Mac O’Clock
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Mac O’Clock

I Ran Chrome OS Flex on the MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012)

Chrome OS Flex running on MacBook Pro (Mid 2012)
Image* Credit: Author (Bhavesh Rawat) | Designed on Previewed

When I read, Google has launched its Chrome OS for Macs & Windows PC, Chrome OS Flex. I was pretty excited to test it out as it’s based on the new Chrome OS v100 and its cloud-first, meaning, most of the computing is done in the back-end of the cloud server and your PCs resources are just being used to retrieve, and display that information, and that’s also how it goes easy on the PC too.

About Chrome OS page Screen Grab
Screen Grab

I installed it just after the day Google made Chrome OS Flex available in their Chrome Recovery Utility extension. The whole installation process was pretty simple, I’d say. You can follow this tutorial, if you feel like breathing life into your old PC.

Performance

So, the main motive of this OS (Operating System) is to make old hardware more usable, and capable. Gotta hand it to Google, it does pretty good job at that. Here I’ am, on my MacBook Pro (Mid-2012); playing 5 YouTube videos in 1080p (one in YouTube Web App); Spotify in background playing Lo-Fi tracks and surfing Reddit in background. Quite impressive, right?

Performance on Chrome OS Flex running on MacBook Pro
Image Credit: Lo-Fi generator screen grab

Now, what if I told you that this was the second window of Google Chrome? The first window was running this Medium Editor, Google News, XDA Developers. And, from how I used to handle this MacBook, it’d have crumbled the moment I’d have hit the 4th new tab.

I never saw Google Chrome launch this fast, ever! Other Google web apps, although being based on the web, that came installed with Chrome OS Flex, also launch pretty quickly. The animations, while opening and minimizing a web app, are also pretty subtle.

Installed Apps on Chrome OS Flex

Experience

I’d consider talking about usability, reliability (it’s still in the beta, “unstable” phase), and accessibility in this section.

Usability

I’d like to say this right off the bat, “I won’t mind making it my daily driver”. It is indeed giving me a better experience than macOS in terms of performance. It is fast, customisable, and it supports Linux environments too. I’d consider myself a heavy user; tons of tabs lying around, multitasking, learning and practicing advanced CSS, and spends most of its time on the web, learning and curating stuff. So, yeah, the workflow isn’t getting affected in any way.

Now, the reason I emphasized on ‘my’ earlier is solely because of the application stack I use in my daily workflow, which mostly includes apps from Google. My go-to browsers are Brave browser and Google Chrome, and Gmail for replying and checking up on emails. YouTube for content consumption, to keep a note of something; Google Keep comes to the rescue. Google Docs for documentation, and Drive for cloud storage.
Spotify and BitWarden for streaming music and managing confidential stuff, respectively, and both are available as a web app.

Now, you may use a whole a whole different stack that might not have web app support. So, that’s where things get complicated because you wouldn’t close all your work tabs and boot back to your OS just for that application, right? But the absence of that app might affect your workflow.

MacBook Pro (Mid-2012, 13 — inch)
Image Credit: Author (Bhavesh Rawat)

Coming to the function keys, yep, they were working as intended. Some function keys, surprisingly, were mapped accurately, like the F3 (Mission Control) key, which is used to bring opened applications in a group overview. The gestures on the trackpad were working just fine.

Now, what wasn't working was the backlit of the keyboard, like, it was straight away turned off, and the other part was the microphone. Seems like the OS, can’t access the microphone’s data even after detecting and accessing it. The microphone was working flawlessly on my Acer Notebook while I was testing this OS on it. Google Assistant gets invoked, the moment you say the “catchphrase”, ‘Hey, Google’, or “Ok, Google”.

Reliability

Yeah, this Mac was not my first choice for testing this OS. I have an Acer Notebook I bought in 2015, running Windows 10 Home, and I tried the Chrome OS Flex on it. Everything was going great until it crashed, the whole OS freezes, and it happened every time after a certain time frame, which was 20–25 mins after booting up. But, this Mac was running Chrome OS Flex as if it was native. No UI freeze, no apps freeze, a pretty solid driver, for what its worth.

ChromeOS Flex on MacBook Pro | Credit: Author (Bhavesh Rawat)

I was connected to Wi-Fi the whole time, and there were no disconnections, or drops in Wi-Fi signal. But, it’s only showing 2.4G channels, even though, this MacBook Pro's modem supports 5G channels. Bluetooth also works flawlessly. I had this connected to my Android smartphone, and with JBL TWS was able to receive battery status, notifications right in the OS’ notification center, also connected, streaming songs.

*10-March-2022 UPDATE: After the v100.0.4880.0 update, the Wi-Fi has started giving me hard time. Sometimes it works normally, and sometimes the internet connectivity vanishes despite being connected to the Wi-Fi, that too in close proximities.

Sharing images, videos, and all sorts of files has never been this easy. Nearby Share works great with all sorts of Android smartphones. I’ve been sharing images, GIFs, and PDFs back and forth. It is fast, and reliable. There were no disconnections, transmission fails, or slow transfers.

I wouldn’t make statements like, Chrome OS Flex is stable, and all that because it’s definitely not, yet. But, what I can say is that it is running smoothly on this MacBook, and hasn't died on me.

Accessibility

Oh, I forgot to mention that I’m running this OS through a bootable USB drive itself. I haven’t installed it on the MacBook, and I don’t think I will. There are two reasons to that.

ChromeOS Flex running on MacBook Pro through bootable USB drive
Image Credit: Author (Bhavesh Rawat)

First, currently, dual booting this OS is not possible, and it gave bootloader error in doing so. If I install it natively, it will wipe the HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and start a clean install which I certainly don’t want.

Second, the OS installation gives us the choice of either installing it, or trying it from the bootable drive, which is quite good, I’d say. Next time you want to boot Chrome OS Flex, just plug in the bootable drive, turn on the PC/Mac, and hold the option (⌥) key. It will then take you to a screen from where you’d choose where to boot from.

So, to sum it up… except microphone, and backlit of the keyboard, everything is working just fine. Performance is better than ever on this Mac. Sharing files is bliss.

Google has said nothing about Android Apps support for Chrome OS Flex but I’m really hoping it to have Google Play Store support in the stable build, or soon because that will make these budget Windows PC, and old Macs capable and useful.

That’s been it for now. Let me know your thoughts on this. I enjoyed testing and writing this. If you enjoyed reading the story, consider following me (Bhavesh Rawat). Peace ✌.

If you’d like to support me, you can do that here. Many thanks!!

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*Image used for the MacBook Pro is just for illustration purposes. It is not the accurate image of the MacBook Pro (Mid-2012)

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Bhavesh Rawat

Bhavesh Rawat

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20 • Aspiring Web Developer • Tech Enthusiast • Blogger • Curator