Google Chrome OS 19 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

Google Chrome OS

CNET Editors' note: Beta or prerelease software is not intended for inexperienced users, as the software may contain bugs or may potentially damage your system. We strongly recommend that users exercise caution and save all mission-critical data before installing or using this software.

CNET Editors' review

The bottom line: If at first you don't succeed, update and update again. Regular Chrome OS updates over the past year have made it faster, with better offline support and more compatibility with traditional file formats. But it's still only for die-hard Googlers.

Review:
Welcome to the Chrome channel. Google's operating system started off last year as being little more than all Chrome, all the time. Updates made over the past year have given Chrome OS users better file format support, faster navigation, revised menus, dramatically improved offline abilities, and a new, traditional-looking desktop.

But if you loathe the Chrome browser, it's still highly unlikely that you'll enjoy this operating system. On the other hand, if you love Chrome, then Chrome OS is a big heaping helping of Chrome with some extra Chrome on the side and then Chrome for dessert.

Like Chrome-the-browser, Chrome-the-OS has a freely available open-source sibling, called Chromium OS. If you like coding and developing, this is likely going to be your best bet for exploring what makes Chrome OS tick.

Please note that because of the similarities between the Chrome browser and the Chrome OS, parts of the Chrome review have been reproduced here where applicable.

Installation
Installation is not an issue for the Chrome OS since it comes preinstalled. There is a simple setup procedure, however. When you start up your system, it's recommended that you sign in using a Google account. You're not required to, and if you'd prefer you can opt for the Guest mode.

Guest mode in Chrome OS cleverly uses the Chrome browser's trackless browsing mode, called Incognito. Incognito prevents guest users from leaving any traces of their session, as well as keeping them from making any changes to your apps and other settings.

After choosing your log-in method, you're asked to read through and accept the EULA. This will only appear for the initial log-in; it won't show up for subsequent uses and users. Next, you can take a photo of yourself with the Webcam, use a provided icon, or use your current Google account avatar. Gone from previous versions is the mandated Webcam photo.

Chrome then takes anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds to synchronize your Google settings, if any, and then the computer is ready to be used. There's no doubt that the EULA is annoying, but we've never seen another new, unused operating system start so quickly.

Interface
Google has clearly spent some serious time developing the new interface. It looks and feels like a personal computer, finally, where before it was little more than a full-screen browser. There's an actual desktop that looks a bit cribbed from Windows 7, with Chrome-the-browser pinned to the far left of the Launcher, and other apps pinned right next to it.

While most of the desktop has been designed to feel like modern personal computers, the App List brings a more mobile flair to the new Chrome OS layout.

While most of the desktop has been designed to feel like modern personal computers, the App List brings a more mobile flair to the new Chrome OS layout.

(Credit: Google)

The desktop itself shows only your background by default, but a Tic-Tac-Toe-style icon on the Launcher reveals all your installed apps over the desktop background. When you install an app, it'll appear here. The lower-right corner shows the time, Internet connection status, battery status, and shows your Google account avatar to indicate who's logged in. Click the avatar to show shutdown options and reveal more information and settings.

All the Settings have been moved to open in their own tabs, but you probably knew this from using Chrome-the-browser. Changes made in the browser tend to be reflected in Chrome OS about a month or so later.

The look of Chrome has changed remarkably little since its surprise debut in September 2008. Tabs are on top, the location bar -- which Google likes to call the Omnibar -- dominates the minimalist design, and the browser has few visible control buttons besides Back, Forward, and a combined Stop/Reload button.

On Chrome OS, the upper-right corner of the browser hosts a square icon and an X. The X is to close the browser window. Drag the box down to minimize the browser, drag it to the edges to "snap" it to the side and make it half the width of your screen, or click it to switch from windowed mode to full screen. The window snap is another cue taken from Windows 7, but it's clever and intuitive one, and works well in Chrome.

The interface's strongest point is also its weakness. What works well in the browser works well here, but the faults of one are reflected in the other too. Some controls, such as page zoom, are readily available from the "wrench" options menu. Others, such as the extension manager, are hidden away under a Tools submenu. Hiding essentials like that remains an odd design choice to make. As is true about every aspect of this operating system, updates are much more likely to tweak the layout and design of the interface.

