I also like that Netflix is pretty quick at adding new episodes of a show within a year of their initial airing. Shows I currently have on My List that aired from Fall 2013 to Spring 2014 that were added to Netflix this fall are Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, The Originals Season 1, The Vampire Diaries Season 5 and The 100 Season 1. When new episodes of a show are added and you currently have the show in your list you receive an email saying new episodes have arrived for the show. Netflix even sends you emails for shows they think you would like to watch based on what you’ve watched in the past.

I know I mentioned Netflix also has movies to stream but I personally don’t watch movies as often as I do tv shows. The last movie I think I streamed was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. I couldn’t tell you how long it takes for new movies to show up on Netflix streaming. I do know that Netflix DVD rental releases new movies 28 days after they come out on DVD and on-demand. It’s completely your decision on what you watch.

Another great thing about Netflix is the variety of devices that have a Netflix app; tablets, phones, video game consoles, TVs, blu-ray players and media streaming set-top boxes. You can also stream on netflix.com on the computer. My set-up is PS3 for the living room, Roku streaming box for my bedroom and occasionally on my MacBook Air when the living room TV is in use.

An interesting development with Netflix is their involvement in creating original series; Orange is the New Black, Hemlock Grove and even cartoons like Turbo FAST which is based on the DreamWorks movie Turbo. Two new shows coming this month are Marco Polo (meant to rival HBO’s Game of Thrones) and All Hail King Julien (an animated show based upon King Julien in the DreamWorks’ Madagascar film series). I predict in the next few years Netflix will have a line-up of pretty successful original series.

I like the way Netflix has evolved since its creation and hope it continues to change the television landscape. Netflix is a great service for cord-cutters and is also a great supplement to cable. Hopefully the great price of $8 a month holds for a long time to come. It would be a shame for them to jack up the price if their original shows take off in the ratings.

Original shows premiering this month on Netflix:

Marco Polo December 12th

All Hail King Julien December 19th

What I Actually Need in a Smartphone

I have spent the better part of 2 years trying to find the perfect smartphone. In that time I’ve learned there is no such thing as the perfect device. Today I will be discussing what I actually need in a smartphone and not what I think I want.

Since the beginning of 2013 I’ve owned an iPhone 4, a Nokia Lumia 521, an iPod Touch and dumb-phone combo, an iPhone 5c, a Moto X 2013, a Moto G 2013, a Samsung Galaxy S4, a HTC One M8, an iPhone 6 and now my current phone is an iPhone 5s.

After Owning 10 smartphones in 2 years I’ve finally figured out what I need in a smartphone:

Enough storage space for music, apps and photos

A decent camera

4-inch screen to make it manageable to use

Most of all though it should work well as a phone. The 2 things I find most important are loud enough speakers and a reliable signal.

I had found the iPhone 6 near perfect except the screen was a little too big for my liking and it was only 16GB. I was filling it pretty fast. I decided to sell it to Gazelle and instead of buying a 64GB iPhone 6 I got a 32GB iPhone 5s due to its compact size.

I plan to use my 5s until it no longer works since Apple has given up on phones with 4-inch screens and I don’t want anything bigger than that.