The Chromebook is likeable and great at certain things, but it is not brilliant for business users. We like the keyboard and the simplicity, but the reliance on the internet is bothersome in 2011 Britain.
Sleek, keyboard, easy to use
Trackpad, dependence on internet, dreadful SIM slot, lack of sockets, expensive
£400 (3G+ Wi-Fi) £350 (Wi-Fi only)
Intel Atom Processor N570 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM, 16GB SSD, 802.11 b/g/n Wireless LAN, 4-in-1 memory card reader for SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC, 12.1in 1,280x800 LED backlit screen, 16:10 aspect ratio, 1.5kg
The Google Chromebook project has been on the cards for a long time, but it seems to have taken forever for the laptops to arrive. Eventually, there will be models from a variety of manufacturers, but the first on the market is from Samsung, so we've got hold of one to put it through its paces.
The first thing we found hard to deal with is the cost. This model, with 3G, costs some £400. In laptop terms, £400 is a pretty decent chunk of change. It's certainly enough to get you a modern and reasonably well specified machine. Asus, for example, has Core i5 machines with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk for just £350.
A Wi-Fi only version of the Chromebook is available too, but the price reduction is just £50. We simply don't think that's worth considering, especially given the machine's need to be constantly online. And trust us. Without the internet, this laptop is little more than an expensive doorstop.
The Chromebook is an impressive looking piece of hardware. In our review sample, the front cover was white, but there's a black version available. The white is decent enough, but we're not sure it will be to everyone's taste.
As you might expect with this device, there are not a lot of ports or extra sockets. You do get a pair of USB connections. The right-hand side connector is visible, while the one on the left is under a flap. We have no idea why this is, and it seems to make very little sense.
On the right side, next to the USB socket, is a pull down cover revealing a socket for a USIM, as Samsung calls it, but this is just a regular 3G SIM. Our first bout of rage arose from this socket because, as with the 7in Galaxy Tab, it will only take the SIM card one way, and the drawing is entirely misleading. What's worse, if you put the SIM in the wrong way, it will get stuck and you'll need tweezers to get it out. And that's very stressful.
Other than these problems, though, the Chromebook is well designed, sturdy and slick. It's also heavy, at 1.5kg, which surprised us considering it's basically a netbook with a big battery and slightly larger screen.
Keyboard and trackpad
The good news is that the keyboard on the Samsung Chromebook is excellent. As part of moving away from the traditional desk-bound computer, the keys are now simpler than a normal laptop with no triple-function buttons or complications. Letters are all lower case, which is at odds with every other keyboard, but does make some sense.
Typing on it is great too. The keys respond first time every time, which makes it excellent for people who type a lot. The distance of the arm rest to the keys seems about right, and all the typing we did on it left us feeling satisfied.
Now the bad news. The trackpad is deplorable. We would go so far as to suggest that it's one of the worst we've ever used. The main problem is not the tracking part, which in our tests works fine, but the action of left or right clicking. Like Samsung's Series 9 laptop, this is poorly executed.