Samsung Series 5 Chromebook review

A Google Chrome OS laptop that likes to work in the cloud
Photo of Samsung Series 5 Chromebook
£399 with 3G; £349 WiFi-only

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is such an annoying product. It’s nicely made, and the idea behind it is clever. But for all its good points, it’s expensive and, quite simply, it doesn’t do enough.

Head in the cloud
The idea behind the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is that people don’t really need anything stored locally any more. They can do everything they want to ‘in the cloud’ – which means using resources stored remotely, and accessed via the web. So. Google’s Chrome operating system is all you get, and it really wants to spend its life online.

Now, the Chromebook has a USB port and an SD card slot, and it will read some file formats, but not very many. We couldn’t get it to open Word or RTF files, though it didn’t mind PDFs and common image and video formats. We couldn’t get our Chromebook to save anything we downloaded from the web to a SD card or USB stick either. And there is just 16GB of internal storage.

The price isn’t right
What all this means is that if you aren’t within connecting distance of Wi-Fi or 3G then the Chromebook is an expensive doorstop. And we mean expensive. Two versions are available. Three is the 3G connectivity partner for the UK, though we also found the Chromebook for sale via Amazon.co.uk. In both cases, Wi-Fi and 3G will set you back £399; Wi-Fi only is £349.

We’ve only got one thing to say about that, really. It’s far too much. The iPad 2 starts at £399 for Wi-Fi only; £499 if you add in 3G. The very well received Samsung Galaxy Tab 7in with 3G and Wi-Fi is now available for around £300. You can also buy perfectly serviceable laptops for under £300. All these devices function online and offline, and all are way more useful than the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.

Lookin’ good
This is all rather a pity, as the general design quality of the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is rather good. The white shiny lid has the rather nice Chrome logo on it, and inside the 12.1in screen is clear and bright with good viewing angles. The chiclet keyboard is smashing – really comfy to use and not peppered with oodles of shortcuts as we’re more used to seeing.

We don’t really like the embedded buttons in the trackpad, though – we’d prefer separate ones. But overall there’s nothing wrong with the laptop’s usability. And battery life is amazing. Samsung quotes 8.5 hours, and we got through five days with about an hour’s use a day and had not depleted the battery at the end of that period.

With very little to boot, the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook switches on in less than ten seconds and restores in the blinking of an eye. We wish all computers were like that.

Company: Samsung

Website: http://www.samsung.com/uk

Contact: Samsung on 0800 358 8460

Positives
  • Great battery life; good hardware design.
Negative
  • Expensive; we couldn't do our computing purely in the cloud.

Verdict

Sadly the good build, usability, battery life and instant-on features don't do enough to make the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook a device we'd want to recommend. If your computing life revolves solely around the cloud, you might consider it - but only if you are certain you'll never want to do anything locally, and don't mind sacrificing that capability even at a price at which you could easily have both local and cloud-based computing.