As you may have heard, Google is trying their hand at a store for the first time and they are running this little experiment in good ol’ London.

So last week I decided to pop-in and check it out.

“Chromezone” is really just a small area inside a larger tech store and all they’re showing are a bunch of Chromebooks. I would’ve really put some Nexus S’s there as well and perhaps even a few Android tablets, but that’s just me. It’s a cute concept as it is and it’s obviously based off the Apple store success, but I think it needs a bit more work to really get you the experience that Apple now provides (e.g. I don’t know about other stores, but in the Apple Store on Regent’s street they have iPads sitting next to every laptop with all the information you want about the laptops there… it’s awesome!). All in all, a good start. I hope it does well and that they will consider opening more and larger “zones”.

So I sat down and played with one of the Chromebooks. I have been really excited about the Chromebook ever since the first rumours came to be (and even before, given that me and some of my college friends were speculating that such a product will come around since 2006), so sitting down to mess with it a bit was great!

It’s a nice compact netbook with a touchpad that is very similar to the one on Macbooks. I really liked the keyboard and that says a lot, since I usually hate it on netbooks because of my gigantic hands. It does do scrolling and right-clicks like a Macbook (though not inverted as it is on Lion), but I wasn’t able to get any other multi-touch gesture to work. The OS is pretty much just Chrome so there’s really not much to comment on there… if you’ve used Chrome, this is really the same thing, plus a few extra settings.

It does have some external ports, but I wasn’t exactly able to start plugging things in so I’m not sure how all of that fits together. I obviously haven’t tested start-up times either, but I’m sure it is just a matter of seconds as advertised. I should’ve done a download to see how files get stored, but I didn’t think about it at that time so I haven’t done that.

My conclusion? Well it’s very early to say after just a few minutes of toying around. I like it, I really do and I would probably like to grab one at some point. I still think it’s a very interesting and cool concept and it has a lot of potential. The only downside I see is with the price tag (which is, I believe, very different from what was originally being thrown around). The Wi-Fi version can be yours for £349 and the 3G one for £399. I may be terribly off with this, but I think that’s a lot for what you’re getting. You can have all the same functionality (and more) from a cheaper traditional netbook. For £399 I can get an iPad. I really can’t see it be worth that money, unless I missed some awesome hidden feature.

So I don’t know… if it was half that price, I’d probably consider getting one right now. But to me it just seems expensive. Nonetheless, if you live in London, visit the Chromezone, check it out, let me know what you think.

PS: There are very quick photos snapped with my phone, so sorry about the quality. I hadn’t thought about bringing the camera along.