Chrome's extensions are fairly limited in how they can alter the browser's interface. Unlike Firefox, which gives add-on makers a lot of leeway to change the browser's look, Chrome mandates that extensions appear only as icons to the right of the location bar. The benefit maintains a uniform look in the browser, but it definitely restricts how much the browser can be customized.

Even with its limitations, the browser interface design has remained a contemporary exemplar of how to minimize the browser's screen footprint while remaining easy to use and versatile. The new desktop, on the other hand, finally brings to Chrome OS a sense of familiarity that is essential for any new PC experience.

Features
Chrome OS isn't quite as reliant on the Internet as it was before, but it's still reasonably crippled without one. This is a vehicle, first and foremost, for leading a Web-based existence. As such, what Chrome OS does is create a space where Web-based applications can function and thrive. The operating system itself doesn't do much -- it's a browser.

Chrome has made great strides in the past year bringing console-quality games to the browser via HTML5 and Native Client.

Chrome has made great strides in the past year bringing console-quality games to the browser via HTML5 and Native Client.

(Credit: Google)

However, it's a heavily modded browser, and it achieves its main goal of getting you on the Web as fast as possible. This comes from both the solid-state drive (SSD) on your Chromebook or Chromebox, and the various optimizations that Google has been building into Chrome. This is where the second bit of genius in the Chrome OS comes in: because everything is Web-based, you can log in to any installation of the operating system and instantly have all of your apps, settings, and other personalizations at your fingertips. That's still an incredible feat.

It's an important one, too, as Chrome OS improves with each regular iteration of the operating system. In Chrome OS's first year, it updated eight times. Things that were buggy originally, such as touch pad support on the demo hardware Cr-48, started to work properly. Many Chrome-safe extensions that wouldn't install on the Chrome OS beta, but would on the browser, now work in Chrome OS.

The Chrome OS has a usable file-browsing system, accessible via Control-M or under the Tools submenu of the Options wrench. When you take a screenshot using the Ctrl-Next Window button, for example, you'll find it saved locally via the File Browser. It now supports a wide range of popular file formats, including PDF, PPT, DOC, ZIP, XLS and RAR, and the newer Microsoft proprietary versions of those formats like PPTX.

Google has also leveraged its successes in other departments to benefit the Chrome OS. Google Plus hangouts, for example, come as a preinstalled app so that you have video conferencing as an option right off the bat. Google's notorious for not always having good integration between its services, so this -- and solid Google Play integration -- are welcome improvements.

Famously, Google has killed the Caps Lock key and replaced it with a dedicated Search key. Tap it and a new tab will open, with the cursor ready in the location bar. What's less well-known is that you can remap the Search key to Caps Lock, and that Google makes it easy to do through the Settings menu under System, then Modifier keys. Here you can modify the bindings of the Control and Alt keys as well.

The default settings for the hot keys are one of the best things about the Chrome OS. Hold down Ctrl and Alt with the question mark key to bring up a color-coded map of combinations that you can use. The map and colors change depending on which key -- Shift, Control, or Alt -- you're pressing.

Google is to be commended for building an operating system that goes from sleep to fully functional in what feels like a second. There's simply no lag time, and the updates have fixed previous lagginess in logging in and out. Your Chromebook or Chromebox may just be the fastest PC you've used when it comes to booting, shutting down, and logging in and out.

Two other low-profile but well-executed features in Chrome are autoupdating and translation. Chrome automatically updates when a new version comes out. This makes it harder to revert back to an older version, but it's highly unlikely that you'll want to downgrade this build of Chrome since this is the stable build and not the beta or developer's version. You can toggle the build among the three under About Chrome. The second feature, automatic translation of Web pages, is available to other browsers as a Google add-on, but because it comes from Google, it's baked directly into Chrome.

Google Plus hangouts now come as a default app in Chrome OS so that you have video conferencing pre-enabled. The company doesn't always have good integration between services, so this is a welcome improvement.

Google Plus hangouts now come as a default app in Chrome OS so that you have video conferencing pre-enabled. The company doesn't always have good integration between services, so this is a welcome improvement.

(Credit: Google)

Already mentioned a little bit, the biggest OS hang-up in the operating system is offline support despite the improvements. Chrome OS will support the core Google apps of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs offline, but for most of your other apps, you'll be left in the dark. That might not be an issue on the Chromeboxes, Google's answer to the Mac Mini, but for the portable Chromebooks, prepare for a severely hamstrung experience. Anyone outside of the cloud crowd likely won't be comfortable with it.

