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Following our coverage of Google’s Chromebook launch, I got the chance to use one of them today. As advertised, Google has set up stations at Virgin America gates in certain cities to loan them out for full flights or just use within the terminal. I’m typing this post right now on the Samsung model.

The benefits of the Chromebook have already been explored — being fully cloud-centric (browser based). Though this will have some initial resistance from the Windows-trained masses, macro factors (HTML5, connectivity, etc.) compel it.

But let’s be honest, sometimes you still need full-octane PowerPoint. It also has certain wonky factors that I’m sure will improve. The trackpad isn’t incredibly sensitive and the entire experience feels “plasticky.” In fairness that’s the tradeoff you deal with when building such a lightweight machine.

The browser-centric experience also takes some getting used to. For example, the pictures I took for this post couldn’t be synced to the machine and uploaded to WordPress in a way that I’m used to (there’s no “desktop”), but that could just be my unfamiliarity with the file storage system.

So this isn’t for everyone. But as a travel machine, it’s great (they’re smart to promote Chromebooks in this airport setting). It’s light as air and has an eight-hour battery. There are also lots of security and antivirus advantages that I won’t get into right now.

For certain people not involved in heavy computing, presentations or graphic arts, this could be for you. You can’t beat it for media consumption (vs. creation) or browsing/email, iPad notwithstanding. We’re not in the business of hardware reviews but these are just some initial thoughts.

Overall, it “feels” natural in its hardware design and interface. That’s a lot easier said than done, and is more than I can say for most notebooks I’ve used. And of course anything feels like a Ferrari after driving my Pinto of a Dell notebook. Test drive one if you’re on a Virgin flight anytime soon.

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