Samsung Chromebook Series 5 review
An exciting new way to work, but its reliance on online applications and infrastructure is currently too limiting
Cloud computing is supposedly the future, but PCs and mobile devices have thus far remained overwhelmingly dependent on local hardware for data storage and processing. We’ve had to wait for Chrome OS to finally arrive – on the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 – for a product that embraces the concept in its purest form.
Chrome OS eschews local processing power in favour of online applications running through the Chrome web browser. Indeed, the browser is your only interface to the OS: it isn’t even possible to install other applications beyond browser plug-ins. It’s the web or nothing.
Living in the cloud
You may baulk at going without your regular desktop applications, but at the Chrome Web Store you’ll find web-based ways to achieve most computing tasks, as well as gateways to web content, downloadable themes and a good selection of games. These install as Chrome Apps – half-bookmarks, half-extensions that can not only take you directly to the relevant site but also install extra services in Chrome OS (see Hooking up).
And although the Chrome OS concept relies on an internet connection, many third-party applications can be used offline, using HTML 5’s new offline storage features. Offline versions of Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs are promised by late summer.
Strength in simplicity
The minimal model has several advantages. The OS boots in fewer than ten seconds – we timed 6.7 seconds to the login screen – and resumes from hibernation in two seconds flat, giving something close to the instant-on experience of a tablet.
The simple design also makes it easy for Google to trickle out frequent updates, as it does with the Chrome browser. It’s promised that every Chrome OS device will automatically gain new features over time, potentially including improvements to performance and battery life.
And because everything in Chrome OS runs within the browser, it’s sandboxed by default. Indeed, Google says the Chromebook needs no antivirus software – a bold claim, but one that’s backed up by a TPM-authenticated boot sequence. Certainly Chrome OS is far more difficult to hijack than Windows or OS X.
It’s arguably better for data security, too. Since your data lives in the cloud, you won’t lose it if your Chromebook is lost or stolen. All that’s held on the Chromebook’s tiny 16GB SSD is caches and settings – and even these are encrypted, so without your password a thief can’t access any information at all. You, meanwhile, can simply pick up another Chromebook, enter your credentials and carry on working.
|Price ex VAT||£292|
|Price inc VAT||£350|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||4|
|Warranty||1yr collect and return|
|Dimensions||294 x 220 x 20mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom N570|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||0|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,280|
|Resolution screen vertical||800|
|Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Graphics chipset||Intel GMA 3150|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Internal disk interface||mSATA|
|Hard disk||Sandisk SSD|
|Optical disc technology||None|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||N/A|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||yes|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||no|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Hardware volume control?||yes|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.0mp|
Operating system and software
|Recovery method||Create recovery USB flash drive|