You can print with Google's cloud-printing feature, accessible via the common printing hot-key combo of Control-P. Google has anticipated the problems that still plague cloud printing, and so it offers instructions on how to do it. Still, most people will probably find the process way too fiddly because what's simple to print off a basic Windows 7 Netbook will take effort to set up properly from a Chromebook. Cloud Print does now come with access to FedEx stores in the United States, which is a nice improvement for remote printing.

Google says that security will not be a big concern in Chrome OS, and that it's the most secure operating system ever shipped. There are some toggles via about:flags and the Settings menu that will allow you to restrict content that requires plug-ins. Cookies, image management, JavaScript, plug-ins, pop-ups, location information, and notifications can be adjusted from the Content Settings button. This includes toggling specific plug-ins, such as the built-in Adobe Flash plug-in and the Chrome PDF reader.

Google is basing most of its claim of a secure operating system on a new feature in Chrome OS called "verified boot." Chrome OS will check its own integrity when booting, and if it detects any changes it will allow you to restore a last-known good configuration.

Performance
The following benchmarks are of the original version of the Chrome OS that shipped on the Cr-48. There have been significant improvements since then, and CNET will update the results below as soon as possible.

Chrome OS beta cold-boot benchmarks.

Chrome OS beta cold-boot benchmarks.

(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Benchmarking the first beta of the Chrome OS proved to be a bit tricky. It's hard to measure the impact of various essential programs, such as a productivity suite or media player, on the operating system because they exist largely in the cloud. However, because the operating system is also the browser, we were able to run browser benchmark tests against it and compare them against the same version of Google Chrome, but running on a Windows 7 laptop.

Average of three cold runs of Chrome v8 on the WebKit SunSpider v0.9.1 test.

(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

These tests are admittedly not a direct apples-with-apples comparison. Google has not yet released the specifications of the Cr-48, saying only that it's running an Intel Atom processor. The Windows 7 x86 laptop we used is a high-powered Lenovo T400 laptop, running on an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 at 2.53GHz, with 3GB of RAM. However, they do provide a snapshot of what the Cr-48 with Chrome OS is capable of at this time, and we can expect these numbers to improve as Google continues to upgrade both the Chrome OS and Chrome browser. The two laptops were running nearly identical versions of the Chrome browser. Tested in December 2010, the Cr-48 was running Chrome v8.0.552.341, whereas the Lenovo was running Chrome v8.0.552.215. (By comparison, the version of Chrome OS available in early June 2012 is 12.0.742.77.)

Average of three cold runs of Chrome v8 on the Mozilla Kraken test.

(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

What we can see from these tests is that the hardware will have a massive impact on the performance of both the browser and the operating system. This isn't news, but the fact that the Cr-48's version of the Chrome browser was so dramatically affected in all three tests tells us that what hardware future computer makers choose to support Chrome OS on will almost definitely change how well the public receives it.

Average of three cold runs of Chrome v8 on the FutureMark Peacemaker test.

(Credit: Chart by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

We were also a bit surprised that the full cold-boot and log-on procedure, not counting the time it took to type in the log-on password, averaged to nearly 30 seconds. Some Windows 7 computers have, anecdotally, been found to boot up cold in similar times. As mentioned earlier, this time had been cut in half by early June 2011.

Of course, the real time-saving feature of the Chrome OS is the resume from wake, which is practically instantaneous. As long as the computer isn't shut down, it will wake extremely quickly.

Conclusion
Although Chrome OS does update regularly, this second major iteration is much more usable than where the operating system was a year ago. The quirkiness of a PC without the traditional touches of a PC desktop have been replaced by something recognizable and usable. As long as Google continues to support the project, Chrome OS will keep improving. One day, and perhaps sooner rather than later, it might even be ready for all.

