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.