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10/19/2012
05:02 PM
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Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review

Samsung's latest Chromebook benefits from rapid improvements in Google's Chrome OS. Is this cloud computing vehicle right for you?

Google has made much of its ability to improve Chrome OS and to push operating system updates silently to users' devices. And deservedly so. The third-generation Chromebook offers a vastly improved user experience because Chrome OS has come so far since Google introduced it in preview form in late 2010.

What happened? Google decided to stop fighting the desktop metaphor. Early Chromebooks, like Google's CR-48 and the first generation Samsung and Acer devices, were about as much fun to use as an airport computing kiosk set up to support Web browsing and nothing more. Chrome OS felt like a prison, like the desktop typically behind the browser had been hidden. That may have been nothing more than user expectation, but user expectation is part of the user experience, and that experience tends not to be positive when expectation is denied.

Earlier this year, Google made its Chrome OS browser window behave like a browser on a Mac or Windows computer--it can now be minimized to reveal a desktop with files and icons. Chrome OS has gained a menu bar at the bottom of the screen with Web app icons. Clicking on a device-related icon, like the battery, produces a free-floating menu pane, without any reference to the Chrome browser. There's a files folder, accessible from the Apps menu in the menu bar, that displays local downloads and remote Google Drive files. In other words, Chromebooks have adopted more legacy user interface conventions and are better for it.

Another huge improvement is the ability to work offline in Google Docs and other Web apps that support offline storage APIs. Google still lives in the fantasy world of its self-interest that assumes Internet connectivity is the norm--its offline documentation still talks about the absence of connectivity as a rare thing. But at least the company has accepted that people don't always have Internet access and has updated its software accordingly.

Google's Chrome Remote Desktop software, available from the Chrome Web Store, enhances Chrome OS even further. It allows users to easily access OS X or Windows computers through their Chromebook or any Chrome browser. And that's to say nothing of the value of Google's cloud-based services, like Google Apps, Google Drive, and Google+ Hangouts, which run in any modern browser, on devices running Chrome OS, Android, OS X, iOS, Linux, or Windows.

Google calls the Samsung Chromebook "the perfect additional computer. For everyone." It's not perfect, but it's very good, even excellent compared to what else you can get for $249. It would make a fine additional computer, if you need a second or third, or if you need a device for traveling abroad but don't want to risk the loss or theft of the data on your laptop. It's also well-suited for teens and tweens, or anyone disinclined to enjoy computer maintenance and security-related twiddling. It's a viable alternative to a tablet, particularly if you do a lot of typing. It's not a replacement for high-end laptops. But Chrome OS keeps getting better, and Chromebook hardware is headed in the same direction.

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ricegf
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ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
10/22/2012 | 2:05:07 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
Really, it's the $330 3G version with 1 GB of data a month for 2 years that's the killer deal here. 2 years of free Internet access virtually anywhere in the USA - sweet! T'will be interesting to see if this generation will be able to gain any market traction against tablets and laptops.
longhairedcountryboy
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longhairedcountryboy,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2012 | 7:38:08 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
Is this true? I read it again and didn't see anything about free access.
ricegf
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ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
10/22/2012 | 8:22:22 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
Well, I thought I read it in this article, but now I can't find it. However, it is specifically mentioned on the Amazon.com pre-order page [search for "Samsung Chromebook (3G, 11.6-Inch)"] and in the Verge article [http://www.theverge.com/2012/1...], so at this point I believe that it's true.
ricegf
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ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
10/22/2012 | 10:07:40 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
Yes. I posted 2 links as references, but Information Week blocked them as spam. *sigh*
Tom LaSusa
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Tom LaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2012 | 3:49:49 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
Hi ricegf,

I've approved your posts so you should see them. We do screen any posts that include an external URL, so we can curtail the spammers.

Once we determine that the link is not malicious, then we approve the comment.

Best,
Tom Lasusa
InformationWeek Community Manager
Gussy2000
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Gussy2000,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2012 | 3:26:44 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
I keep reading positive reveiw after positive review about this product. I think like the Nexus 7, this is another under marketed, underappreciated device. Google is too humble. I'd like to see a bigger advertising push for this Chromebook and the Nexus 7.

I will say this: I read technology news several times a day, so I am NOT a typical consumer in regards to this sort of thing. My wife, however, does no such thing and she actually mentioned this new Chromebook to me (as if she was letting me in on some big secret :) )

That is a good sign. If my wife has heard about this product then it is getting traction with the general public. I'm very tempted to get her one.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2012 | 1:12:35 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
Agree, but what keeps me from buying the Nexus 7 is the 7 in the name. Too small of a screen. Google should make a Nexus 10.
jmmx2
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jmmx2,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2012 | 2:54:53 PM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
For an interesting analysis of Google Chromebook vs iPads, see:
http://seekingalpha.com/articl...
SMP
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SMP,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2012 | 7:32:18 AM
re: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review
I would say that for the average user, Chromebooks are your perfect first computer. Once you get one, they will relegate your Windows computer to a niche device which you only use for occasional use of Photoshop or as a print server for legacy printers that don't support Google Cloud print. It is just that Chromebooks are so much easier and more convenient for doing 95% of what the average user does on a regular basis.
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