Elsewhere

Julian Andres Klode: A weekend with the Acer Chromebook 13 FHD (AKA nyan-big)

Planet Debian - Mon, 06/10/2014 - 18:19

I spent the weekend using almost exclusively my Chromebook 13, on a single charge Saturday and Sunday.

Keyboard

I think I like the keyboard better now than I used to when I first tried it. It gets nowhere near the ThinkPad X230 one, though; appart from the coating, which my (backlit) X230 unfortunately does not have.

Screen

While the screen appeared very grainy to me on first sight, having only used IPS screens in the past year, I got used to it over the weekend. I now do not notice much graininess anymore. The contrast still seems extremely poor, the colors are not vivid, and the vertical viewing angles are still a disaster, though.

Battery life

I think the battery life is awesome. I have 30% remaining now while I am writing this blog post and Chrome OS tells me I still have 3 hours and 19 minutes remaining. It could probably still be improved though, I notice that Chrome OS uses 7-14% CPU in idle normally (and up to 20% in exceptional cases).

The maximum power usage I measured using the battery’s internal sensor was about 9.2W, that was with 5 Big Buck Bunny 1080p videos played in parallel. Average power consumption is around 3-5W (up to 6.5 with single video playing), depending on brightness, and use.

Performance

While I do notice a performance difference to my much more high-end Ivy Bridge Core i5 laptop, it turns out to be usable enough to not make me want to throw it at a wall. Things take a bit longer than I am used to, but it is still acceptable.

Input: Software Part

The user interface is great. There are a lot of gestures available for navigating between windows, tabs, and in the history. For example, horizontally swiping with two finger moves in history, three fingers moves between tabs; and swiping down (or up for Australian scrolling) gives an overview of all windows (like expose on Mac, GNOME’s activities, or the multi-tasking thing Maemo used to have).

What I miss is a keyboard shortcut like Meta + Left/Right on GNOME which moves the active window to the left/right side of the screen. That would be very useful for mult-tasking situations.

Issues

I noticed some performance issues. For example, I can easily get the Chromebook to use 85% of a CPU by scrolling on a page with the touchpad or 70% for scrolling by keeping a key pressed (crbug.com/420452).

While watching Big Buck Bunny on YouTube, I noticed some (micro) stuttering in the beginning of the film, as well as each time I move in or out of the video area when not in full-screen mode (crbug.com/420582). It also increases CPU usage to about 70%.

Running a “proper” Linux?

Today, I tried to play around a bit with Debian wheezy and Ubuntu trusty systems, in a chroot for now. I was trying to find out if I can get an accelerated X server with the standard ChromeOS kernel. The short answer is: No. I tried two things:

  1. Debian wheezy with the binaries from ChromeOS (they have the same xserver version)
  2. Ubuntu trusty with the Nvidia drivers

Unfortunately, they did not work. Option 1 failed because ChromeOS uses glibc 2.15 whereas wheezy uses 1.13. Option 2 failed because the sysfs interface is different between the ChromeOS and Linux4Tegra kernels.

I guess I’ll have to wait.

I also tried booting a custom kernel from USB, but given that the u-boot always sets console= and there is no non-verified u-boot available yet, I could not see any output on the screen :(  – Maybe I should build a u-boot myself?


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