Chrome OS Flex

We’ve been playing with it this morning at the request of a customer to see if it will help with a specific scenario for them.

We’ve tried it on a handful of machines and with the notable exception of my Pro 8 it’s more or less worked on all of them.

One notable success is a couple of Spectre X360s. It works really well on those including full PEN SUPPORT.

If you don’t want to actually install it on a system, you can create a bootable USB key quite easily. And on the x360, we now have one of the most expensive, but also fastest chromebooks going

How to Install Chrome OS Flex on Windows in Under 10 Minutes (techpp.com)

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Minimium requirement > four Gigabytes of RAM
Not as friendly to low powered PC as expected.

Still on a quest to make my old Atom Cherry Trail tablet with Wacom EMR more useful, and if this thing run better on 4 Gig Ram than Windows 10 then it might be promising.
I used to try Linux but they’re just super tablet - unfriendly with some drivers broken.

Edit: looked at difference between this and classic Chrome OS. This is some key differences :

  • Google Play and Android apps: Chrome OS Flex does not support Android apps or Google Play.
  • Parallels Desktop: Chrome OS Flex does not support running Windows virtual machines (VMs) using Parallels Desktop.
  • Linux development environment: Support for Linux development environment on Chrome OS Flex varies, depending on the specific model. Review the Certified models list to check if your models support Linux on Chrome OS Flex.
    *can run Chrome OS Flex on most computers with Intel or AMD processors. Chrome OS Flex does not support ARM architecture.

So this is more or less a glorified browser? If it run well then it’s probably still useful as my tablet struggle to run a few tabs on Windows 10

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I tried it on my galaxybook 10.6 but the screen was upside down and it didn’t see the wifi. If it was just a screen rotation issue, i may have looked into it more, but no wifi means it not worth messing with yet. Two of my classic thinkpads, the x201s and x61s now run chrome os flex. So that was fun at least. I may try the x61t later too.

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Right now, Flex is officially considered to be development versus general release. Having tried it on about a dozen more systems yesterday, the results are definitely hit and miss with several systems (lenovo) being barely functional.

That being said, the “sweet spot” for devices according to what one Google engineer told one of our customers is “vanilla” core I 7th gen to 10th gen. And that the more that an OEM varies from the standard intel chip set config (such as surface devices using Broadcom WIFI) the less likely it is to be 100% functional.

OTOH, they seem to have made specific exception for a significant number of intel-based MacBooks. as they have rarely used Intel WIFI or bluetooth chipsets.

One last observation is that upon initial setup, Flex sends a bunch of telemetry to Google. It’s not any tracking or personal stuff, but seems to be all device configuration information, likely to help them prioritize where to focus their continued development.

PS: The one absolute thing we recommend for anyone thinking about this is to take the option of making a bootable USB stick to try it out. So as long as your device supports booting from USB it’s the easiest way to test to make sure basic things like WIFI work. And it’s easy to then to use the stick to install if you decide to commit to it.

PPS: In addition to not supporting Android apps, it also does not support Stadia in case anyone is wondering, and from what we understand, there is no current plans to add support for either.

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If the “sweet spot” is core i gen 7 to gen 10, I don’t see much reason to use Flex on them, as they should still be able to run Windows 10 or even 11 swimmingly. Why “downgrade” to a severely crippled version of chrome OS? Maybe refurbishing for educational purposes?

I think the intent is to expand support to a larger base of systems, and this is just the first crack at it. OTOH I’m sure part of the issue is also related to the gen 6 and earlier chipsets having un-patchable security vulnerabilities and a big thing that Google touts in both education and corporate pitches I’ve seen is how secure chromebooks are.

Education loves chromebooks for that, but also for how easy they are to deploy in multiuser environments, not to mention how quick recovery is when they get screwed up, eg. just a 5 minute “powerwash” away, a feature that Flex has already

I think there will be a significant take up on this in education once it’s in formal release, especially to those sites that have existing windows machines, but that have started investing in Chromebooks.

