My Chromebook Dilemma

Earlier this week I received a cryptic email from Amazon asking me to call a certain phone number about my recent HP Chromebook 11 purchase. Until then, I’d been loving the upgrade from last year’s solid Samsung model, particularly because of the screen and keyboard upgrade. I use my Chromebook just about every day, and the improvements in this year’s model make a big difference.

Why I’m a Chromebook Fanboy

Yes, I’m a big fan of these little “browser-only” machines — this one is my third, after the original CR-48 and then my Samsung, so I’m clearly hooked. I’ve seen a lot of hate directed toward Chromebooks, often comparing them to a similarly-priced Windows machine that can run Chrome as its browser, plus do everything else a regular computer can do. It’s absolutely true that you can spend that much, or a little more, to get a perfectly functional “full” computer.

To me, however, this misses the point. I’d never recommend a Chromebook as someone’s only computing device. If, however, you’re like me, you already enjoy using Google’s tools, and you spend a lot of your computer time working online or in the cloud. If that’s the case, where else can you find a laptop that combines good battery life, zero maintenance, light weight, and seamless integration with Google’s desktop, tablet, and cell phone apps for less than $300?

Have you seen the clunky Windows junk you can get at this price level? Can you afford $1,000 to get an admittedly gorgeous Macbook Air? I can’t. I wouldn’t even want to spend $600 to get a sub-par Ultrabook. In both cases, if I ended up getting a “real” laptop, about 80% of the time I’d be doing things that I could accomplish just fine with a Chromebook. I’m willing to wait until I get home or I’m at work to do the 20% that can’t be accomplished with ChromeOS. Meanwhile, I’ve saved money and enjoy tremendous convenience.

The Mystery Call

When I called the number Amazon gave me, I was surprised to see that it connected me with Google customer support. When the someone answered, I asked why I’d received the weird Amazon email. Instead of getting an answer, I was asked if there was anything wrong with my unit. I said not really, but mentioned that my power supply got pretty warm when charging. The gentleman told me to simply make sure it was well ventilated when charging, and thanked me for calling.

This didn’t answer my question, so I pressed on. “Could I talk to someone who knows why this Amazon email was sent?” I asked. I was politely put on hold while the support rep looked into it. While I was waiting, I Googled “HP Chromebook 11 safety” and found an article that said the machines have been removed from sale at Best Buy and Amazon because people have reported that their power supplies overheat, causing a potential fire hazard. Rather than do a recall, HP and Google surprisingly recommend that owners use a UL listed micro USB charger instead of the one supplied with the unit while they work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to find a solution.

My support representative eventually came back on and told me that the email I’d received was, indeed, about the charger, and repeated his recommendation to keep it well ventilated. He mentioned nothing about using an alternate charger due to the safety risk until I asked about the article I’d found while on hold. “I was getting to that,” he said. How about starting with it? This is vital information, after all. The disrespect Google showed me by not being upfront about the problem is extremely alarming, and the disregard for my safety is unconscionable. I expect more from both Google and HP, which is why I’m extremely disappointed about the whole experience.

An Unsatisfying Conclusion

As a Google Certified Teacher and someone who has been asked by Google to run workshops for educators, I’m lucky to have first-hand knowledge of how passionate, intelligent, and caring these folks are. The way I was treated in this instance doesn’t reflect the Google I know, and if they’re treating people who don’t know them like I do this way, it has the potential to severely damage their credibility and trust.

It’s equally bad to put the people answering support calls in a position of treating customers poorly. My support representative didn’t seem as though he wanted to provide such a bad experience. I think he was doing the best he could within the constraints placed upon him. I can’t imagine what that kind of work environment must be like.

Now, I’m left with a dilemma. Send back my Chromebook 11, or keep it while using an alternate charger, waiting and hoping that Google and HP eventually do the right thing. I still have a few weeks to make my choice, and at this point I have no idea which way I’ll go.

2 thoughts on “My Chromebook Dilemma

  1. I gave it some time, using a tablet charger to keep it topped up for about two months. Eventually I got a new charger and a $25 Play Store gift certificate for my trouble. All in all, it worked out fine, and I'm glad I hung onto the machine.

    The new Chromebook models just being announced are looking fantastic, and I got to play with a few at a convention in Orlando last week. Now the plan is to hang onto mine for at least a few years, waiting until there are even better choices.

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