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Samsung's Newest Chromebook: Perfect Extra Machine?

Google's latest Chromebook from Samsung dials down the specs and the size to make a practical $249 machine that could serve as a spare at the office or home.

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The latest Google Chromebook offers an interesting mix of features for its bargain price of $249. Made by Samsung, this smaller, less powerful Chromebook weighs just 2.5 pounds and measures 0.8 inches thick. It does make a number of tradeoffs, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor, the Samsung Chromebook 550.

Chromebooks are for people, businesses, or governments that have "gone Google." Since the operating system is based on Google's Chrome browser, Google's Web-based tools are the only real "apps" available. You have to be heavily invested in the Google-verse to get any real use out of a Chromebook.

This particular bit of kit is clearly targeting those who want a small, light, and portable computing machine. The clean lines and metallic-looking surfaces give it a modern look.

[ Google CEO says Android-Apple is the defining fight in the industry. Read more at Schmidt Dishes On Google-Apple Battle Royale. ]

The screen measures 11.6 inches across the diagonal and has a resolution of 1366 x 768, the same as the $999 entry-level MacBook Air. The new Chromebook is powered by Samsung's Exynos 5 dual-core processor at 1.7 GHz per core. Samsung's Exynos chips also power its smartphones, including the Galaxy Note II. The processor is paired with 2GB of RAM. The device comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, but offers 100 GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for two years.

It accesses the Internet via Wi-Fi only, using dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n. There is no Ethernet port. There is also a version that includes 3G data. It costs $330 and the wireless data fees are included (1 GB of data per month) for two years. Google says this third-generation Chromebook will deliver more than 6.5 hours of battery life, though that depends on usage.

The new Chromebook drops a number of features that are available on the Chromebook 550. For example, it loses the HD webcam in favor of a VGA webcam. It also loses the DisplayPort and memory card slot. Instead of two USB 2.0 ports as on the 550, the new Chromebook has one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port. It also offers an HDMI port.

Google is pitching the Samsung Chromebook as the perfect on-the-go computing machine for people who hate hassles. Since it runs Chrome, users won't ever need to update it; updates occur automatically and don't require annoying reboots. The device can be used by multiple people with separate accounts. Since the device accesses all the services on the Web, nothing is stored locally; it's all in the cloud. Google says the laptop is small enough to fit into a purse.

The $249 price point is hard to beat. That's half the price of an iPad and one-quarter the price of a MacBook Air. You could argue that these other devices offer more oomph for their price points, and they do. This Chromebook is all about being easy, and the price is low enough that the Chromebook could make for a perfect extra machine for the office or home.

It will be available from Google and other retailers starting October 22.

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/28/2012 | 8:30:11 AM
re: Samsung's Newest Chromebook: Perfect Extra Machine?
Who says you need a high speed Internet connection to use one? It works perfectly fine and at the same 3G connection speed as any Windows, Macbook or iPad or Android device for accessing the Internet, corporate web pages, webmail etc. It should be noted that the Google docs suite is extremely bandwidth efficient because it only transfers the data that is necessary - ie get the page text data that you view and upload the keystrokes that correspond to the changes you make, and it uploads these every few seconds, so a few seconds of work is the most you can ever lose whatever happens. Unlike this, local Windows/Mac applications have to download the entire file, edit them locally and upload the whole file again for every interim save and again at the end which usually requires more bandwidth and data usage. Google Docs and a lot of other apps also work offline as to built-in apps like the audio and video player.

The 3G version comes with 100MB data per month free for two years included in the price. This is intended to cover for contingencies like where normally the user normally works in the office or from a WiFi hotspot, but is required to to work from 3G sometimes - say on a trip to a client meeting. It is possible to buy ad hoc monthly or daily data allowances at very competitive rates to handle business trips or visits etc. You can also get the WiFi only version and use a phone which allows WiFi tethering to use your existing phone's 3G data allowance.

The Chromebook's use case would be someone who most of the time uses WiFi connected to the home, office or school to work from anywhere within these zones. A WiFi router connected to broadband and the LAN (if it exists and needs to be accessed) should be provided. The 100MB per month free allowance is enough for checking email and occasional light Google Docs use on the train each morning or occasional contingency use where WiFi is unavailable. Chromebooks should be considered more of a device that is portable between sites or offices where WiFi is available and other sites and offices or home where WiFi is available (most of the usage being done at these locations), with 3G use while travelling in between. It is also ideal for use cases which require data or work to be up to date all the time and shared continuously with other offices and departments, because using Chromebooks rather than Windows or Mac local apps enforces and ensures this happens always. It is possible to use 3G as a main means of connectivity, but WiFi should always be implemented and used when possible in the planned usage.

User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 5:57:25 PM
re: Samsung's Newest Chromebook: Perfect Extra Machine?
What the heck is wrong with these people? What a useless product! It as touted as something to be used 'on the go'. Where the **** do you get high speed internet access on the go? Should we spend hundreds of dollars per year for a 3g data plan just to 'boot' this crap? When will people realize that this Cloud OS concept is bull****! I want my machine to work no matter what! Why should I pay for the hardware and then every month for the god-damn data plan? And 249 is cheap? Seriously? You could buy a decent sized tablet at a cheaper price and can pretty much do everything that this crap can do.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 5:29:37 PM
re: Samsung's Newest Chromebook: Perfect Extra Machine?
$249. I'll say it again, $249. Even the $330 with data is reasonable. Maps, Drive/Docs, YouTube (I assume), general search and browsing. Gmail. How much online time is spent using those or similar services? I'd imagine A LOT. The weight and size seem right too. This could really be a handy little extra for traveling. A 16 GB USB 3.0 flash drive is around $15 on Newegg making expanding local storage easy and cheep (and still portable).

Talk about a great device for schools.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2012 | 4:48:32 PM
re: Samsung's Newest Chromebook: Perfect Extra Machine?
Can't wait to try one
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