Books & Review
Updated: Oct 23, 2012 12:37 PM EDT

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The LG Nexus 4 smartphone features a quad-core processor, "which means its super fast," says Google. (Photo : Reuters)

Bigger isn't always better -- even when it comes to hardware. That's the bet Google and Samsung make with the companies' third iteration of its Chromebook laptop computer. And so far, consumers look to agree. The Wi-Fi only version of the Google Samsung Chromebook has captured the No. 1 spot on Amazon's best-seller list, beating Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air.

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The Google, Samsung 3G Chromebook comes in at third place on Amazon's bestsellers list, followed by the 13-inch MacBook Air. Google has not yet shipped the computer to retailers, but Best Buy estimates that those who pre-order the device will receive theirs in six to 10 days .

"To us, Chrome OS represents the most distilled form of cloud computing we can find," said Google Senior Vice President of Chrome Sundar Pichai introducing the new Samsung Chromebook at a San Francisco event Oct. 18.

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 can 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.

"For folks living entirely in the cloud, the Chromebook is now a primary computer", said Pichai, 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.

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.

Despite a few shortcomings such as poor display quality at certain viewing angles, and the Chromebook's flimsy plastic casing, reviews for the laptop are overwhelmingly positive, stressing that there is plenty of value packed into that $249 price tag.

Engadget
"This is a solid machine -- build quality and materials are fantastic for the price. We're happy with the display which is bright and crisp. Viewing angles could use some improvement, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better laptop screen at this price."

"The keyboard and trackpad feel great and two-finger scrolling works like a charm. Performance is somewhere between the original Atom-based Chromebooks and the current Celeron-equipped Series-5 model."

"Ultimately, this is a phenomenal device for the price. If you're used to working in the cloud, you're basically getting 80 percent of the entry-level MacBook Air experience for a quarter of the price."

Slash Gear
"A value offer you might just need to think about, if only because the quality matches the price so very closely," says the site. And alternatives to the Chromebook cost several hundreds more: "Where this device leaves off at a price of $249, the MacBook Air picks up - starting at $999"

"If you've got a need for an internet machine for school, for fun, or for a present for your mother who doesn't use her desktop anyway, this device might just be perfect."

Slash Gear was also not impressed with Chromebook's display quality. "What you've got here is Samsung providing you with the amount of pixels you'll need to watch relatively high definition videos without making a case for having a display that's mind-blowing. The viewing angles on this device are also far from perfect, but certainly usable in most single-user situations. You won't want to use this for a YouTube party, if you know what I mean."

Information Week
"Gives and flexes in a way the metal MacBook Air doesn't. It's also more easily scuffed and scratched. But for the price, that can be forgiven."

"As a tool for accessing Google Apps, the Chromebook works better because it has a built-in keyboard. For e-book reading, you'll probably be happier with a tablet. As a portable video screen, it's probably a toss-up--some viewing scenarios may favor a tablet but having a keyboard to keep the screen in a fixed position can be useful too. Like many Android devices, but not Apple's iPad, it can accept external storage cards card through its 3-in-1 multi-card slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC)."

"Google's Chrome Remote Desktop software, available from the Chrome Web Store, enhances Chrome OS even further. It allows users to easily access OS X or Windows computers through their Chromebook or any Chrome browser. And that's to say nothing of the value of Google's cloud-based services, like Google Apps, Google Drive, and Google+ Hangouts, which run in any modern browser, on devices running Chrome OS, Android, OS X, iOS, Linux, or Windows."

"It's not perfect, but it's very good, even excellent compared to what else you can get for $249. It would make a fine additional computer, if you need a second or third, or if you need a device for traveling abroad but don't want to risk the loss or theft of the data on your laptop. It's also well-suited for teens and tweens, or anyone disinclined to enjoy computer maintenance and security-related twiddling. It's a viable alternative to a tablet, particularly if you do a lot of typing. It's not a replacement for high-end laptops. But Chrome OS keeps getting better, and Chromebook hardware is headed in the same direction."

Google, Samsung Chromebook Specs

Display Size
11.6-inches

Display
1366x768 resolution; 200nit brightness

Weight
2.43 lbs (1.1.kg)

Thickness
Less than 0.8 inches thick (17.5 mm)

Battery Life
Over 6.5 hours

Processor
Samsung Exynos 5250

Memory
2GB

Storage
16GB SSD (Google is including 100GB free online storage)

Webcam

Ports
1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, combo headphone/mic jack, secure digital memory slot, HDMI Port

Extra
Bluetooth 3.0TM Compatible

Speaker
1.5W speaker X 2

Keyboard
Full-size Chrome keyboard

Wireless
802.11 abg/n 2x2

MSRP
$249 USD / 229 GBP

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