There are not a lot of chromebooks available on the market today so it’s nice to see when manufacturers like Samsung launch such a laptop that runs on Google’s Chrome OS. Compared to last year’s version, the new model comes with a quicker processor, more memory and an improved operating system. The downside is that these advantages come at a price as the new model costs $449 which is quite a lot for such a simple laptop like this one. We should also mention that the version equipped with the Verizon 3G wireless antenna will set you back $549.
Under the hood of the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 is an Intel Celeron processor while for memory it packs 4GB of DDR3 RAM. In the storage department we find a small yet fast 16GB solid state drive on which is the Google Chrome operating system installed. This chromebook measures from Samsung measures 11.25 x 8.3 x 0.7 inches and it tips the scales at 3.1 pounds or 0.6 pounds more if we take into account its AC adapter.
In comparison to 2011, the Chrome operating system has been improved quite a lot in all major areas. To boot the system for the first time you’ll have to wait only seven seconds or so, and after logging in with your Google ID, you will be able to access or download all of your docs, mail, purchased applications and contacts as well.
One of the limitations of last year’s model was the file support but luckily this has been significantly improved as now the user can handle a vast number of file types and also archived files. However, it’s still no way near perfect as if you download a Word, Excel or a PowerPoint file, all you will get is a read-only file, meaning that you won’t be able to make any modifications. The good thing is that the images can be edited a little bit. The same treatment is applied for the files which are stored on a USB flash drive or on an SD card. In addition, it’s not that easy to attach such files to an e-mail, plus you are not able to just drag the files across to an SD card even if you are using File Manager.
As far as the file formats supported by Chrome OS, the list is quite generous as it includes: TXT, ZIP, HTML, PDF, M4V, MP4, MP3, OGM, OGV, OGA, OGG, WAV, WEBM and according to Google, most of the image file types. The operating system can also read from external drives that have one of the following file formats: NTFS, FAT, UDF, Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, HFS Plus and ISO9660, but keep in mind that the latter is read-only.
You will be downloading all of the compatible applications from the Chrome Web Store which has also been improved in comparison to 2011. It hosts a large number of applications, starting from productivity ones to games and entertainment apps. Most of these applications are free but keep in mind that all of them are going to be launched from a browser window because basically these are web applications. However, the good news is that some of these apps can also be launched while the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 is not connected to the Internet.
The Korean company has installed a 12.1-inch screen that has a native resolution of 1,200 x 800 pixels. The wide keyboard manages to be quite comfortable while the multitouch clickpad has a generous size so it is pretty easy to use. With a curb weight of just a little over three pounds, the chromebook is easy to carry around and feels pretty much like one of those expensive ultrabooks. It might not be as light or small as an iPad but it still remains easy to slip it in a bag. Both the exterior and the interior of this chromebook have been covered by silver plastic covers which not only look good but also give the feeling of a strongly built laptop that doesn’t suffer from any flex.
That raised, island-style keyboard comes with a bunch of buttons that certainly you won’t find on a Windows-running laptop or a Mac. One fine example would have to be the magnifying-glass icon which will open a new tab in Chrome for Google search. In addition, the keyboard also comes with dedicated buttons for volume, screen brightness, full-screen and page back / forth / reload. On the right side there’s a power button which will fire up or shut down the laptop right away.
Regarding ports and connectivity features, this Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 comes with DisplayPort, stereo speakers, a headphone and microphone combo jack, two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, along with support for 802.11n Wi-Fi, an Ethernet port and the aforementioned Verizon 3G support which is optional.
While last year’s model had just 2GB of RAM, the new version comes with double the memory and a 16GB SSD. That DisplayPort is compatible with HDMI, DVI and VGA with a dongle, while the Ethernet jack features a pull-down hinge, similar to what we’ve seen on other small laptops that have 11- or 12-inch screens. There’s also a high definition webcam that is very good when used with the onboard video chat provided by Google, plus it also is nice to use with Google+ and the recently introduced Hangout feature.
We don’t know for sure what kind of Intel Celeron processor is that but we can tell you that it is considerably faster than the Atom CPU utilized for the 2011 version of this chromebook from Samsung. The system has enough hardware power in order to play 1080p content without any problems, but keep in mind that the resolution of the screen is just 1,280 x 800 pixels. Most of the web-based games will work smooth, while switching between the programs is an easy thing to do.
As far as battery life is concerned, Samsung says that the one in this Chromebook Series 5 550 can last for six and a half hours which is a pretty good figure but there’s always room for improvements.