Google and Samsung get into bed together and released the first Chromebook almost exactly a year ago. Not that you would have noticed because sales, to be polite, have been pretty disappointing. This was due to number of reasons not the least of which was the high cost and the low spec rather than the innate Google-ness of the device. Now we have v2.0 which comes with a faster 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Celeron processor, twice as much RAM (4GB as opposed to 2GB) but the same slightly lame 16GB of SSD storage.
For those of you who don’t know what a Chromebook is it’s a laptop that uses an operating system based on Google's Chrome web browser. In theory this brings several benefits - near instant boot up, access to all your Google cloud stuff like Documents, Gmail, Picasa and the like and no worries about security or updating. The downside is the machine is as much use as a marzipan teapot without a good internet connection.
Externally the new Chromebook is a pretty good looker. It’s all plastic though the casing feels sturdy enough and it is decently connected with two USB 2.0 ports, a DisplayPort, an Ethernet jack and a 3.5mm audio jack. There’s no optical disc player which is no surprise but it only weighs a little less than 1.4Kg which is.
The 12.1 inch screen has a resolution of 1280x800 pixels which is adequate if not exceptional though it’s bright enough and has a matte finish which is perfect for outdoor use while the keyboard is nicely spaced with tactile soft plastic keys which give very good feedback. Below the keyboard sits an equally impressive extra-large glass-covered trackpad.
Inside instead of a single core 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU you will find a 1.3GHz Celeron dual-core processor with by 4GB RAM. That’s still not too impressive a spec these days but it plays 1080p videos including YouTube content without any problems and boots up in a little over five seconds. Because Chrome OS is a very light on its feet operating system the Series 5 always feels very quick in regular use.
Being a Google-head I rather like the Chrome web-based OS - even on my Dell laptop I do most of my work in the Chrome browser. It has a clean and simple interface and most people can get the hang of it in a matter of an hour or two even without a user guide. Ideal then for those who do not consider themselves computer buffs.
A notable advantage is that Chrome is effectively immune to viruses so email attachments that might harm a Windows or Mac machines will do no harm to a Chromebook. Updates to the machine are downloaded and installed automatically so if Google detects a security flaw in the system it can be patched without the user needing to do anything or even knowing anything has been done.
User security is another key feature here as very little data is stored on the machine itself, your documents, email, contacts and photos are either stored in Google's cloud or encrypted if cached locally. This means if you lose your Chromebook you can rest easy knowing that all your stuff is safe from prying eyes
The 16GB SSD is a bit on the small side but it is backed up by an SD card reader so you can easily beef up the capacity by another 64GB. The range of files the Chromebook can handle has been improved too and now includes Microsoft Office documents along with PDFs, MP3 audio, MP4 video and ZIP archive files.
Battery-wise Samsung promises six hours from a charge which is close enough to the 5:45 I managed during a mix of work and watching videos. What hasn’t been fixed is the price. £379 is simply much too much for a machine like this, and remember that’s for the WiFi only version. The 3G model - which is the one you really want - is even more expensive.
My Dad Rocks Verdict: I want to like this Chromebook, I really do. The idea of a light, compact instant-on laptop with a good battery life that is secure against loss, never needs updating and is fully connected to my Googleverse is a brilliant idea. For £200 or even £250 including a 3G modem I’d crawl naked over broken glass to own one. But for £380 with WiFi only? You’re havin’ a giraffe.
My Dad Rocks Rating: 6/10
CPU : 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Celeron 867
Operating system : Google Chrome
Memory : 16GB SSD
Wireless : Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
Camera : 1MP webcam
Ports : 2 x USB 2.0, DisplayPort, Ethernet, 3.5mm, SD card slot
Dimensions : 295 x 218 x 20mm / 1.37kg
Review by Brian Keyes