Samsung Series 5 Chromebook Review
Samsung Series 5 Review
Google has finally delivered on its promise of the long awaited Chrome OS. On June 15, Google will begin a new era of computing when the first Chromebooks are available. Considering that I am not only a possible user, but also a business decision-maker regarding the machines, I've been particularly interested in the product. Last week I got my hands on the and I thought I would put together my first basic review.
Following the recent Google IO conference, Samsung and Google held a media event to undress the hardware to a group of journalists and give us time with the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook. This is not a full product review, but rather, my first impressions.
It is good - I mean really good.
First to note, is that I was working of a beta build of Chrome OS, and not the final version that will be loaded onto the Chromebooks on June 15. These Chromebooks are not actually the first attempt by Google, those were the 'beta' machines called the Google CR-48. The Cr-48 was a barebones netbook that Google sent to developers via a pilot program last year. That machine was not very good - it had the worst trackpad I have ever used - and it was widely criticized for that. This improved with further versions of software, but the machine was still too slow to ever use daily.
The Samsung Chromebook seems much faster than the Cr-48. The specs are actually not that much different, with the major difference being a dual-core Intel Atom chip as opposed to a single-core chip on the Cr-48. The RAM and solid-state hard-drive are actually the same, so it must be the chip making the difference here. Bottom line, the Samsung Chromebook is fast.
Flash playback on the Samsung Chromebook is no longer the issue that it was on the Cr-48. The Chromebook runs through general videos without any problem, and even when logged into YouTube HD or Hulu HD it seems to stream quite smoothly. The only challenge we faced is when viewing 1080p videos, where there was a slight hesitation, and some serious heat being generated. You could tell the Chromebook was reaching its limits, although it did not choke... but it sure was struggling.
The trackpad on the the Samsung Series 5 was also much improved. The look and feel of the trackpad still does not compare to the high-end Macbook's, but it is a huge improvement over regular PC trackpads, and a huge leap above the Cr-48. It is not a Macbook, but it works.
The most impressive feature on the Samsung Chromebook, and something that should make Google very happy, is the speed. The machine boots up almost instantly. I have seen the Google claims that it takes 8 seconds, but I swear it was faster than that. Having been a PC and Mac user for a long time, there is nothing that compares. My Macbook Pro with an expensive SSD, will now take second-place to the Chromebook.
Once you are logged in with your Google credentials (does everyone have a Google account these days?) you will be happy to find your bookmarks, plugins, passwords, extensions, apps, and all your personalized settings instantly load on to your Chromebook. It feels really quite magical, and I assume, you could experience the exact same thing even if you were using a friends computer. All the information is stored in Google's cloud, and is brought up in an instant when called upon. Cool!
Another thing that seems like "magic" is the battery. While I wasn't watching movies in 1080p, the Samsung performed extremely well and lasted the full 8 hours during web browsing, email, etc. I think that time may be roughly cut in half when watching HD video.
Unfortunately, the weakest part of the Samsung Chromebook is actually its exterior. The Series 5 has a plastic-like surface, and a lot of the joints and media slots seem like poorly designed after-thoughts. Compared to my Macbook, the Chromebook is a fail. Compared to an average PC laptop, it gets a medium score.
Of course, where the Chromebook really shines is on price and connectivity. The Samsung Series 5 is priced at $429 US for the Wifi model, and $499 US for the Wifi & 3G model. Given that most Macbooks start at $999, this new computer is priced at nearly half the cost, and includes 100 MB per month of free 3G access. For the critics that are upset about "only 100 MB per month" keep in mind that is for 3G usage. You are not expected to be torrenting in your car while driving! The 100MB should be fine for regular web and email work when outside of Wifi range.
The competition is really hard to understand as the Chromebook is really a new era of netbook. It offers more of a traditional laptop experience than a tablet or other touch-screen device, while also delivering rock-bottom pricing. It will make a superior offering for regional and national sales people that will love the "always on" speed, and quick user-syncs. The consumer market may be harder to impress without a more impressive form-factor. The hardcore graphics and video crowd will be unswayed from their usage of Mac's.
Overall the Chromebook is a killer package at a great price. It will certainly have the folks at Redmond shaking in their boots as their old and clunky Windows platform has been delivered a serious blow. I expect to see 2 - 3 new chromebooks being unveiled per month beginning in June, so expect to have a solid 15 - 20 options by Christmas time which is right about when Google will likely be declaring the Chromebook a success. Load up on Google shares for Q1 2012! The Chromebook is a value-leader in a value-driven economy.
All ratings out of 5 possible stars:
Form Factor: 1 star
Performance: 4.5 star
Usability: 4 star
Value: 5+ star
Please feel free to discuss and comment below!