Publisher's Description

More Products to Consider

  • CCleaner
    Clean up junk files and invalid Registry entries.
    Download Or, Learn More About CCleaner

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Advanced SystemCare
    Tune up and maintain your PC, with anti-spyware, privacy protec...
    Download Or, Learn More About Advanced SystemCare

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • WinRAR (32-bit)
    Take full control over RAR and ZIP archives, along with unpacki...
    Download Or, Learn More About WinRAR (32-bit)

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Download App
    Keep the software on your Windows computer up-to-date and runni...
    Download Or, Learn More About Download App

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • MiniTool Partition ...
    Move, resize, copy, explore, and recover hard disk drive partit...
    Download Or, Learn More About MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • WinRAR (64-bit)
    Take full control over RAR and ZIP archives, along with unpacki...
    Download Or, Learn More About WinRAR (64-bit)

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • SlimDrivers Free
    Update PC drivers automatically using cloud technology.
    Download Or, Learn More About SlimDrivers Free

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • SwiftSearch
    Search and find required files on PC.
    Download Or, Learn More About SwiftSearch

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Recuva Portable
    Recover files deleted from your Windows computer.
    Download Or, Learn More About Recuva Portable

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Wise Care 365 Free
    Clean and optimize Windows registry, remove junk from hard driv...
    Download Or, Learn More About Wise Care 365 Free

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Recuva
    Recover files deleted from your Windows computer.
    Download Or, Learn More About Recuva

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • DriverMax
    Download and update all your Windows drivers, back them up, and...
    Download Or, Learn More About DriverMax

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Speccy Portable
    List out your PC's components and solve the related problems.
    Download Or, Learn More About Speccy Portable

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Glary Utilities
    Fix, speed up, maintain, and protect your PC.
    Download Or, Learn More About Glary Utilities

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Speccy
    List out your PC's components and solve the related problems.
    Download Or, Learn More About Speccy

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • CopyFolder
    Provide different options for copying the contents of one folde...
    Download Or, Learn More About CopyFolder

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Wise Registry Clean...
    Clean registry junks, repair Windows errors, and keep your PC a...
    Download Or, Learn More About Wise Registry Cleaner

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • FRSFileMgr
    Manage files and directories on your PC with ease.
    Download Or, Learn More About FRSFileMgr

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • WinZip
    Zip and unzip files, protect them by encryption, connect to clo...
    Download Or, Learn More About WinZip

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • EF Commander Lite
    View, manage, and archive your files and folders.
    Download Or, Learn More About EF Commander Lite

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • ARO 2013
    Repair registry errors, remove "junk" files, and ensure your PC...
    Download Or, Learn More About ARO 2013

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • EF Commander
    View, manage, and archive your files and folders.
    Download Or, Learn More About EF Commander

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • Folder2List
    Create, print, and export (PDF, HTML, CSV, RTF) folder and file...
    Download Or, Learn More About Folder2List

    Installed

    Smart Install
  • VLC Media Player Po...
    Play audio and video files on the go.
    Download Or, Learn More About VLC Media Player Portable

    Installed

    Smart Install
All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    2.8 stars

    out of 11 votes

    • 5 star: 2
    • 4 star: 1
    • 3 star: 3
    • 2 star: 3
    • 1 star: 2
  • Current version:

    2.6 stars

    out of 5 votes

    • 5 star: 0
    • 4 star: 1
    • 3 star: 2
    • 2 star: 1
    • 1 star: 1
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-5 of 5

  • 1.0 stars

    "Chrome is total trash of an OS"

    August 4, 2013  |   By Windows_Rocks

    Version: Google Chrome OS 19

    Pros

    There is nothing good to say about this unless you are a child that can't much with a computer anyway. In that case you can play with this OS as the irrelevant OS it is.

    Cons

    To numerous to list. Everything from little to none programs. Apps that are childish. Horrible gui appearance. "Cloud" which is a ridiculous name for storing files online that has been around for years, but not carried to this level. Who would want to put all of their files, pictures and info in cyberspace on someone elses servers? Many more problems and deficiencies with Chrome, Linux to mention.

    Summary

    Don't waste time with this. Stick with Windows. There is no other OS out there that even comes close to Windows. You can do more with Windows. It is better looking and more advanced. Chrome is ridiculous for anyone who really wants to use a computer and get more out of it.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 2.0 stars

    "Worthless operating system"

    August 1, 2012  |   By Rayyanmemon

    Version: Google Chrome OS 19

    Pros

    It looks nice.

    Cons

    It is utterly useless at the moment.You can't do any work.There are not many apps that allow you to do work.Even Mac os is better.

