Thule Vectros Hard Shell Case for MacBooks

Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air
Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air

Anyone who travels with A laptop spends time worrying about the safety of their computer on the road. When that computer is expensive, and the lynchpin of your business. It becomes critical to protect it at any cost.

Protecting your work computer is vital

My recent purchase of a MacBook Air to replace a five year old ASUS Zenbook was a big investment. I do not change computers frequently, so protecting the asset became an immediate priority.

I purchased the Thule Vectros 13″ bumper case. This is a black hard shell polycarbonate bumper that fits top and bottom with an inner component that is ribbed silicone. It provides a substantial thickness of padding around the outside, but is open in the center, with optional clear inserts to protect the top and bottom. I left the bottom skin off, swapping scratch protection for better cooling.

The bumper design provides a “lip” around the outside of the device that allows a good grip on the hard polycarbonate exterior. It is designed to survive a one meter (3’3″) drop with no damage. The web site provides a graphic comparison video of a Mac being dropped onto a corner with and without the case. I recommend a look at the video, if you have doubts.

Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air

The inner, soft silicon insert protrudes to provide four sturdy soft feet that give a good grip on any surface.

The case has very positive locking lugs to keep it attached to the computer. Make no mistake, installing and removing this case is an exercise in fear. It must be installed exactly according to the instructions. It will not fly off when the case is dropped. It has a positive latch on the lid, so it will not open when dropped. The top and bottom shells transmit pressure around the case, protecting the computer. I suspect it will protect from a significant amount of pressure, even someone inadvertently sitting on a backpack or case with a laptop inside. I do not suggest trying it, but this is one very tough bumper case.

The Thule Vectors Case is no compromise protection

My only problem was that the case does not provide holes for the dual microphones on the left side of the 2015 MacBook Air. I had to drill through the case in two spots, and then remove the soft silicone material from the inside with a scalpel.

I loved this case, but adds 401 grams or 6.6 ounces to the weight of the laptop. It increases the height of the closed MacBook Air to 2.6 cm or 1 inch. This is a significant addition. The case cannot be added and removed. Once on, it takes five minutes of careful work to get it off without damaging the MacBook. It is all or nothing.

Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air

If I were permanently on the road, the Thule Vectros bumper case would be my constant companion. I really do like it! The engineering and manufacture are second to none. It fits perfectly and looks great. It also makes the laptop stand out in a coffee shop or shared workspace. No-one is going to walk off with this computer un-noticed.

Another side effect of the shell is that if you want to anonymise your computer, it is easy to insert a photo, or otherwise cover the Apple logo on the lid. The case disguises the distinctive MacBook shape, making it less of a target for theft.

If you are looking for a sleeve rather than a case, I recommend the Thule Gauntlet zip up sleeve. It is cheaper, lighter, and offers good protection, including a waterproof zipper. It can be found here:  Thule Gauntlet TAS-113 13.3″ MacBook Pro and Retina Display Sleeve (Black)

Old Hardware Never Dies, It Just Gets Recycled

Two Old Friends
Two Old Friends

I have spent the morning cleaning out some old hardware. A pair of desktop computers that have not been started up for four years or more.

I do not consider myself a hoarder, but letting go of old computer equipment is always hard.

Computers and technology tend to be big purchases. We invest in them.

In this case the machines were ones that I had built, rebuilt and upgraded by hand. I had used them as workstations, sitting for hours, days, weeks, months while they had whirred tirelessly away under the desk.

I wrote software and articles. Thousands of pieces of e-mail flowed across the screens. hours of music had played through the speakers.

Operating systems and software had been upgraded, replaced and, at times re-installed or wound back. Disk repair, defrag and backup software had kept them running many nights.

In each case they had become too slow for the latest software. They had been relegated to workgroup servers (an undemanding job in a small workgroup) and eventually were shelved as “backups” for newer machines.

Today their performance and capacity seems ludicrous, but each machine was a big investment, carefully chosen, and lovingly used.

I name my computers.

