Samsung Chromebook review

Samsung's Chromebook Series 5 arrives on UK shores

Samsung Chromebook
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samsung chromebook

One of the biggest selling points about the Chromebook is its simplicity.

Where other laptops would boast of their specifications, cramming in powerful components wherever space allows, the Series 5 is proud of its pared-down simplicity.

Google's aim with Chrome OS is to offer as uncomplicated a computing experience as possible, ideal for people who just want to use their computers with little fuss. Google wants you to 'just use' the device, rather than have to tinker with and maintain it.

While this back-to-basics approach could seem limiting and frustrating in the wrong hands, Samsung has created a remarkably accomplished machine that offers simplicity without being patronising.

It might be inevitable that the focus is going to be on Google's new operating system, but it would be a shame to ignore what Samsung has achieved with the Series 5 Chromebook.

On the outside it appears to be a standard Samsung netbook, although the Chrome logo that's displayed underneath Samsung's name hints that this is no ordinary device.

samsung chromebook keyboard

Opening it up shows what both Google and Samsung are trying to achieve with Chromebooks. The keyboard has larger buttons and greater spaces between them than you'd find on other netbooks. The usual 'F' function keys are dispensed with in favour of Chrome OS-specific buttons for changing volume and flipping between tabs.

We found that even though this gives the Series 5 Chromebook a slight air of a Fischer Price 'My First Laptop', it feels very comfortable to use.

samsung chromebook

The mouse track pad is a lot larger than on most laptops, and you click with one finger for a left mouse click, and with two fingers for a right mouse click. It's quite an elegant solution that works well.

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook comes in two versions, one that's Wi-Fi only and a 3G version which costs £50 more.

Because Chrome OS is web based, the Series 5 Chromebook needs to be connected to the internet for it to work properly - one of the very first things it asks you when you turn it on for the first time is to connect to a wireless network.

Whilst the Wi-Fi only version works fine around the home, the 3G version is recommended if you are going to be using it while out and about. The constant need for an active internet connection is a good example of how you need to think differently when using a Chromebook, and if you're unwilling to commit to a 3G contract just to use your computer, then you're going to find the Series 5 Chromebook very limiting.

With other laptops the biggest worry is running out of battery – with the Chromebook it's losing your internet signal.

Talking of the battery, the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook has a very decent lifespan of eight to nine hours between charges, mainly due to the fact that Chrome OS is so light to run.

It comes with just 16GB of internal memory, the idea being that you'll be saving your work in the cloud. While this is all well and good in areas where you can easily get an internet connection, if you're stuck in a 3G blackspot, you're not going to be able to access your work.

You can also plug in external storage to load media and documents using the Chromebook's file browser. A file-browser opens as a new tab as soon as you plug one in.


samsung chromebook

The right-hand side of the Chromebook is where the SIM slot is for your 3G USIM card, and that sits next to one of the two USB ports and the developer switch.

samsung chromebook

Front left sits the SD card slot for plugging in the memory card from your camera, for instance.

samsung chromebook

And on the left is the second USB port and the display output port- you can plug the chromebook into a monitor using the bundled VGA adapter - alongside the charging port and a 3.5mm headphone/microphone port.

If you buy the 3G version, in the box you'll find a Three SIM card with 3GB of free PAYG data on it - so you'll be able to get yourself online straight away before sorting yourself out with a contact. Alternatively, you can wait for your free data to run out and then simply top it up.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.