Samsung Chromebook Series 5 review

28 Jun 2011

An exciting new way to work, but its reliance on online applications and infrastructure is currently too limiting

Price when reviewed: 
350£349
4

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.

Samsung Chromebook Series 5

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.

Samsung Chromebook Series 5

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.

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Details

Price ex VAT £292
Price inc VAT £350
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 294 x 220 x 20mm (WDH)
Weight 1.300kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N570
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 0

Screen and video

Screen size 12.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 3150
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 16GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface mSATA
Hard disk Sandisk SSD
Optical disc technology None
Battery capacity 8,280mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed N/A
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel 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
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.0mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Operating system and software

Recovery method Create recovery USB flash drive