Jury’s still out on how corporate will feel about Flex IMHO

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Also keep in mind that generally speaking the lifespan/replacement cycle standard in corporate is still 3 years and 5 years in education, and we are already close to that time frame for 7th gen and up systems anyway.

And that and the vulnerabilities are also likely why MS chose 7th gen as the cut off officially for Windows 11

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Anectdote: My school started the year with iPads with that standard logitech keyboard case that all schools seem to use for elementary and 11" convertible Dell laptops running windows for middle/high school. We’re a Microsoft Teams shop even though many teachers bring their own Macbooks. The librarian has a Surface. I bring a random assortment of whatever I feel like. A few months into the school year, they swapped out all the Dell laptops for more iPads. Now every student at the school has an iPad. Middle/high school get to take them home, elementary stays in the classroom in giant charging cabinets. I know maintaining the Windows machines was a chore. I can’t say whether the option to go to chromeOS would have saved the Dell machines, or even if or how Teams runs on chromeOS, but here we are, an example of giving up on Windows for a simpler set up for the end user.

This is of course typed and posted from my z fold 3 set up on a little stand with a mouse and keyboard becuase no one really cares what we use as long we leave IT alone.

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Tried booting Chrome OS Flex from USB with less than ideal results:

  • Atom Cherry Trail tablet: stuck at the start up logo. It’s still stuck and no amount off power button pressing worked. I have to wait for the battery to drain out to restart.

  • My old Intel i3 gen 3 PC: go a little further to the Chrome logo and stuck there. Also the fan was whirring up very loudly so I doubt it’s a power efficient OS. Had to force restart my pc and the fan speed went back to normal on Windows. This PC still run well for its age without much stuttering for my usual work load, and I still use it daily.

So yeah, if you are hoping to revive your old, low power PC, Chrome OS Flex is probably not the answer. A lot of news articles was still praising it as something that will save your old pc, and that was kinda misleading.

FWIW, slow USB ports and the USB stick itself (most are slower than even EMMC drives) are the likely culprits there. Installing it on the actual internal drive is likely to produce much better results. We’ve installed it on several core low end and older core I3 with decent results and even a couple of Pentiums

But to install it, booting from usb is still necessary right? Can’t really install if the USB can’t even boot.

I used this usb to boot into linux on my Atom tablet and it worked fine with just wifi driver broken, so the entry requirements of Chrome OS Flex is likely too high.

Most of those older PC only have USB 2.0 so it’s totally slower than EMMC. My Atom tablet had a USB 3 port, but last I tried, USB 3.0 flashdrive ( with a blue head) wasn’t designed to be bootable with USB 3.0 protocols back in the days. Not sure if it changed now.

@CrazyCat So a couple of things.

I’m assuming that you tried this same key on multiple devices? The reason that’s relevant is that the first time you run/boot from the key it does an update and configure to the key (which is also why it takes a rather long time to shutdown the first time. So for instance if the first time you use it is with say a core i3 8th gen, then it’s configured/optimized for that 8th gen core i3 only.

That’s also why for all intents and purposes you can’t just move a drive from one chromebook to another

And I just replicated the appearing to be hung at boot symptom you describe by taking a key that was originally booted on a 9th gen core i5 trying to boot an 11th gen core I3 system.

I can’t be 100% certain that’s your issue though as there are multiple additional variables; things that some OEMs do which is to make tweaks to the “stock intel BIOS code” to support specific features and/or deviances from the generic reference Intel motherboards. HP is infamous for those types of tweaks to support where they substitute broadcom network cards instead of Intel in some of their Pavilion models

I used the i3 3rd gen desktop pc to make the bootable USB, booting from that PC hang at the chrome logo and drove up the fan speed a lot, it sound alarming, so I restarted after waiting 10 mins without any changes.

Then I used that key on the tablet and it already hang at start up. That’s probably the problem that you mentioned.

I probably will just leave it alone, as my old equipments are probably too old for Chrome OS. Windows still run well on my desktop, and that old tablet is likely not fully driver compatible with anything other than Windows, so I gonna accept it.