According to Samsung, their Chromebook is a new, faster, and easier kind of computer. But why “new”? It looks like a laptop (or, better said, a “netbook”), because of its screen and keyboard size, but its internal hardware makes it more similar to a tablet, with an ARM CPU and flash storage, and running the Google Chrome OS. What makes it different, however, is that it is designed to have its programs and data stored in the “cloud”, not locally. Let’s take a look at this curious portable computer.
The Chromebook we tested is the XE303C12 model, which uses a Samsung Exynos 5 processor, has 2 GiB of RAM and 16 GiB of storage. It has an 11.6” screen with 1366 x 768 resolution, and a VGA webcam.
Figure 1 shows the Samsung Chromebook box.
Inside the package, besides the device, we found the 40 W power supply and the users manuals.
Figure 3 unveils the Samsung Chromebook. It looks like a common netbook, with a silver-colored plastic cover.
[nextpage title=”Overall look (part 1)”]
The Samsung Chromebook uses an Exynos 5 Dual processor from Samsung. It is an ARM CPU with two Cortex-A15 cores running at 1.7 GHz and a Mali-T604MP4 GPU running at 533 MHz.
The LED-backlit LCD screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768.
Figure 4 shows the front of the Chromebook. It uses silver-colored plastic. Here you can notice one of the highlights of the device: its thickness of only 0.69” (17.5 mm). It is 11.4” (290 mm) wide and 8.2” (209 mm) deep.
At the let side of the Chromebook, you can see the microphone/earphone connector and an SD reader slot.
The are no connectors at the right side.
At the rear of the device you see the cover of the SIM chip compartment (not used in the model we analyzed, only in 3G-capable models), one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI output, and the power supply connector (with an LED indicator).
[nextpage title=”Overall look (part 2)”]
Figure 8 shows the Samsung Chromebook with its lid lifted. At the top of the screen you can see the light sensor, camera indicator LED, VGA camera, and microphone.
Figure 9 shows the keyboard and the touchpad of the Chromebook. Notice that the keyboard does not use the same keys a regular keyboard: there are no function (F1, F2, etc.) or some of the navigation keys. The power key is at the top right corner.
[nextpage title=”Inside the Samsung Chromebook”]
Figure 10 shows the bottom of the Chromebook, also in silver plastic. The speakers are at the bottom corners.
Removing the bottom cover, we have a general vision of the interior of the Chromebook, shown in Figure 11. At the top right is the mainboard with a copper plate that cools down the main chips. The battery has a voltage of 7.5 V and 4,080 mAh of capacity.
Figure 12 shows the small mainboard of the Chromebook.
[nextpage title=”Using the Samsung Chromebook”]
It is in its usage that the Samsung Chromebook differs from regular laptops, since data and programs are stored mostly “on the cloud”, not in local storage. The Google Chrome Operating System is based mostly on the Chrome browser. The device is also different from tablets because of its screen, which is not touch-sensitive.
Something we liked was the boot speed of the device: it is ready to use in less than 10 seconds, even if completely turned off. If it is just sleeping, open the screen and it is ready almost instantly.
In order to use the Chromebook, you have to log in with a Google account. The device must be online when you first use it, but after registering an account, you can use it offline, but with reduced functionalities.
Another amazing point is that there is no need for any configuration by the user: everything is automatic, including the system update.
Figure 13 shows the main screen after the first login. Notice that all the icons are related to Google services: Chrome browser, Gmail, Google search, Google Docs, and YouTube. Actually, each icon just opens the Chrome browser with the specific webpage.
Clicking on the icon at the bottom left corner of the screen, you have access to the installed “apps”. They are also, in their majority, just links to open specific pages on the browser.
There is also an icon named “Files,” which opens an explorer windows to the local filesystem. Even if local storage space is available, the Chromebook is based mostly on Google Drive do keep the files on the cloud.
There is a virtual store that allows you to install new apps, but, again, most of them just install links for opening pages on the browser.
The Chromebook is fast on most tasks, like opening and closing windows. We surfed the web for some time, opening sites and services, and everything worked perfectly. We watched a movie at Netflix with no hassle.
According to Samsung, the battery lasts seven hours in use. This good duration is due to the device’s low-consumption architecture. Besides that, as there is no fan or hard disk drive, the Chromebook is absolutely quiet.
The webcam works fine for video chat, even with its low resolution.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications of the Samsung Chromebook include:
- Dimensions: 11.4 x 8.2 x 0.69 inches (290 x 209 x 17.5 mm)
- Weight: 2.4 lb. (1.1 kg)
- Screen: 11.6 inches, 1366 x 768
- Operating system: Google Chrome OS
- Processor: Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (two Cortex-A15 cores at 1.7 GHz)
- GPU: Mali-T604MP4
- RAM: 2 GiB
- Storage: 16 GiB
- Memory card reader: yes, SD
- GPS: no
- FM radio: no
- SIM slot: no
- Ethernet: no
- Wireless network (Wi-Fi): IEEE 802.11b/g/n
- Bluetooth: yes
- Webcam: VGA
- Battery time: 7 h
- Battery: 7.5 V, 4,080 mAh Li Ion
- More information: https://www.samsung.com/
- Average price in the US*: USD 230.00
* Researched at Newegg.com in the day this article was published
The Samsung Chromebook is aimed at a very specific kind of user: the one who is looking for a low-cost, simple and easy-to-use, light and thin laptop, exclusively for internet access.
It can also be used for simple tasks as text editing, but always using online services. In other words, it can run anything that runs in a web browser.
- Fast and easy
- Light and compact
- Good battery life
- Runs only web-based software