Google Chromebook lacks luster -- and purpose

Samsung Chromebook Series 5 3G brings ho-hum hardware to the half-baked Chrome OS

By Neil McAllister, InfoWorld |  Virtualization

Google thinks you should do all of your computing on the Web. To prove its point, the company has been working to replace traditional desktop software with Web-based alternatives, such as Gmail and Google Docs. When Internet Explorer and Firefox struggled to handle those complex applications, Google launched its own browser called Chrome, igniting a features war that has improved JavaScript performance and Web standards support in every major browser.

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.

[ Find out how Microsoft's and Google's suites stacked up in "Office 365 vs. Google Apps: The InfoWorld review." | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights via Twitter and with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

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.

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