Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook
12.1 in 1,280x800 display, 1.4kg, 1.3GHz Intel Celeron 867, 4.00GB RAM, 16GB disk, Chrome OS
The latest Samsung Chrome OS laptop, the Series 5 500, seriously ups its game when it comes to the hardware specification, with the Atom processor of its predecessor replaced by a dual core 1.3GHz Celeron 867 and its 2GB of memory upgraded to 4GB. The hard disk is still a 16GB SSD, which means that the laptop boots almost instantly. The extra processor power means that apps reported as running slowly on previous Chomebooks, such as Angry Birds, run smoothly.
Samsung's previous Chromebooks were criticised for being underpowered and overly restrictive. A key issue was the inability to work on documents without access to Google's cloud. The newly released Chrome OS 20 and Google Drive let you work on your documents offline. They appear in the Google Drive tab of Chrome's file manager and work wherever you are. You can even play media and view images offline, too. Once you get back online, your docs are synced. You'll need a Google account to use a Chromebook, but all your settings and Chrome browser apps are imported when you log in if you already have an account. If not, creating an account is simple, fast and free.
The new Chromebook looks stunning and has excellent build quality and a slim, silver body that reminds us of Apple's smaller portables. The cut-down keyboard has flat and widely spaced Chiclet-style keys, and it’s remarkably accurate and comfortable to use. There's no numeric keypad or other additional keys on the right-hand side of the keyboard, but we're happy to do without most of these, although we missed the Page Up and Page Down buttons. Fortunately, you can access those functions by holding Alt and pressing the up and down arrow keys.
Its large touchpad is located dead centre on the wrist rest, which means you don't hit it by accident when you're typing. Plus, the touchpad’s size makes it easy to control your pointer accurately and use mouse gestures. The entire pad is a button, and you can press it anywhere, using one finger to left-click and two fingers to access right-click menus and options. Other gestures include the ability to scroll by placing two fingers anywhere on the touchpad and moving them. Because everything runs in the Chrome OS browser, it's worth noting that clicking a link opens it in a new tab, although you can open new browser windows too.
The Chromebook has two USB ports, an SD card reader and a single 3.5mm combined microphone and headphone port. You can use normal headphones in this, but if you want to connect a headset, you'll have to use one with a three-ring connector rather than two 3.5mm ones. The integrated speakers aren't very loud, but their audio quality is better than most netbooks', producing a decent mid-range and less tinniness on high frequencies than we expected. The laptop has a dual-band Wi-Fi adaptor that can connect to either 2.4GHz or 5GHz wireless networks, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a slot at the rear to take a mobile SIM.