Review: Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 [Video]

The Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 is a nice little device that does everything it’s supposed to and does it well.

But don’t ditch your laptop for it just yet.

The Chromebook is built to be a lightweight computer that takes care of business solely by virtue of the Web. And it does that perfectly. But its shortcomings are apparent any time you lose Internet access, when you need to install a program or when you run a task that needs stronger computing power.

Its immediate comparison is the MacBook Air, and that’s because it looks a lot like the Air on the outside and even when you flip it open. But as soon as you start using it you know it’s a different computer, simply because it’s not as powerful or made out of the same high-quality material as the Air.


But let’s look at its strengths. The Chromebook can boot just seven seconds after you flip it open. Sign in with your Gmail account and you’re good to go.

I used the Chromebook for when I just wanted to read a quick article online, click through Facebook or listen to Pandora. Surfing the Web was great and the computer has surprisingly good speakers.

Its keyboard is excellent for typing, and the HD camera seemed to show a good-quality picture when I tried it. The Chromebook even has a fun bonus that lets you give the whole screen a “barrel roll” where everything flips 360 degrees -- StarFox fans will appreciate that.

That’s kid stuff for any computer or tablet, but sadly, that’s about where the Chromebook’s strengths end.

The computer’s got only 16 GB of flash storage, 4 GBs of RAM and uses a Sandy Bridge processor, so you’re really only getting enough power and space to run things based on the Web.

If you have to install a program or want to play an Internet game that requires a good video card, you’re out of luck.

At least Google did throw in a Chrome plug-in called Chrome Remote Desktop that let’s you take over a Mac or PC, which will let you do other activities remotely. The problem is, you need to have the computer near you somehow because if you leave your other computer at home running and don’t access it right away like I did, the session expires. It’s a feature that’s very close to being awesome, but isn’t quite there.

However, the Chromebook also fails with simple stuff too.


Its track pad is of very poor quality. There were times where it would click on things I didn’t intend to because it’s super sensitive, but other times it didn’t seem responsive enough.

The screen felt like a flashback to my dad’s Compaq laptop from the early 2000s. The 12.1-inch screen has a resolution of just 1,280 by 800 pixels, so it’s just barely HD. Watching video wasn’t horrible, but I would rather do it on any of my other devices -- maybe even on my smartphone.

Again the Chromebook looks like the MacBook Air, but it’s better comparison is probably the iPad. The Chromebook costs around the same as the iPad, with the Wi-Fi version selling for $449.99 -- $50 less than the cheapest iPad -- and the 3G version costing $549.99 -- $80 less than the cheapest 3G iPad.

And on top of saving money, you get a bigger screen, keyboard and track pad, and you get Flash, so you’ll be able to run sites like Hulu without paying for an app like you would with a tablet.


However, you’re also missing out on the iPad’s better display and the community of users and developers Apple has and, let’s be honest, if you buy a Chromebook you won’t be as cool as if you had purchased an iPad.

I’d recommend the Chromebook for light users who doesn’t want to buy a more expensive computer. If you want to try to live your life mostly on the Web but you also want your keyboard and that familiar feel of a laptop, this could be a good fit for you.

But for anything more intensive than running Netflix this shouldn’t be your main computer, and for $449.99 I wouldn’t recommend this as a side computer either.



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