The new Chromebook has surprised me, though: Equipped with an ARM-based processor -- the Samsung Exynos 5 Dual, which, incidentally, is fan-free and emits no audible noise when running -- the system manages to keep up with light to moderate usage without suffering any slowdowns. It powers on in about 10 seconds; after you type in your Google account credentials, it takes just about five more seconds before you're online, in a browser and ready to work. In my tests, I was able to open numerous tabs and windows -- and navigate among them -- without any noticeable problems.
There is a limit, though. Once I had about a dozen tabs opened, I started to see some slowdowns. Switching among tabs was slower and sometimes resulted in pages refreshing for no reason (presumably because the system was running low on RAM), and scrolling through pages became noticeably more labored and difficult. The effect grew more pronounced as more tabs were introduced and seemed particularly problematic when resource-intensive Web apps, such as TweetDeck or the Pixlr photo editor, were in use.
Based on my time with the new Chromebook so far, I'd say its performance easily surpasses that of the first-gen Series 5 Chromebook model. There's really no comparison; this is a better device all around. The higher-end 550 Chromebook, however, is still top dog and would probably be the preferable choice for power users who tend to have a lot of tabs open or plan to perform heavy multitasking.
Speaking of power, the new Chromebook is listed for "over 6.5 hours" of battery life (information I received from Google earlier today indicated 6 hours, but that estimate has since been revised). That's slightly more than the 6 hours listed for the higher-end 550 Chromebook model.
While I haven't had a chance to thoroughly test the staying power of this new device, I can tell you that its battery stats indicate it's pretty far above the 6.5-hour estimate so far. The 550 model, meanwhile, consistently outperforms its listed 6-hour spec.
All considered -- and taking into account the low-power nature of the new Chromebook's ARM-based chip -- this system promises to be pretty impressive when it comes to stamina.
A good computer -- but not for everyone
I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Chrome OS has come a long way since its introduction two years ago. The platform now features a familiar-feeling desktop with movable windows and a customizable taskbar. There's a status bar in the lower-right corner that shows you the current time and network connection status; clicking it allows you to access a host of system settings.