Sunday, March 4, 2012

Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook Review

I've been using/testing a Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook for a few months and decided to post a review of it after a few of my friends asked me about it.

In case you haven't guessed based on my other blog entries, I'm located in Canada and as of the date that I'm writing this blog entry/review, the Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook is not widely available in Canada (it is actually not being sold in Canada unless you can find it through private sellers). I managed to get mine during a recent trip to Las Vegas.

The first thing that needs mentioning is that in order for the Chromebook to be useful, it absolutely requires access to the internet. There is very little that can be done with the Chromebook if it is not connected to the internet either via WiFi or via the carrier's data network. The Chromebook that I purchased is the 3G model which includes 100 MB per month of data from Verizon Wireless in the US and it also has a 3G SIM card slot (carrier unlocked) in case the owner travels outside the US and/or wants to use a SIM card for data.

The premise behind the Chromebook is that most users use their computers/laptops for internet use whether it is to check their e-mail, browse the internet, access their social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook Google+, etc. or watch online videos.

The first thing that I like about the Chromebook is that it boots up almost immediately (under 10 seconds). After logging onto to the Chromebook (using your Google account), the user is presented with a Chrome browser (similar to what you would get on a Microsoft Windows machine). You then use the browser as you normally would to access the websites that you would normally access. I didn't have any issues accessing most of the websites that I would normally use.

You will notice in the specs that the Chromebook does not have a very large capacity in terms of the hard drive. The reason for this is that it assumes that all documents that you would create will be stored in the cloud (Google Docs).

In terms of what you can and can't install on the Chromebook, you can install Chrome applications/extensions (web applications) from the Chrome web store similarly to what you can do with Chrome on a Microsoft Windows based machine.

If you are someone who uses Google products a lot (Gmail, Google Docs, Google+, etc.) and the majority of what you want to do is web based, I believe that you might consider getting a Chromebook. I've tested Netflix on the Chromebook and it works very well. SlingPlayer also works but requires a workaround (you have to go through Facebook).

The negative things that I want to mention about the Samsung Series5 3G Chromebook is that the battery is non-removable and the memory can't be upgraded. Also, I find that the default setting for the touch pad is not as good as the ones that I've used on other netbooks/laptops. After configuring the touch pad based on your Google account, it functions a lot better but the moment you log out, it reverts back to the default settings until you log in again.

Another negative aspect that I've noticed is that because the Chromebook requires internet access, it can sometimes have problems accessing public hotspots which require you to agree to certain conditions found on a webpage before internet access is granted. The way that you are supposed to do this if the Chromebook is powered on from a powered off state and not in suspend/sleep mode state is that you must first access the Guest account and then use the browser within the Guest account to agree to the WiFi hotspot terms/conditions. After doing this and verifying that you have access to the internet with the Guest account, you would then log out the Guest account (making sure that you don't shut down the Chromebook) and log in with your personal Google account. However, as mentioned, I've sometimes experienced issues doing this. To solve this issue, what I normally do is that I keep my Google account logged in and leave the Chromebook in a standby/suspend state. When I lift up the lid of the Chromebook, I will log into my Google account with the password from the suspend/sleep state. From the power-off state when you turn on the Chromebook, it will try to authenticate your Google account and will fail because you don't have access to the internet before you accept the hotspot terms/conditions whereas from the suspend/sleep state, it is only using your password to unlock the screen and doesn't immediately require access to the internet.

The things that I like about the Chromebook is that it boots up very fast and the battery lasts longer than any of the laptops/netbooks that I've used in the past. When I want to do something fast (like check a website), I will normally use a tablet but now with my Chromebook, I find that I'm using my Chromebook more than my tablet. The ChromeOS also updates automatically in the background and after an update, you only have to shut down the computer or reboot the computer in order for the update to be applied.

It is very unlikely that the OS in the Chromebook gets corrupt but in case you want to reset the Chromebook back to factory defaults, it is very easy to do this and the instructions can be easily found on the internet (a blank USB memory stick is required to do this).

For Samsung's usage guide to the Chromebook, you can click *HERE*.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to write them in the comments section below.

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