Old hardware never diesOver the years I have named computers after moons, characters from books and movies. Currently I am naming them after spacecraft and mars rovers. I am typing this on a Chromebox named Firefly, while my Chromebook, Viking recharges beside me.

These two were named Banichi and Jago. I will leave it for the sci-fi fans to figure out who they were named after.

Today they were carted into the back yard, minus disk drives, that will be destroyed, and added to a pile to go to the recycling depot as e-waste. Finding a home for them, minus keyboards and monitors is impractical.

I will not miss them, but I will remember them as old friends now departed.

00175 – Image Courtesy of Wilson Afonso

Cloudbooks – The Worst of Both Worlds

wccf Dump Chromebooks - Really?
wccf Dump Chromebooks – Really?

A post on the Wccf Tech website suggests we should dump our Chromebooks and move to a Windows Cloudbook. The give four reasons, an I do not agree with any of them!

While Google’s Chrome OS is ideal in some circumstances, it is still not as feature riche as Windows 10.

  1. The Windows 10 Experience: Yes, Windows 10 is wildly superior to Windows 8 and 8.1 because it is usable. This might be new for Windows 8 users, but my Chromebook is unfailingly easy to use. Is Windows 10 feature rich? Yes. But that is not necessarily a selling point for many of us. I like simple and fast…
  2. The Hardware: The hardware is very similar to that of a Chromebook, but the “feature rich” Windows 10 operating system requires far more resources that a Chromebook. Most come with 16 or 32 GB of storage, so forget about installing or running Photoshop (Microsoft’s usual reason for saying Windows is essential) and on 16 GB of storage, forget about Microsoft Office. My Chromebook runs MUCH better on this hardware.
  3. Pricing is Dirt Cheap: True, so are Chromebooks, and Chromebook of a similar price works better. If a $10 price difference is important, go to eBay or a second hand shop!
  4. Getting Onedrive and Office 365 free for One Whole Year!: Yes 1 Tb of storage free is good, but after a year, you have to pay. And without Office 365 you have bought a brick. A Chromebook comes with free access to Google Docs, and you can always access 15 GB free, and have 100 GB for a year.

The suggestion that:

Cloudbook owners will receive 12 whole months of free OneDrive storage, along with an Office 365 subscription. That is a total of two services that you will be receiving from Microsoft while only one from Google.

Is inaccurate and ridiculous, because both of these services are free from Google, except for the (temporary) 1 TB of storage.

If you are a home user and really need 1 TB of cloud storage, I suggest you look at options other than Google or Microsoft. 15 GB is enough for most home or small business users. If you need more, you are in a different category altogether, and will not be looking at $150 computers as a cost saving measure.

For the average computer user, Cloudbooks are the WORST of both worlds.

Cloudbooks

For the average computer user, Cloudbooks are the WORST of both worlds. They are under-powered, and have the complexity of Windows, making them slow. They require updates, anti-virus software, and require the installation of many programs to make them useful.

They are prone to viruses, hacking and malware.

They cannot use Office 365 without a permanent internet connection, making them useless for Digital Nomads.

Chromebooks

My Chromebook (and Chromebox) can do almost everything offline. ( they just wait to sync, if offline) and are fast thanks to a stripped Linux kernel and minimal O/S overhead. Is it simple? Yes.  Does it work?  Yes.  Is it fast? Yes.

I watch/listen to media from, and save files to a local NAS server, or work from a USB key or Google Drive for days at a stretch without Internet.

The ability to write, use spreadsheets, presentations and more is built in, free, and works offline. Apps like Pocket, Stackedit and Gmail Offline allow me to work happily without a connection.

No contest here, Windows has a place, and I like Windows 10. If I need serious power and apps like video and audio editing, I go to Linux.

I am writing this on an ASUS UX31E Ultrabook running Ubuntu Linux, after taking Windows 10 off yesterday. It was nice, but not compelling for me. To many things don’t work yet! And Microsoft now is collecting a great deal of information about me. Too much? No, Google collects the same information, but they do not then charge me for the service, they just show me ads!

