The first ever laptop to run on Google's Chrome OS - the Series 5 Chromebook - is a lightweight, intuitive device that, were it not for its hefty price tag and reliance on the internet to work, would be a nice little unit for the casual consumer.
Look and Feel
The Chromebook comes in both 3G and WiFi only models,with the WiFI model retailing for around the £350 mark and the 3G for £400 - a price which feels hefty considering other reasonable notebooks are currently on the market retailing for as little as £200.
Once you get past its price tag, despite being an entirely plastic affair, the Chromebook is pleasing to both the eye and the touch. All in all, the Chromebook does seem well built; feeling sturdy, it gives the impression that it could take a few bumps.
The Chromebook is small, measuring in at only 20mm thick and housing a fairly diminutive 12.1-inch screen. Yet, despite its small size the Chromebook has a surprisingly large multi-touch trackpad and a comfortably sized keyboard. All this combined adds up to make the Series 5 feel suitably notebooky and satchel friendly.
The Chrome OS
Unfortunately, for users looking to use the Chromebook on the go, the device's operating system quickly puts an end to all thoughts of mobility. The Samsung Series 5's Chrome OS is a system that relies on the user having an active wireless or 3G connection.
The Marmite factor of the Chromebook, the OS, is an odd yet intuitive affair that replaces the standard icon-heavy interface design seen on most systems with the Chrome web browser. This means that programmes like Microsoft Office and Windows Live Messenger aren't actually installed to the device itself. Instead, they exist as apps on the Chrome Web Store and run entirely within the browser.
When connected on a decent internet connection the cloud computing model works brilliantly. The fact that a lot of the heavy lifting traditionally assigned to the processor is offloaded to the cloud - similar to the tech used by OnLive - means that, despite not packing super high-end, expensive tech, the Chromebook is a nippy unit that can deal with a surprising number of tasks. In our time with it, the Chromebook purred along nicely when running high definition YouTube videos at 720p, but higher-quality 1080p videos proved impossible.
Another perk of Chrome OS' cloud focus is that, because the device doesn't store files locally like other laptops, it's less susceptible to viruses - which is a good thing considering the Series 5 doesn't come pre-loaded with any antivirus software.
Yet, despite all its perks, the Chrome OS' reliance on the internet isn't without its problems. For lack of a better word the UK's 3G deals are sub-par. This is a problem as, unless you plan on coordinating your movements around wireless hotspots, you'll be unable to use most of the Chromebook's features - effectively forcing people wanting to use the device on the go to buy the 3G model. This is a serious problem as if you add the cost of a monthly 3G data plan to the device's already hefty £400 price tag, then the Chromebook quickly becomes a serious drain on your cash flow.
Tech Spec and Battery Life
Under the Series 5's hood beats a dual-core 1.66GHz Intel Atom N570 processor backed up by a reasonable 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage - though the Chrome OS hides it, certain apps can be synced to work offline, but there aren't many.
In terms of connectivity, the Series 5 is pretty limited; including just two USB 2.0 ports. Past this the device's only inputs are a combined 3.5mm microphone and headphone socket, VGA out, SIM card slot and SD card input.
The only real stand out bit of tech in the Series 5 is its battery. The combination of the no-thrills OS with the benefits of offloading the majority of the hardware's workload adds up to make the Series 5 have an unbelievably good battery life. In our time with the unit, even with multiple tabs and videos running, the device managed to survive for up to eight hours unplugged - an impressive feat for any laptop computer.
Love it or hate it the Chrome OS has its pluses and minuses. The fact that the OS uses the cloud to offload tasks means that the device is small, nippy and less susceptible to viruses. However the reliance on the internet and 3G means that the cloud processing is a two edged sword, with a lack of compelling deals combined with the UK's network coverage making the reliance a real hindrance to those looking to use the Chromebook on the go.
- The Chrome OS is snappy and intuitive to anyone familiar with Google's web browser
- Light, small computer that is an ideal size for people on the go
- Cloud computing gets more out of the device's mediocre tech
- Reliance on the UK's 3G and wireless networks is a pain
- Expensive £350-£400 price tag
3 / 5 Stars