The very pinnacle of Google's vision of a Web-based world, however, must surely be Chrome OS, a new operating system built entirely around the Chrome browser. Laptops running Chrome OS, called Chromebooks, are designed from the ground up to be Web-connected in every way. Following a pilot program last year, the first Chromebooks are now shipping to consumers, so I decided to take one of the two new models -- the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 3G -- and see how well Google's device stacks up to traditional notebooks and traditional computing units.
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The verdict? The Chromebook is lightweight and inexpensive, and it offers a full-featured Web browsing experience. But its low-end hardware, lack of versatility, and primitive support for commonplace computing tasks such as printing, file management, networking, and media playback make it a poor choice for everyday use, particularly in a business setting. Read on for the details.
Chromebook: Like a netbook, but different
The Series 5's overall fit and finish is comparable to that of a typical netbook. Its plastic body doesn't suggest durability, the screen hinge feels weak, and the doors covering the ports on the sides seem ready to pop off at a moment's notice. All of its surfaces pick up fingerprints easily.
The 12.1-inch, 1,280-by-800 LED backlit display is plenty bright, and its matte surface shrugs off glare admirably, but it's prone to color shifts and washed-out blacks, depending on the viewing angle. It's not a bad screen, really, but it's nothing to write home about.