But a Cloudbook? This is a Netbook with another name, and will go the way of the Netbooks. I do not need one of these fail whales.

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Written by Phil Stephens of Philstephens.com.au .

HP Chromebook 11 Charging – revisited

The HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11

I have had a comment on a recent post from Kathy, concerned that the HP Micro-USB charging port is not living up to it’s potential.  She was concerned by the “Low-power charger” message.

I decided to redo the last group of tests, to be sure.

last night I ran my HP Chromebook 11 flat by playing the Iron-man movie continually until the battery was dead. I do NOT like or recommend ever running a battery below 18-20% as this can damage the battery. I am not an Apple fan, but they have an excellent web page on battery care for laptops and devices with Li-Ion batteries here

I plugged the charger into my basically dead Chromebook four hours ago, and rebooted when the battery reached 9%. The results, with the computer asleep and only being checked every hour where:

  • Hour 1 – 33% up 24%
  • Hour 2 – 56% up 23%
  • Hour 3 – 78% up 22% (with the PortaPow fast  power only cable)
  • Hour 4 – 84% up 6% (with the computer in constant use)

smoothing out the results, this is about 24% / Hr, or four hours to pretty much full charge. The original HP charger does this in a whisker under three hours. not a bad comparison.

Interestingly, temperature is a factor for battery life, and fast chargers heat batteries up, as does fast discharging doing things like playing video at full screen and full screen brightness.  As a result, I have chosen, where possible to charge all my devices as slowly as possible.

Anker 4 Port Charger
Anker 4 Port Charger

My most used option for the HP Chromebook 11, my Nexus 7, and my phone is a one meter illuminated charging cable. I have purchased three different types, and the common factor is usefulness rather than speed. They glow red when charging, and turn blue when charging stops. They charge at about half the speed of the fast PortaPow cables, but I plug all my devices in at night, and by morning, everything has been charged slowly but effectively.

When I travel, speed becomes more of an issue, and I go to the fast charging options.

The HP Chromebook 11 and  the “Low-power charger” message

I have no inside information here, but I see devices described by my HP 11 as “Low-power chargers” charging at a pretty good rate (See the figures above)  My feeling is that the HP charger uses a customized “hardware handshake” or unique resistors between the signal and power lines. I am sure no matter how powerful the charger, and good the cable nothing but a genuine HP charger will be considered the full powered option. It does not mean the the charger is not doing a good job. Slower? Yes, but that is not always a bad thing.

I have worked for days with a 2 amp Nexus 7 charger slowly charging ( and sometimes discharging) my HP Chromebook 11 while it is being used. When I close the lid and the computer is suspended, it charged at a pretty fast rate.

I am currently writing this on the HP 11 with Drive, Gmail and a couple of other tabs open. It has charged only 5% in the last hour. But in my experience, a Windows Laptop being used while charging can often take 8-10 hours to charge. Assuming a 20% starting point, that is 8% per hour, so the difference is noticeable, but not catastrophic.

This computer has now been charging for four hours, three in sleep mode, one in constant use, and the battery has gone from 9% to 82%. Not a bad average, given that my $1800 ASUS Zenbook takes four hours to charge from 20% while not being used.

The thing to remember is, if you use the machine constantly, the charger will keep it going. Any USB charger will bring it back up overnight, and that USB charger can also charge your phone, tablet, headphones, keyboard, mouse and more. And the slower charging rate will preserve the battery in your Chromebook.

Also worth mentioning is that the power-bank you bought to recharge your phone or tablet can also keep the HP Chromebook 11 running longer. Everything from a 2600 mAh lipstick sized charger to the 10400 mAh Soshine power bank beside me (review coming) can keep that HP Chromebook 11 running longer.

