Samsung Chromebook series 5 review
The Series 5 is a fantastic first outing for Chrome OS, but the web-based operating system isn’t ideal for home users when they can buy a Windows-based netbook for less
Review Date: 14 Jul 2011
Price when reviewed: £400
Reviewed By: Tom Morgan
You could be forgiven for thinking Samsung’s new Series 5 was a netbook; the compact dimensions, low-power components and 12in screen might seem familiar, but turn it on and it's clear this is a very different beast. It’s the first laptop powered by Google’s Chrome OS, which replaces Windows in favour of a minimal cloud-based operating system designed entirely for web browsing.
Chrome OS is a massive departure from Windows; it’s completely self-contained, so you can’t install programs like you would on a regular PC or laptop, and your data is stored on cloud servers rather than saved locally. It’s also completely locked down unless you are connected to the internet, as it requires a Google account to log in to the operating system.
When you open the lid on the Series 5, it boots into the operating system in around eight seconds - thanks in part to its small 16GB solid state disk. After you’ve logged in, if you already use Google Chrome on another PC and have enabled Chrome's sync function, your bookmarks, saved passwords, browsing history and browser extensions are downloaded automatically - so you’re ready to go right away.
The basic interface is identical to the Windows version of Chrome, with tabs on top and an address bar underneath. If you’ve used Chrome, or any other modern web browser, Chrome OS will be easy to use, as you can open multiple browser tabs to multi-task and switch between them with the same keyboard shortcuts. Because there aren’t any applications installed with the operating system, every task has to be done via a web page; Google’s Docs service can create spreadsheets, presentations and text documents, Gmail handles email and there’s a plethora of other websites available for more challenging tasks such as image editing.
In case having too many open tabs becomes confusing, you can open new browser instances with the Control + N shortcut combination. These instances are completely separate from one another, meaning tabs can’t be dragged between open screens like on the Windows version of Chrome, but a shortcut key quickly flips between each instance. This is excellent for keeping productive pages such as Google Docs away from time sinks such as Facebook or Twitter.
Am I the only person that dreads the way things are going? I want to retain as much control and flexibility with my computer as I can. The ‘Cloud’ has its place as a complement to desktop (or normal laptop) based computing – indeed it’s essential for webmail – cloud computing before the term was thought of – and for those who travel a lot on business. I don’t use Google Mail because I already use Google for search, and if my emails were there they’d know everything about me, so it’s Firefox for browsing and Microsoft XP for OS till I have the time to sort out Ubuntu (though I have a lot of specialist Windows-only software). Another ‘take’ on ‘distributed computing’! There will ALWAYS be a need for specialist software that people will want or NEED to use offline. Netbooks are bad enough, but smartphones are NO substitute for a proper old-fashioned desktop computer (or its laptop equivalent), though I can see that both are invaluable for many working people (I’m retired). It’s horses for courses.
By JohnKemp on 18 Jul 2011
For people who don't use hotel wireless
I love the ability to synch my contacts etc with Gmail but nobody who has to use their laptop with wireless in a hotel will have any use for this. No matter where you are - Europe, US, Japan, Asia - hotel wireless is slow and expensive. I have had trouble just reading emails at Hilton in Atlanta, Sheraton in Osaka - and don't even talk to me about Holiday Inn in the UK. How on earth I would be able to rely on cloud versions of all the software I need is only clear to someone who spends all their time designing stuff rather than using it.
By teejay on 18 Jul 2011
No programs run...
..unless you're connected to the internet - what a load of rubbish! Do people really want to buy a machine that won't work underground, or on the tube, or in all the other places where there is no Wifi or 3G? As pure Fantasy technology its an idea, but is it a good one? No. They would have to pay me to use such a ridiculously hobbled device. Bin it.
By Wilbert3 on 18 Jul 2011
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