Chromebook Review Part 4: Entertainment

I love my online media and I am at heart a gamer. So these two things inform how I look at a device when it comes to entertaining myself. As for my experience here, it’s been a mixed bag: the Samsung Chromebook has some fairly good options for movies and music but it’s not the place that I’d go to for gaming.

The first thing that I should point out to readers: Chromebook is entirely cloud-based, it has no CD or DVD drive. This machine cannot play your DVDs–if you want to play music or movies it’ll have to come from the Internet–that means you’ll be looking for the web with Chrome OS (as with all things) for streaming music, video, and gaming.

Google Play?

This can be launched via the app chooser on the start bar, but even after a week of owning the Chromebook, it baffles me why it’s available. Google Play doesn’t work on Chrome OS–it’s a product line from Google designed for Android platforms.

Yet several tiles from the app chooser take me to Google Play websites including movies, music, and games. I just can’t test any of them because it won’t run–seems like Google perhaps intends to enable it for Chrome OS in the future, but for now it’s a tease.

Online video and music

This Samsung Chromebook comes with a 11.6” LCD screen and potentially a pair of speakers that seem to play out of the underside back of the device (As a result, it’s a bit louder when it’s not sitting on a surface or in my lap.) The video is fairly good for the type of device that it is, but it’s obviously not designed for high fidelity or HD.

Since the device sports a headphone jack and has a USB slot, I have been able to trick it out with external speakers that solve the tinny sound of its speakers and as a result, it’s passably good for playing videos when all my other screens are taken.

When I look to entertain myself, the easy source for most video would be YouTube. As you might expect, YT is easy to access and works excellently for that purpose. So if you’re used to using YT as your go-to source of online videos: you’re in luck.

In fact, most Flash or HTML5-based web products are going to work great for you.

I’ve been able to keep up with much of my web TV regimen on the Chromebook with Hulu and CBS.com.

However, what’s interesting is what doesn’t work quite right on Chrome OS. For example, if you like Netflix? You’ll be out of luck watching streaming movies from the service at the moment with an error noting that it’s not possible to stream to this device yet.

As for music. Pandora runs in web browsers and it works fine on the Chromebook.

The internal speakers really don’t do much music justice–but get a moderately cheap pair of USB powered speakers and it brightens up nicely. I am no audiophile, I enjoy music from whatever source I can get it, and the Chromebook plays fairly nicely with what I’ve got.

Games

The Chromebook is not a place to go for gaming entertainment. Surely, anything that runs on Flash or HTML5 will potentially run–and run well–on the Chromebook, it’s just not at all designed as a gaming platform.

As suspected, most Facebook and casual games that rely on these two technologies run brilliantly. I’ve tried out a few different social online games on Facebook such as Dungeon Rampage. I expect that Farmville or other casual Zynga style games will run alright, DR had some processing issues, but this is an action-style brawl game and I think I’ve seen it skip on my Alienware PC.

It’s even possible to play the Flash version of Plants vs Zombies, of course, only someone barking mad would want to try to play Survival Endless with only half the total possible plants.

The Chromebook will be really nice as a mobile device and for business purposes, but it’s not the place that I’d go for gaming. Even mobile gaming isn’t something all that wonderful on this device.

There are a few massively multiplayer online (MMO) games that can be played on the Chromebook. Like the Facebook and casual style, you can expect these to be primarily puzzles and real-time or turn-based strategy. I haven’t tried out any since getting the Chromebook, but there’s a few on the market that hook through Facebook and even G+.

I did end up playing a little Bubble Witch Saga to pass the time and test gaming capabilities–it’s one of those puzzle-based semi-social games that hooks through the G+ service. It ran pretty well and that’s going to be indicative of many Flash game based on web technology (very Popcap game.) So anyone with a favorite diversion is likely going to find that it’ll run alright on the Chromebook; but I won’t get my hopes up for anything build directly for this device that takes advantage of processing or video tricks.

As I said, it might help get that casual game fix due to enabling HTML5 and Flash gaming, but it doesn’t do those altogether as well as laptops and other devices designed to run hot.

Part 1: The Unboxing | Part 2: The Setup | Part 3: The Apps | Part 4: Entertainment

The device used for this review is the 3G version of the Samsung Chromebook (XE303C12-H01US), 11.6” screen, 1.7 GHz Exynos 5200 processor, 2 GB DDR3L SDRAM, and 16 GB Flash hard drive. Over the extent of the review, I updated the Google Chrome OS once and wrote the entirety of the review series using the Chromebook and the available apps on the device itself.

About Kyt Dotson

Technology and civilization walk hand in hand and civilization is nothing without the skin of society, brushing up against itself, speaking strange nothings across dimly lit avenues and computer screens. If we're going to understand ourselves in this digital era, it will be through watching the adoption of technology by people to express themselves as people. I am an anthropologist and an author of science fiction and fantasy--and with my technology, I hope to open up new and exciting worlds that will not just enlighten the humanity of my friends and fans but also educate and enhance the expression of their own personhood. Find more of my work on Google+; send tips to @kytsune.