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Samsung Chromebook review

Gordon Kelly



1 of 4

  • angled
  • front
  • keyboard
  • white


Our Score:



  • Slim, portable laptop
  • Excellent keyboard and clickable touchpad
  • Superb 8 hour battery life


  • Underpowered CPU & GPU struggle with web demands
  • Price is too close to regular laptops & netbooks
  • Chrome OS is impractical outside the home

How do you use your computer? This may seem a silly question, but you need to think about it long and hard because every pro and every con in this review will return to this one question. We’ll show you want we mean...

As you are no doubt aware, the Samsung Chromebook is the first commercially available, mass market computer based on Google’s Chrome OS. As such expectations are different. With most modern PCs users pick Mac OS, Windows or Linux. The software is a known quantity and the challenge is choosing the right hardware to go with it. Conversely for Samsung it has the brief luxury of being the only major Chrome OS device on the market, but it will be judged as a package, both on its hardware and for Google’s software.

Consequently while we wouldn’t spend a great deal of time speaking about the operating system in a typical laptop review here it is a cornerstone. As such we’ll tackle the Samsung Chromebook in two parts: 1. How well Samsung has managed to build hardware around Chrome OS, and 2. Regardless is Chrome OS worth using? First, point one.

Again (without developing more tributaries than the Nile Delta) this can be split into two parts: outside and inside. On the outside Samsung has done an excellent job. The glossy finish to the white lid on our review sample may not be to everyone's taste, but overall build quality is excellent. The hinge is well made, the isolation keyboard is stiff, but has plenty of feedback and the large clickable trackpad is surprisingly effective - it's not far of being as nice as that of the Samsung 9 Series and Apple’s range of MacBooks.

In addition the 12.1in screen (1280 x 800 pixels), while not the brightest we have seen, has a wide viewing angle and good colour reproduction. It is also sports a matte finish which greatly cuts down on glare and is something we’d prefer to see on all laptops.

Where its budget roots do start to show through is the connectivity. Granted with a Chromebook you won’t expect to connect a great deal of peripherals (virtually none given driver support) so the pair of USB ports isn’t a big issue, but the lack of Ethernet and HDMI ports (more of later) are a surprise. Elsewhere you will find a shared mic/headphone port, mini VGA port (adaptor provided), 4-in-1 card reader and SD card slot for bolstering the 16GB of flash storage.

Yes you read that correctly: just 16GB of hard drive space. Given you are going to be living online this makes sense and choosing solid state memory makes operation fast. Or does it? Step inside the Chromebook and questions start to be raised.


July 9, 2011, 6:12 pm

My X61s Thinkpad weighs almost the and does the a whole lot more - and all without being beholden to Google too.


July 10, 2011, 6:56 pm

I have an x40 ThinkPad, and while it's a joy to use it's really slow now and takes so long to boot. Since I only use it for browsing the web while I'm watching TV I'd like something that boots up a lot quicker. Unfortunately the price of these combined with the slow browsing performance ruins the appeal. Surely they should be cheaper since they don't need a Windows licence??

TR- you have "Chrome OS impractical outside the home" listed in the Pros column in the reviw summary.


July 11, 2011, 6:53 am

Thanks for that spot PoisonJam, the error was quickly corrected but the site is cached for long periods over the weekend. Hopefully it should show up soon.

Circa £250 with better graphics and Chrome OS has potential, but it is impossible to escape the feeling we have seen a glimpse at the future of computing ahead of its time.


July 11, 2011, 6:54 am

And your X61s cost a lot more new too ;)
The Chrome OS model is the future of computing, just not yet and likely not for a while.


July 11, 2011, 7:34 am

@Gordon - I expect the price of future Chromebooks will come down to £250 if they prove popular, but I wonder if there's any idealogical reason why Google has decided everything must by stored in the Cloud, with no offline mode, or it's something that will change with future revisions of Chrome OS?

Although in the present, I think I prefer Apple's use of the Cloud, whereby documents/emails etc. are stored on your computer, with the cloud being used to push them to your devices. At least this way you're not as inconvenienced if the Cloud goes down, or you have no internet connection. Still, it's early days, and as you say this laptop may be a glimpse of a Cloud-dominated future.


July 11, 2011, 10:18 am

@Gordon: It certainly is although I like many I bought mine refurbished for a lot less. That said still no way should a limited notebook such as this weigh as much as a fully featured one.
@PoisonJam: Just close the lid of your Thinkpad and send it to sleep. I've been doing it for years.

simon jackson

July 11, 2011, 8:18 pm

I wouldn't go that far, Gordon. The future is likely somewhere between the "Chrome OS model" (which philosophically is no different to the old unix model of dumb terminals) and the conventional OS model. There will always be applications which it is simply more practical to install and run locally. Whilst wide area network bandwidth is getting better all the time, so applications are getting larger, more process intensive, and more demanding on memory. Applications which are several gigabyte installs will require that much data to be transfered between client and server if they are to run in a browser and effectively streamed over the wire. Either that or employ the sort of compression used to create installers which will gobble cpu cycles at either end. For small applications on high bandwidth networks it makes sense to run over the wire, because whilst it's still inefficient to download the same program data over and over again, every time you use the software, the absolute time-cost each time is low. For applications which are large w.r.t. available bandwidth, the opposite will always be true.

I hope that the tide of "everything on line" is stemmed at some point, because whilst it's convenient to be able to access your data on whatever computer you like, wherever you are, it also means you relinquish practically all control over your electronic life. To give a trivial example, if one of the many on-line software providers like googledocs or onLive experience server downtime, all of a sudden my online laptop is about as useful as a lump of coal. Obviously, the same is true if i lose network connectivity. And that's not a black/white issue - it's a sliding scale of usefulness against bandwidth.


July 11, 2011, 8:29 pm

seems like samsung would have been better off putting the a5 chip in.
also better i think to have the chrome os in a dual boot system.

Bill Brock

December 9, 2013, 12:17 am

won't turn on what to do ?

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