    Summary

    Probably over time chrome os will have more applications but currently it isn't worth buying a chromebook.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

    Was this review helpful? (1) (3)

  • 4.0 stars

    "If you know what you're buying, you'll be happy."

    May 31, 2012  |   By daengbo

    Version: Google Chrome OS 19

    Pros

    1) Secure -- signed from the top to the bottom and virtually unhackable if you don't enable "Developer mode."
    2) Thin and light

    Cons

    1) Limited choice of apps
    2) Limited hardware choices

    Summary

    If you are buying this, it's probably because you're already living in the cloud and can handle moving there full time. If you wonder whether you will be able to make the transition, you should probably stay away and change your app needs on your old platform first.

    This equipment seems perfect for Google Apps schools and businesses. The integrated management console makes all that really hard managed-IT stuff painless. Deploy "apps." Set policies. All that stuff without needing multiple servers and a dedicated IT staff to handle the management and backup side.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (2)

  • 3.0 stars

    "Misplaced confidence"

    May 31, 2012  |   By mcharlton1

    Version: Google Chrome OS 19

    Pros

    It can sync your Chrome settings with ease. It's faster than a PC.

    Cons

    Too much dependence on the internet.

    Summary

    Chrome is a nice concept, but there's some pretty huge flaws that'll turn this into another flop. Even though the OS has the look and feel of a real OS, it's too dependent on the internet. Why would anyone spend money buying an online based OS when they can spend the same money on a Windows computer that can run independent of the internet?

    This is really about poor marketing. The OS runs offline. If they take away the "Chrome" name and replace it with Android, then stop telling people that it's really a browser on steroids, then people will see it as a real Windows competitor.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (3) (2)

  • 3.0 stars

    "Who said PCs are for only for browsing?"

    May 30, 2012  |   By brvnbld

    Version: Google Chrome OS 19

    Pros

    -Very Good initiative
    -Faster Boot and Access to files
    -Real time File access
    -Inexpensive
    -Built in Security
    -Slick Interface

    Cons

    -Doesn't support executable files
    -May not have enough drivers
    -Lack of local storage option
    -Not heavy Applications oriented

    Summary

    What is the point in getting an Operating System,if u can't do anything other than playing tiny games and browsing? Albeit free!?
    May be if this OS is made to support all Windows Software, or something like that, it would be a fair reason for users to shift from Windows.

    Trivia: Good Porting of Android to PC

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (3)

Results 1-5 of 5

Add Your Review

Log in or create an account to post a review.
You are logged in as . Please submit your review for Google Chrome OS 19
Add Your Review

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited.
Click here to review our site terms of use.

Submit your reply

Submit

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited.
Click here to review our site terms of use.

cancel

E-mail this review

Submit cancel

Report offensive content

If you believe this comment is offensive or violates the CNET's Site Terms of Use, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the comment). Once reported, our staff will be notified and the comment will be reviewed.

Select type of offense:

Offensive: Sexually explicit or offensive language
Spam: Advertisements or commercial links
Disruptive posting: Flaming or offending other users
Illegal activities: Promote cracked software, or other illegal content
Submit cancel

Previous Versions:

Error

close

ERROR MESSAGE

If you think this is an error, please contact CNET TechTracker Support for further assistance.

Ok

Running Request

close

loading

Smart Install Software

close

CNET TechTracker will now automatically install software without requiring further action by you. (Note: This feature automatically accepts associated EULAs and third party applications on your behalf.)

You have selected the following software to Smart Install:

CNET TechTracker will attempt to install this software without interrupting you again. If an application requires manual installation, CNET TechTracker will download the installer and prompt you to take further action.

Proceed with Smart Install?

Confirm Standard Install Cancel

Submit a problem report for Google Chrome OS

close

Please describe the problem you have with this software. This information will be sent to our editors for review.

Problem:

The CNET Installer isn't working as expected

The download link does not work

The software has a newer version

The software contains malware

Other

Description:

Please select a feedback type.

Please enter a description.

Submit Problem Report

Problem Report submitted

close

Thank you for submitting a problem report! The Download team is committed to providing you with accurate software information.

OK

This download is served from an external site

close

NOTICE: This link will open a connection to a third-party site. CNET cannot ensure the security of software that is hosted on external sites.

Continue to download

Sponsored Products

Or, Learn More About Google Chrome OS
Google Chrome OS