What We Think
Ask any great inventor and they’ll tell you the best concepts don’t always work out in practice. The Google Chromebook is an admirable attempt at an idea that unfortunately infastructure doesn’t fully support. It’s a nice machine, with a few lackings, but a good try nontheless.
The whole precedent of cloud computing is one that offers significant benefits, however, so far has remained unutilised, and dare we say it a little underwhelming in practice. The notion of the web or nothing is a daunting thought, that may leave many a little cold. So, does Samsung pull it off?
As you may already know the whole Chrome OS is at the centre of the Samsung Chromebook Series 5. Owners use downloadable online applications got from its only interface, Chrome OS, then install apps through Chrome and then use them via the Cloud. This of course means there are no programs on the Chromebook itself and so little need for expensive processing and memory components. All of which allows for speed and agility, as most of the work is done far, far away on the servers in magic cloud land.
However, this is where limitations arise – as you generally need a 3G, or WI-Fi connection to the Internet to download and use many of the apps – which is of course limiting. There are a number of third party apps that can be used offline thanks to the wonders of HTML 5, but when compared to the traditional option can frustrate.
So, now that we’ve gotten the whole background down, what’s the Chromebook Series 5 like? Well, it’s a low cost portable alternative, coming in at around £300 it undercuts budget laptops. It certainoly does have a solid feel and looks attractive, though it’s quite heavy for a small machine.
Aesthetically the Samsung has a certain simplistic quality to it. The Series 5 offers an uncomplicated approach in both the way it looks and acts. The simple white glossy back bears reminiscence of most Samsung’,s with the off centre logo, though also has a Chrome logo, so people know where you stand on computing terms.
As we’ve mentioned it’s a hefty little device – surprisingly so. Though, to be honest its 1.5kg weight also means it felt solid and well built and offers peace of mind if you’re lugging it about. Underneath the hood the keyboard is a plain, black isolated type, with some differences on the norm as it includes an array of Chromebook buttons where the function keys usually are. It may seem a little Sesame Street like, but to be honest we liked it. The touch pad also got the thumbs up and is notably large for the size of the Chromebook and innovatively uses a one finger approach for left clicks, whereas a two finger press is used to create the right a right click – smart, well thought-out and functional and a great size for moving the cursor on the screen.
At 1200x800p, the 12.1 inch display offers quite vivid performance and we found it to have a quite good showing from our experience. Colour rendering was accurate and it provided brightness often not seen in laptops three times its price. As it’s a matte screen it provided good viewing angles, and though not glossy, its brightness prevailed to create dynamic, colourful images both indoors and outdoors.
The speakers though didn’t gain our affection and anyone hoping to bring the Chromebook to get down with the kids will be disappointed, especially at bass levels. The device does come with a 1mp camera, though playback can be a little choppy, but this is a performance issue.
We do expect Intel’s i5 processor to handle such visual tasks. The 1.6GHz processor comes with its own inbuilt graphics hardware Intel Graphics HD 3000, as well as hyper threading capabilities and if needs be Turbo Boost technology, which brings the clock speed of the processor up to 2.3GHz Lenovo has placed 4GB of RAM into the machine and a 128GB solid state drive.The Lenovo does lag behind the ASUS Zenbook in processing terms, as the aforementioned has a i7 chip, though it’s no slouch, it does lag behind the Zenbook in both 3D graphics tests and Cinebench tests, scoring 3,394 in the former and 7,244 in the latter. In short, this means the laptop is of little use with new games at high settings.
Boot up time from cold is fast thanks to the SSD, and it managed to do so in 25 seconds falling behind the Zenbook takes 29 and the MacBook Air at only 18seconds. This is still half the time required to be seen as an ultrabook. Wake from sleep took only four seconds, though the Zenbook in contrast manages this in just two seconds. Lenovo has added two USBs to the U300S, one of which is a USB 3.0, HDMI also exists, as do a headphone jack and a 802.11n Wi-Fi adaptor. However, Lenovo has omitted VGA, eSATA and a card reader, which we would deem lacking.
Our Battery Eater test showed the Lenovo lasting 232 minutes, which is 20 minutes less than we got from the ASUS on the same test. That said, a full day of work is far from out of bounds, and the Lenovo is a great portable machine.
The Chromebook is a good idea but a little off the mark. Unfortunately, in the UK at least, the lack of Internet connectivity everywhere makes it a little impractical.
With the Chromebook, we felt there to be a bit of a love/frown and hope for connection relationship. Don’t get us wrong it’s irksome at times and also can be a little lag prone and glitchy. However, we have to commend Google on the concept and Samsung on creating an aesthetically pleasing machine.
Frankly, the Chromebook is like communism – it’s a great idea, though in practice has its flaws. Using a Chromebook over a traditional laptop is partially ideological and we can certainly see its draw, however, we won’t be giving up our Windows for a little while yet.