Samsung Chromebook series 5 review
12.1 in 1,280x800 display, 1.3kg, 1.6GHz Intel Atom N570, 2.00GB RAM, 16GB disk, Chrome OS
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.