My Takeaway:

  • Any USB charger can charge the HP Chromebook 11
  • Any HP Chromebook 11 charger can charge a myriad of other devices
  • Lower powered chargers may take longer, but they will extend battery life
  • The HP Chromebook 11 & Charger is a VERY light travel solution, and can charge other devices
  • pick the best cable for the job you need

If you have doubts, look at the numbers, and, does it really need to charge in three hours? What is your real usage model? In my case, a trickle feed keeping it going all day and an overnight top-up is perfect, and any charger can do that…

Enjoy!

Charging the HP Chromebook 11 Without the Factory Micro-USB Charger.

Hint: Its all about the cables!

The HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11

The HP Chromebook 11 broke new ground by using a fast 3 Amp Micro-USB charger. It also generated a lot of bad publicity early on when the US chargers had to be recalled due to overheating. The USB charging is effective because the computer has a relatively small battery, and thus achieves a fairly rapid charge. To get reasonable battery life despite a very bright 300 nit screen, it uses a relatively low powered processor, limiting it’s performance. At a weight less than a Mac Book Air, it is a joy to carry, and on short business trips, the ability for the single, light charger to charge every device I carry is seductive.

But there are reports that the chargers are difficult to replace if they fail. Any Micro USB charger can charge the Chromebook overnight, but they lack the power to charge the machine while it is running. A 1 Amp phone charger will raise an alert that it is a low powered charger, and the running device will still bleed down slowly.

My experience with a variety of chargers and cables shows that while many chargers will deliver the required 3 Amps, the Cable used is the big leveler. The original HP charger is rated at 3 amps and works fast. I have not dismantled it, but I am sure it uses heavy gauge wire.

Most USB cables use thin #28 or #24 AWG wire. Non-intuitively, lower numbers are thicker and therefore better conductors of current. The USB charger supplies 5 V (volts) and the thicker the wires the better. Thin wires provide resistance, and power coming from the charger is lost as heat in the cable. So as a rule of thumb, shorter is better, and thicker is better. Over the last 12 months I have tested about 30 different cables. Some were quite expensive, many were not. The shortest ones worked best, but at 200 mm (8 inch) cable is not very convenient.

PortaPow fast charging cable
PortaPow fast charging cable

The single best charging cable I have found comes from PortaPow in England. It is the PortaPow Fast Charge Micro USB Cable (Length: 100cm (3.3ft)) Most cables of this length would only deliver 0.6 – 0.7 A. That translates to about 3.5 W, not enough to charge and run a Chromebook. The PortaPow cable delivers 1.75 A or about 8.75 W. from the same power supply. I believe my cable is #22 AWG, but they have since increased the size of the conductors to #20 AWG and I have two more on order.

Lets look at three chargers that work well with this cable. In each case the Chromebook is running with multiple tabs open, multiple docs, Gmail, Drive and some web pages. WiFi is on, and I am using a Bluetooth mouse. Brightness is at about 80%. In all cases they are reported as low power chargers.

Anker 4 Port Charger
Anker 4 Port Charger

My favourite charger is the Anker 40 watt, 5 port IQ+ charger. It has been superseded by a 60 watt version, but mine is working fine and does not need an upgrade. With the PortaPow cable, it delivers 1.75 A and the Chromebook is working and charging steadily. If I close the lid and hibernate for 30 minutes, it will charge up by 12%. Basic arithmetic suggests about 4 hours to go from 20% to 100%. With the computer working, of course, it will be MUCH longer, but will get there.

Kensington 2 amp Charger
Kensington 2 amp Charger

I also have a Kensington 2 amp, 4 port charger that can be plugged into the power socket or be used with a figure 8 cable instead of the adapter. It charges the Chromebook at 1.45 A and has enough power in reserve to also charge my smartphone without reducing power to the Chromebook.

Finally, the ASUS 2 A wall-mount charger that came with my Nexus 7. This small charger is rated at 2 A and pushed about 1.35 A through the PortaPow cable. This is enough to run the Chromebook with a little left in reserve for charging. With my current settings it is charging at about 3% per hour. I would suggest playing video at full brightness will cause the battery to drop.

There is an endless parade of USB Chargers, and the cheaper ones are not worth the time. Ask yourself if you really want a $5 charger between mains voltage and your expensive device, and then move on to a name brand charger.

