Chromebook Reviews, Specs: Google, Samsung Release Laptop with $249 Price Tag, No Netflix Streaming
Google and Samsung are just the latest of many companies racing to shrink their tablets, computers, and tablet-computers all in the name of portability, relying on cloud-based storage to save space. The tech companies' new laptop, the Chromebook, which Samsung and Google announced Oct. 17, takes this idea to new heights.
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Instead of using locally stored programs, Google and Samsung's Chromebook relies on Web-based apps like Gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive to extend its storage capacity. Unlike the previous Chromebook released in 2011, apparently you now do quite a bit offline, but the Web is definitely the platform's main focus.
Google and Samsung are marketing the laptops as one of the most user-friendly computing devices available. Google emphasizes that Chromebooks automatically install security updates and require minimal maintenance from users. Google claims the new model boots up in less than 10 seconds, and offers 1080p video. While the device includes 16GB of local SSD storage, buyers also get 100GB of cloud-based Google Drive storage for two years.
Writing on the Google blog, senior vice president of Chrome Sundar Pichai claimed "As a kid growing up in India, I was fascinated with computers and the endless possibilities they presented. I had to wait until college to finally get my hands on one in the computer lab and since then began dreaming of a world where everyone could have access to one. We're not quite there yet, but every day we get a bit closer."
"For folks living entirely in the cloud, the Chromebook is now a primary computer", implying that most users were not yet ready for the new machines. "Many people use the Chromebook today as the perfect additional computer for their home," he said.
The Chromebook is squarely aimed at people who want another device lying around the house, but don't expect it to do much more than browsing, word processing, and maybe watching the occasional video on Youtube.
"We worked hard to pack a lot of performance in," said Pichai. "Because everything is hardware accelerated, it plays video very well."
Chromebook runs on Chrome OS, which, for those unaware, puts a version of Google's Chrome browser on top of a Linux foundation, where Linux PCs run Linux apps, though, Chrome OS devices run browser apps. But you can't run several popular programs -- iTunes, Skype, Portal 2, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Spotify, or Netflix.
This is particularly odd, especially considering Pichai's claims, and that Netflix support for Chrome OS was lacking when the first commercial Chromebooks launched in 2011.
ComputerWorld speculates, "My best guess would be that there's some sort of compatibility issue at play, possibly with the new Chromebook's ARM-based chipset (which is a first for the platform). I'd certainly imagine that it's something Google and Netflix will work to correct soon. I've reached out to Google and will update this page if/when I get any additional information."
Reviews for the Chromebook seem overwhelmingly positive with only a few exceptions.
ZDNET can hardly contain itself: "What makes the new Samsung Chromebook so disruptive in this writer's view is the outstanding performance, maximum portability, and the low price. This new laptop works better than the previous model, the Samsung Series 5 550 for half the price. Those on the fence about Chrome OS should find the $249 price a good incentive to give it a try."
CNET likes the Chromebook, but is more cautiously optimistic: "Given its sluggish performance sometimes, I can't say I was blown away by the Samsung Chromebook. It's fine for many tasks, but power users accustomed to having more than a couple dozen browser tabs open should steer clear."
Computer World says the value is definitely there, especially if you're buying the Chromebook as a secondary device. "Value seems to be the distinguishing feature of the new Samsung Chromebook ... Whether as a secondary system or a primary computer, the new Chromebook is outstanding for light Web browsing and Web-oriented work. It's a slim, light, attractive device with good performance and promising battery life. Google seems to be marketing this machine as a secondary computer for the family, and in that regard, it's a pretty enticing proposition."
The website continues, "But its limited resources put a firm ceiling on its usefulness. If you're a power user who keeps numerous tabs and windows open or multitasks heavily throughout the day, you'd be better off investing in the higher-end Samsung Chromebook 550, which is more suited to handle that level of usage."
Google, Samsung Chromebook Specs
1366x768 resolution; 200nit brightness
2.43 lbs (1.1.kg)
Less than 0.8 inches thick (17.5 mm)
Over 6.5 hours
Samsung Exynos 5250
16GB SSD (Google is including 100GB free online storage)
1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, combo headphone/mic jack, secure digital memory slot, HDMI Port
Bluetooth 3.0TM Compatible
1.5W speaker X 2
Full-size Chrome keyboard
802.11 abg/n 2x2
$249 USD / 229 GBP