Google had been talking about an always on, always connected laptop which would be based around the Google Chrome browser for a few years now. Samsung is one of the companies that has created such a computer and it is dubbed the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.
Look and Feel
The Series 5 appears to be less than a notebook while simultaneously giving the impression that it’s also more than a notebook. Falling between the cracks of convenient categorization, it is not a notebook, nor is it a netbook, and as such it has it’s own signature Chromebook aesthetic. The first noticeable detail is the glossy pearl white case emblazoned with the Chrome and Samsung logos. The screen, keyboard, and touchpad have a matte finish rather than a glossy sheen, making the Chromebook even better because it doesn’t quickly attract fingerprints. On either side of the device there are flaps that cover ports similar to those used for the Series 9. On the right, a tab hides the full SIM card slot. On the left are hidden a USB slot and monitor port, which accompany the charging port and audio input/output jack. The mildly irritating thing about the monitor port is that you need an included VGA adaptor when connecting to an external monitor. Curved contours and edges give the entire Chromebook a refined look and an attractive feel, and it’s non-removable battery being hidden underneath that smooth exterior allows the underside of the device to be unfettered by any lines or cracks. The one drawback is that it is a bit heavy, weighing in at 3.26 pounds.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard seems durable, feeling sturdy even when being typed on vigorously. Samsung customized the keyboard by replacing the function keys with special control keys that are signature to Chrome; volume, back, forward, refresh, screen brightness, to name a few. The touchpad is great. It is spacious, which accommodates large fingers well. Page scrolling is simply flawless and smooth, however, it is a little difficult to do a “right click” on this completely smooth, button-free touchpad. Sometimes it failed to recognize a right click on first attempt.
The Series 5 contains a 12.1-inch (1280 x 800) display with a thin bezel which discretely houses a 1 Megapixel camera. The screen’s matte display truly shines when adjusting brightness, achieving levels that would dwarf displays on many $1,000+ systems. It maintains its visual integrity when observed from dynamic angles, even in bright environments or direct sunlight.
The Chrome OS will feel familiar to anyone who has used the Google Chrome browser. When setting up the Chromebook, you use your Google account information so that it syncs with all of your Google data. While using the Chromebook, I have felt that it is more like the Kylebook because it is set up in such a way that it affords each user to have a personalized experience on the machine. For those who may not be familiar, Chrome OS is not an OS that is stored on the hard drive. It is an online, always on, operating system integrated with the Chrome Web Store. This affords the Chromebook incredibly impressive booting speeds. One simple yet eloquent feature of the interface is that if you are having a chat with someone in Google Chat, it will always be open no matter what tab you are currently viewing. You can also choose to minimize the chat interface, and it’s dock icon will flash when there is a new message. In the Web Store you can download apps or add-ons to further personalize your Chrome OS. At time of review, the store lacks the thousands of choices available in the Apple or Android marketplaces, but I am optimistic that the number of apps will climb with the browser’s popularity. The main drawback I found in having the Chrome OS rather than one built for Mac or PC is that some applications, i.e. Skype, are not yet adapted for it, so users must find alternative programs. The Chromebook comes with Cloud Print right out of the box, which is convenient, however I found that there are a few problems with Cloud Print because it lacks support for certain printers. Hopefully a fix is swiftly forthcoming.
I have already stated that the Series 5 is not a netbook, nor is it a notebook. This is particularly noticeable in the system specifications. Internally the Series 5 is similar to most modern netbooks. It is run by a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N570 CPU with integrated Intel graphics and 2GB of RAM. The Series 5 was able to easily handle the function and processing of multiple open tabs including Gmail, Docs, Netflix, and Hulu.
The battery life of this device is nothing short of incredible. Samsung promises up to 8.5 hours and it seems they have delivered on that promise. The Chromebook does not appear to lose any battery life while it is closed and in sleep mode. When opened again after a few hours, the battery indicator displays no visible change.
The Series 5 is available in two different versions: WiFi only for $429 and a WiFi/3G version for $499. The 3G version is currently only compatible with Verizon and the first 100MB every month are free for 2 years after Chromebook activation.
Chromebooks are not for everyone. If you’re thinking of purchasing this, you should remember that this computer is an online based computer which does not utilize any physical storage. Some would say that the price point makes it undesirable. I do agree that the price is a little steep, but for your money, you get incredible battery life, fast boot times (under 8 seconds) and access to a rapidly developing marketplace. A good test to determine whether it is right for you is to use only the Google Chrome browser for a day. This gives the experience as to exactly what the Chrome OS is. The Chromebook is solid, built with care, and with intent for longevity. If you are wanting to free yourself from the tethers and ties of physical memory and immerse yourself entirely in cloud storage, there is no doubt that you will be happy with this Chromebook. I give this 5 out of 5 gears for what it was made for.