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In Pictures: Samsung's new Chromebook

Remember the initial buzz when Google announced it was coming out with a notebook computer. Well, we’re two years into the Chromebook era and the buzz has certainly dissipated.

  • Remember the initial buzz when Google announced it was coming out with a notebook computer. Well, we’re two years into the Chromebook era and the buzz has certainly dissipated. Granted, Google remains committed to the ChromeOS, as evidenced by continued upgrades. However, Chromebooks remain a curious experiment – a stripped down, lightweight notebook meant to be used with an always-on Internet connection. At $550, the product is not as cool as an iPad or as functional as a comparable notebook that runs Windows. We tested the new Samsung Chromebook Series 5 and here are 5 things we love and hate about it.

  • Previous iterations were essentially a Chrome browser running atop a Linux kernel. Aside from a file manager, image viewer and media player, it was no different than a browser. In this version, Chrome OS Version 19, there’s a more traditional desktop with changeable wallpaper.

  • In the original version of the Chromebook, end users were locked into full screen mode. With the Samsung Chromebook, you can now re-size your browser windows so you can have multiple browser windows open at the same time.

  • Dubbed Launcher, the new task bar across the bottom of the screen is a definite improvement in terms of the user experience. Clicking on the Launcher brings up icons related to various Web services.

  • The new Chrome OS file manager supports PDF and Microsoft Office documents, which means that when you double-click on any such formatted file, it will be displayed in a browser tab for you to read. This works with all Office files we tested, including doc, docx, ppt, pptx, xls and xlsx.

  • The Samsung Chromebook feels fast. It handled our clicks, drags, moves and re-sizes smoothly and quickly. We had a dozen or more tabs open, plus music playing, and there was rarely a problem in performance. That’s mostly due to the 1.3GHz Celeron CPU, which replaced the less-speedy Atom CPU found on previous Chromebooks.

  • Double-clicking an image file in the file manager opens a slideshow viewer within a browser tab, and from this app you can perform basic editing. But the viewer lacks a magnifying tool for you to zoom in on the image or view it in its actual size.

  • Clicking audio files launches a player that pops up over the lower-right corner of the screen. This app is slightly more sophisticated than previous versions, but remains sparse, with a minimal feature set.

  • Clicking a video file will open a tab which will play in AVI or MOV video formats. But available controls are limited – it’s just play and pause with a slider and time marker you can click and drag along a timeline. No other features, like fast forward, etc.

  • A big issue with the file manager of Chrome OS remains unchanged in the latest builds: it still isn’t possible to easily copy files from a Chrome built-in flash drive to an external/attached memory storage medium. It’s do-able, but there’s no drag-and-drop interface.

  • In a world where you can go to Wal-Mart and buy an HP netbook running Windows 7 for $283, why would customers shell out $450 for a WiFi version and $550 for a 3G version of a stripped down netbook running Chrome OS?

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