Samsung's Chromebook isn't all that different from the CR-48 prototype Chromebook that we saw back in December. This one is a little lighter, a little thinner, and easier on the eyes (in some ways), but save for a newer, dual-core Intel Atom processor, this Series 5 Chromebook more or less the same. Is that even a good thing?
If you're still unfamiliar with Chromebooks and Google's Chrome OS, here's the deal: it's not a full-fledged OS like Windows and OS X, but rather a platform that functions entirely inside Google's Chrome web browser, and mostly serves to connect you to web-related services. If you don't have an online connection, the Chromebook is effectively useless. If you want to know more about Chrome OS, check out our posts here and here.
Price: $US500 (as tested)
Screen:12.1-inch, 1200x800 SuperBright Display
Processor: 1.66GHz Intel Atom N570 Processor
Storage: 16GB SSD
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3G (GSM+CDMA), SD, USB
Thickness: 0.79 inches
Battery Life: 8.5 Hours
Pluses: The simplicity of the Samsung Chromebook is undeniably attractive. It's made for the internet and little else. Those familiar with the intricacies of the Chrome browser, and current web trends, will pick up the Chromebook and have little trouble adjusting. Also, the battery lasts forever. Use it all day. No problem. Use it at night and fall asleep with it not plugged in. Even less of a problem. But there are some tradeoffs for that battery life.
Minuses: Chrome OS is still a work in progress that's far from finished. Chrome "apps" are still glorified web pages. The hardware isn't powerful enough to handle the more exciting aspects of the web. The CR-48 struggled with flash video, and despite the dual-core processor, the Samsung Chromebook does as well. Standard definition video functions well enough, but when you start watching HD quality web videos, you'll notice choppiness. Same goes for 3D web games. It also isn't small or light enough to justify such baseline performance. The trackpad is improved from the CR-48, but it's still skittish. The screen has a bluish tint that just feels off, even if you haven't been staring at another screen immediately before. And while an aesthetic upgrade from the CR-48 while open, the glossy white outer shell is borderline tacky.
The idea behind the Chromebook is one looking towards the future. But for the time being, it's not a fully realised idea. Yeah, you can browse the web pages and fire off emails on the Chromebook just fine. But at $US500, you can just get a tablet for the same price that does all the same things... and so much more.