Google's Chrome OS and Samsung's Chromebook

By , Computerworld |  Cloud Computing, Chrome OS, Chromebook

The left side of the Samsung Chromebook has a 3.5mm headphone jack along with a USB port and a mini-VGA port (a standard VGA adapter is included). One low point: The plastic cover protecting the USB and VGA ports feels a bit flimsy, like it might snap off after a few months of regular use.

A four-in-one memory card reader sits along the front of the unit, and on the right you'll find a second USB port next to a covered SIM card slot. There's also a "user-mode" switch that lets you switch from the default setup to hack-ready, giving you access to tinker with the system, if you're the adventurous type. There is no Ethernet port; this is a wireless-only machine.

Above the Samsung Chromebook's display is a 1-megapixel HD webcam and a microphone; a preinstalled Google Talk app makes both video and voice calls easy to manage, though Skype is not available as a Web app at this point and thus cannot run on Chrome OS. The notebook has two small speakers along its lower edges. Sound quality is decent enough -- more than fine for phone calls, but a bit on the tinny side when listening to music. If you want a full, bass-filled sound, you'll want to bring along headphones when using this system.

The Samsung Chromebook has a customized keyboard similar to what I saw in the Cr-48, though with darker printing and a glossier material surrounding the keys. In place of the standard PC function keys, the top row of the keyboard sports keys dedicated to Web-centric functions like navigating backward and forward, refreshing a page and switching among windows. Generally speaking, I found the keyboard to be outstanding; its chiclet-style keys are nicely spaced and conducive to speedy typing.

Samsung's Chromebook touchpad also performed quite well in my tests. The trackpad was reliably responsive -- a nice contrast from the Cr-48's temperamental touchpad. Even right-clicks, achieved by tapping two fingers down at the same time, were easy to accomplish; on the Cr-48, it often took me several tries to get those to work.

Chromebook performance

Under its hood, the Samsung Chromebook packs a 1.66GHz dual-core Intel Atom N570 chip along with 2GB of RAM and a 16GB internal solid-state drive, used primarily for storing downloads and local caches. I found the Chromebook's performance to be impressive in casual (and likely normal) use: New tabs opened instantly, and navigating among tabs and windows was smooth and fast, even with several tabs or windows open. It wasn't until I started really pushing the multitasking boundaries that things started to get a little laggy.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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