My summary of the best options:

If you already have a 2 amp charger lying around ( I am sure you do) simply buy the PortaPow fast charging cable, and you are in business. The Nexus 7 charger weighs 62 grams (2.2 oz) with an Australian plug.

If you want flexibility and low weight, the Kensington 2 amp charger (112 grams ( 4 oz)) comes with a range of international plugs, and can be used with a figure 8 cable if the power outlet is inaccessible and can charge four devices (up to 2 amps) simultaneously.

For speed and power, there is no substitute for the Anker 5 port IQ+ charger. It weighs in at a hefty 250 grams (8.8 oz) with a cable but I have been on vacation with four people, a chromebook, three tablets, four smartphones, a USB powered WiFi hotspot and assorted keyboards mice and Bluetooth headsets and the Anker handled the lot perfectly.

My Review of the Anker Charger is here, you might enjoy it.

I also reviewed the HP Chromebook 11, and decided It is my favorite Chromebook despite it’s limitations!

Anker IQ 40W 5-port Smart USB Charger Reviewed

Anker 40W charger
Anker 40W charger

The best USB power supply I have seen is the Anker 5 port, 8 amp smart charger. It uses a so-called PowerIQ charging system to provide the best power possible for each device. It is a small brick shaped device that connects to the wall via a figure-eight cable.

A USB based charger can charge most portable devices, from Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, Bluetooth headsets, Cameras, to a wealth of other devices.

Most of these devices come with a “wall wart” plug pack and a USB to micro or mini USB plug, or the Apple Lightning connector. Carrying the original charger for every device we own, and finding a power outlet for each is impossible.

The Anker charger is a small brick, smaller than a cigarette packet, (58 x 91 x 25mm) with 5 USB ports on one end and the small two-pin figure eight socket on the back. The advantage of this (and the wide power supply range) is that the charger can be used in any country with the addition of the correct cable. It can be found on Amazon here and eBay here.

Every USB device makes it’s power requirements known by talking to the charging port via serial communications through the two inside pins, or, for dumb charging devices, by being wired with certain resistors in the power lines. This allows a smart charger to supply just the right amount of power to each device. The Anker charger is very well regulated, and assuming the cables are of suitable quality, maximum charging speeds will result. Overcharging is impossible as long as decent cables are used. I label the cables that come with my devices and try to keep the correct cable with each device. I have only once seen a different cable to cause a problem. It was supposed to have a “Fast Charge” switch on the plug. switching to “Fast Charge” caused charging to stop completely! More about cables another time.

Anker 5 Port 40W charger
Anker 5 Port 40W charger

I found the results to be impressive, though I could never get my HP Chromebook 11 to charge at anything like the 3 amps that it’s dedicated charger is supposed to deliver. But I torture tested the Anker charger on a one week stay in Melbourne recently. I was sharing accommodation with three other device users. Each night four smartphones, three tablets, a USB charged HP Chromebook 11, a power bank, Bluetooth headsets, two keyboards and a USB powered Seagate WiFi hotspot and media server all had to be kept topped up by the Anker IQ 40W 5-port smart USB charger. It worked flawlessly for the week, charging everything, in some cases with split two headed charging cables connected.

Anker 5 Port 40W charger Replacement
Anker 5 Port 40W charger Replacement

The Anker IQ 40W 5-port charger comes with an 18 month warranty, and this is backed by an impressively fast and helpful customer support operation. My first charger had one port die within a week. Anker asked for the serial number of the device, and had a replacement in the mail within 24 hours. Since they are in the US and I am in Australia the replacement arrived with great speed. A tribute to a real belief in quality and customer support.

Anker now has a 60W version, but I seriously doubt it will result in faster charging except with the most extreme combination of devices. But if you believe more is better, here is a link to the 60W charger on Amazon.

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Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse

Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch Mouse
Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch Mouse

For many users of touch devices such as phones and tablets, mice are a thing of the past. For me, the mouse still has a huge place in my toolkit. It is essential for laptop and desktop computing, and even editing text on a tablet works better with a mouse.

