So, full review time.
I've had the CB a few days now, and I'm tapping this out in a lovely old English hotel in the middle of oxfordshire.
Background: I've moved from a 'paving slab' 15" HP laptop that was a pretty decent Windows XP machine that has been my trusty steed for 3 years. After a Windows 7 upgrade it got a bit quicker, at the expense of some eccentric behaviour whenever it was introduced to a new USB device. After it let me down a couple of times (once spending all of an all day meeting/demo failing to update) I figured it was time for a change. Most of my work involves using the web anyway, so a Chromebook was certainly the most interesting choice. A tablet would be way to narcissistic and a bit lame for work, and I wanted portability without an exceptional price. So, after a wait that was a bit too long I've taken delivery of a shiny Series 5 wifi chromebook and used it in anger over the past few days.
As a home machine, it is great for browsing the web in your room of choice, but I can't say it is better than a tablet in this role. It is when you start to work on it that it shines - the keyboard is really, really good. A tablet fan will tell you that they can type really well on one and that is probably true, but nothing yet compares to a beautifully tactile keyboard like that on the series 5. It isn't perfect - it is missing HOME and END keys, but other than that it is really, really good.
The portability for me is the really killer feature. I could fit 6 of them in my old laptop bag. I'm used to 2 hours max of battery life, so 8 hours is a revelation. I used the CB last night in bed, for over an hour this morning in a coffee shop, and then all through a 3 hour meeting, and now in the bar as I write this without ever plugging in. I still have over an hour of battery to go. wow.
For this I've compromised a little bit of screen resolution - the old laptop was bigger and had a bigger desktop but I don't miss the extra space. This is more than compensated for by the excellent window switching key that lets you move between maximised chrome windows more easily than windows would allow you to believe was possible. You can switch between windows as easily as you can press 'enter'. This is almost a complete replacement for extended displays.
Extended displays by the way, are not supported. the CB did a great job today of connecting to a projector and projecting at a massive 1600*1200 resolution. If there was a control to output a lower resolution this would be cool, but I can accept the simplicity of it just using the maximum supported by the connected device. When an external display is connected, the samsung's screen goes blank and there does not seem to be a way to get dual display - I guess this is reasonable given the differences in resolution.
Ok, so the big limitation is I can't install any software. boo hoo. While MS office was great in the 1990's, I don't mourn its loss. In most cases, web apps do an excellent job of what's needed for work. Office, Email, basic utilities, code editors, graphics packages, photo sharing, casual games - everything you need is there. If I do need to use locally installed software I'll just remote into my other computer. sadly ThinVNC has been a bit glitchy for this - it gives me a black screen as often as not - however it does work occasionally and I'm sure google's 'chromoting' will soon appear and make this issue irrelevant anyway.
Having said that I do miss the full Skype client - imo.im is fine for instant messages but has been useless for any audio or video calls. I also miss being able to use the screenr and gotomeeting websites that require Java, but while I use both at home I haven't used either while on the road so this isn't a big issue.
I've extolled the virtues of the keyboard, but the touchpad is pretty good too. Once tap to click is turned on, it works really well - 2 fingers to right click or scroll, tap-and-a-half to drag and drop. easy, smooth, and it is as big as it could possibly be without getting in the way of where you put your palms.
USB support is patchy at the moment. My tests with the peripherals I had lying around showed that keyboards and mice are no problem at all, but a simple USB speaker was unrecognised. USB disks are apparently fine, but I've not checked them. I also have not yet played with the SD card reader. Most of my media cards are MicroSD and I do have an adapter, so I will give that a go soon. I don't keep the adapter connected to the chromebook as it protrudes more than the curved blank that Samsung provides, and it would disrupt the machine's otherwise smooth and well rounded lines.
One question I was asked was "What happens when there is no connection". Well it doesn't take a genius to guess that none of the websites are going to work, but the excellent 'write space' app still lets you make text notes locally, and you can play back local media too. What else would you do with a netbook?
Did I mention the portability? This is what has enabled me to tap this out in a lovely pub with an equally lovely barmaid to chat to while drinking some rather excellent real ale. I've no idea where the nearest power socket is. This experience serves well to illustrate how a chomebook will improve your life
At some point I just might even post a picture.