I use a number of tablets and computers on a daily basis, and wireless mice have three drawbacks. They require a spare USB port for the dongle, they require AA or AAA batteries, and they are mostly fairly large.

I spend a lot of time using Laptops, Chromebooks and Tablets. None of these have a lot of spare USB ports, and some have none at all. So Bluetooth is the only option to get full functionality on all devices. If I am doing serious typing on my Nexus 7 Tablet, I connect a Bluetooth keyboard, and at times, having a mouse is handy.

If I am travelling, I will have a Chromebook or an Ultrabook. Long hours working on one of these devices on a table or on my lap is a sure invitation for a stiff neck, and back pain. So I carry a stand that tilts the laptop up to a level where the screen is comfortable.  This may require a Bluetooth keyboard, but always makes the trackpad difficult to use, so I always use a mouse if I have the room.

I have been using a Microsoft Sculpt Touch mouse, simply because it was the only Bluetooth mouse I could find here in Tasmania, Australia that was reliable. The Sculpt Touch is a good size, but has a tactile bar that replaces the wheel that drives me absolutely crazy. It is impossible to control on non Windows computers, and just plain bad on Windows. Scrolling becomes an exercise in frustration that has on one occasion literally driven me to throw the mouse across the room (onto a lounge chair, I was frustrated, not stupid) and resort to the touch pad. It also uses 2 AA batteries, and therefore is quite heavy.

I do not like mice that require batteries. When I travel I must take spare batteries, and/or a charger. I like everything I use to charge from a USB port. This makes it possible to travel for an extended period with only one charger. I have a USB powered AA/AAA charger, but it is another device, and unless I carry spares, I have to stop work and wait for my mouse batteries to be charged, or do without the mouse

So I went shopping for ANY mouse that was Bluetooth enabled and has USB charging. I took a few deep breaths before I paid out $90 for a mouse, and kept the receipt in case I could not use it, but I have found THE perfect mouse for me.

The Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse

Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch MouseThe Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse. I confess, if I had seen one, I may have gone for the T631 white mouse, but other than that, this is mouse is ideal for me. It is very small, 59 x 85 x 19mm and weighing only 70 grams.  The tiny size had me worried that it might be difficult to control, but it invites you to place two or three fingertips on top and control it that way. There is no wheel, the entire top surface is touch sensitive, and stroking the top surface up and down or sideways provides a scroll effect. The provided software works on Windows & Mac, and adds multi-touch functionality, but since I use Chrome OS, Linux and Android as well as Windows I have kept my use to the basic functions that work on every device.

Scrolling is smooth and effortless, and can be done almost anywhere on the top of the mouse. The Bluetooth setup is a function of the operating system, but the mouse seems to reconnect on wake-up very fast. It has been faultlessly reliable.

An added feature that a number of Logitech keyboards have is the ability to pair to two or more devices, and switch between them with the flick of a switch. The Logitech mouse has a switch on the bottom of the mouse that allows two connections. I would love the ability to connect to three devices, like my Logitech K810 Keyboard, but two is enough for most situations.

To keep the mouse clean and small, the micro-usb charging port is on the bottom, so the mouse cannot be used and charged at the same time. This is not really a problem. One minute of charging will run the mouse for an hour. I have only had the mouse go flat once, I plugged it in for a minute to get it working, continued worked until I wanted a break, and re-charged it the few minutes I was away from the computer. Basically I charge the mouse & keyboard up once a week, and just forget about it after that. I do not bother to switch it off unless I am travelling.

I am far more concerned with function than looks, but it is still a pretty mouse. it is small, works on everything (better if you have the Windows or Mac software, but I am happy without the extras) and has a simply beautiful scroll surface.

Watch out for the Click!

Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch MouseI have seen criticism of the buttons sticking down. The do NOT stick. The buttons are under the chassis of the mouse. There are no buttons on top of the mouse. It is a single, unbroken touch surface. The entire mouse moves down when you click a button. If (like me) your fingers hang over the sides of the mouse, and touch the desktop it is possible that when you click (press down) your fingers, resting on the desktop, will grip the mouse tightly enough to stop it coming back up. This is a user error, based on the very light, small and short travel of the mouse. As you become aware of this, you learn to be a little gentler in handling the mouse, and it then moves perfectly.

I became comfortable with the tiny, light and sensitive nature of the mouse quickly. the button held down issue took a few days. but now, when I have to use a normal mouse it feels monstrously big, and awkward. Having to deal with a shrunken tendon in my right hand makes this mouse even more friendly.

Overall, this is my choice for the best ever portable mouse, and in my case, the best mouse ever.

The quick and simple connection with Chrome and Android devices as well as the usual Windows and OS x devices makes it very versatile. Frankly, the best ever! It is small, light and a little different in use due to the tactile to surface, but once you use the mouse for a few days, you will not want to go backwards to an old, traditional mouse.

I am writing this on an ASUS Chromebox, with a Logitech K810 Keyboard and a Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse in Google Docs. Despite the high price, I am trying to convince my wife that a second T630 Ultrathin makes sense for my office, where I use multiple devices on a daily basis.

The jury is still out on that second mouse… But I am hopeful…

HP 11 Chromebook – Slimport Adapter

The Google HP Chromebook 11  does not have an HDMI port for an external Monitor, it uses a Slimport video adapter. This uses the micro-USB port to connect to an external monitor.

The HP 11 also charges via the Micro-USB.

Slimport Adapter
Slimport Adapter

The need to charge and use the external monitor at the same time felt like it may be a deal breaker. I spend long hours with a 22” external monitor connected, then I need to pick up the Chromebook and go. It needs to be charged when I unplug the monitor and walk away.

Hewlett Packard have covered my needs.

Slimport is an interesting technology. Previously I purchased a rather expensive MHL adapter for my Samsung Galaxy S III phone. It was expensive, and would not work at all unless a USB charger was plugged into the MHL adapter to power it. This was cumbersome and annoying, and I have rarely used it.

The Slimport is different. I had to order a Slimport adapter online, because Harvey Norman do not have Slimport adapters in stock. It took two weeks, but the adapter finally arrived and I began experimenting. My adapter is Slimport to HDMI (you can also get Slimport to VGA) and has a micro-USB charging port on the side.

The Chromebook finds the Monitor
The Chromebook finds the Monitor

I plugged the Slimport adapter in, and immediately the Chromebook detected the 22” E2250 monitor and extended the desktop. I was able to click on the notification and go to the settings screen.

There I was able to establish the physical relationship of the two monitors. Music and sound automatically switched to the speakers connected to the monitor.

When a USB charger other than the 4 amp charger supplied with the Chromebook is plugged in, a warning pops up the the charger is low-powered and may not charge the Chromebook while it is running.

Low Power Charger!
Low Power Charger!

When I plugged the original 4 amp HP charger into the Slimport adapter, I got the same message. However the laptop charges happily, if a little slower, while I am using the Slimport adapter and monitor. I suspect the HP charger uses some unassigned pins to charge via the micro-USB at a higher rate.

One of the impressive things about the Chromebook is it instantly re-configures if anything is unplugged. Unplug the monitor, and all windows are squeezed down onto the laptop screen. Plug it back in, and they move back to where they were.

I tried this with my Acer Zenbook, unplugging the micro-HDMI cable and the computer crashed when it woke up on the road. I was confronted with the full Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) that has pretty much disappeared with Windows 7 and up.  The machine was useless, and I had to work most of the day with my phone. When I got home, the Zenbook took over an hour to scan drives and get itself working again.

Windows 7 – 0  to Chromebook – 1

I continue to be impressed with the robust nature of the Chromebook experience. The odd crash is recovered and re-started in less than 10 seconds, and I have yet to lose a word due to a crash.

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HP Chromebook 11 Review, My New Best Friend

The original HP Chromebook 11
The original HP Chromebook 11

Recently I took delivery of my new workhorse, a Google HP Chromebook 11. (http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/hp-chromebook-11/) The packaging alone made me fall in love with this little device. The moulded white cardboard box with rounded edges that mirror the rounded corners and edges of the Chromebook made me want to touch it. I thought it was plastic, but once opened, it is clearly a recyclable paper material

I think everyone has learned from Apple that the product should be front and centre, and not buried in packaging, and the HP 11 packaging follows this rule. Lift the lid off the box, and it is the first thing you see.

Somehow the photos I have seen made me think the HP 11 was thicker than it is. I knew the weight, only 1Kg, before I saw it, but the size and lack of weight is still amazing me.

HP 11 From the Front
HP 11 From the Front

The box has the Chromebook, charger, a card with the three steps to use it (switch it on, select a network, log in) and that is pretty much it.

The screen is the standard (for most Chromebooks) 1366 x 768 resolution. I love this size, My Asus Zenbook has much higher resolution, and frankly the tiny characters and icons are a problem in the readability stakes, I keep fiddling with settings looking for something more readable. The screen is noticeably better than the Samsung, and people who have compared the machines say it is much better that the Acer 720 Chromebook. The Acer is much faster, but for me, the micro-USB charging and superior screen are the winning features. I want to travel with one power supply only. The HP Chromebook 11 allows that.

I quickly power wiped my Samsung and passed it to my son. He has been hard at work configuring it to his liking.

My only disappointment was that the supplier, Harvey Norman Launceston did not have a SlimPort adapter to allow me to connect the Chromebook to my 22″ External monitor. The HP uses the newer and better SlimPort technology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DisplayPort#SlimPort) rather than MHL to access an external monitor through the micro-USB port.

I have (an expensive) MHL adapter I bought for my Samsung Galaxy SIII, and rarely use. MHL requires an external USB power source. The Slimport is different. It is self powered, but in most cases allows the device to receive power through a second socket. I have ordered a Slimport adapter on line, with a 5-7 day delivery for an extra $10.

MyDP Slimport Adapter
MyDP Slimport Adapter

It is still half the price I would have paid Harvey Norman if their had been one in stock. I prefer to support local suppliers when I can, but in this case necessity overrides local business profits.

In the meantime, I am using the Chromebook display with a stand that lifts the computer slightly to save neck strain, and it is working quite well.

The speakers, hidden under the keyboard are quite good, and surprisingly loud. Some have complained about distortion, but sounds surprisingly good to me.. It plays music and uses Hangouts with no noticeable issues for me. And you can always plug in headphones or speakers.

The keyboard is excellent. I dislike rattles, but this keyboard has a firm feel with good movement and no rocking or clattering. The keyboard is not back-lit, but that is hardly surprising, and with the white keytops, is pretty visible in low light. The keys are textured and feel quite nice to type on. Like all Chromebooks, the keyboard layout it the Google Chromebook design, with dedicated keys for search, changing apps, moving forward and back in the browser and taking the browser to full-screen. It also controls volume, screen brightness and mute. Having the soft power button next to the backspace key has caused problems for some, but I have never had an issue with it.

Many people complain about lack of a delete key, but Alt + Backspace is delete, and if you REALLY want it, Alt + Search is Caps Lock, something I do not miss at all.

HP Chromebook 11 Keyboard
HP Chromebook 11 Keyboard

The HP 11 was famously pulled from sale in the US due to overheating and melting chargers. My Australian charger works fine, but I confess, it still feels pretty warm after a full charge. I will monitor it for a while before leaving the charger unattended overnight.

I tend to be influenced by functionality rather than industrial design and beauty, but this time, I have to say, it really looks sweet!

The light weight and effectively instant suspend and resume mean that this laptop will be doing a lot of travelling with me. I have made a slipcover out of Mylar bubble wrap and gaffer tape as some protection.

I will write again when I have the Slimport adapter to test my full desktop setup.