The Chrome Web Store is the same as the one you access from Chrome on any other computer. It's growing steadily and even has some high-profile games, such as Angry Birds and Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances. It's nowhere near as comprehensive and rapidly changing as the iTunes App Store, but many apps are free, and some, such as Angry Birds, can be used offline, as they're downloaded to the SSD.
Some, however, are designed for more powerful computers than this -- Ubisoft's From Dust failed to work for Scott. It would be helpful if apps that won't run weren't shown in the store, as happens on Android. It's hardly the smooth experience you might expect from a laptop that ties you into this ecosystem.
The Chromebook runs version 19 of the Chrome OS, and version 20 is set to bring offline access to Google Docs and integration with Google Drive, the company's online storage system. That may well add a lot of functionality and fix many problems, but it's not here yet.
Design and specs
With a comfy keyboard, a wide clickpad and a sharp, matte, 12.1-inch screen, this is a tidy little laptop. Its screen resolution of 1,200x800 pixels is more than enough for its size. Its plastic body is well fitted together, with no flex, and weighs a svelte 1.4kg. The keyboard has loads of useful dedicated keys, such as search, volume, brightness, page back and forward, and full-screen.
There's no DVD or Blu-ray drive, of course, and only two USB ports and an SD card reader, plus a DisplayPort, headphone jack and Ethernet. It supported a random USB mouse Scott tried just fine.
The built-in HD-resolution webcam worked really well with Google Chat and Google+'s Hangout feature, with video quality just as good as any normal laptop.
The 1.3GHz processor seems fine most of the time, more demanding games aside, and played downscaled 1080p video perfectly adequately. It's certainly a faster experience than last year's Chromebook, letting you have more windows open at once and swap between them easily. Benchmarking wasn't readily available, and wouldn't be comparable to a Windows laptop or iPad anyway.
As for battery life, Google promises 6.5 hours and, indeed, the Chromebook lasted a full day with pretty typical use. The need for Wi-Fi means you won't usually be far from a plug, but you should be able to get at least a couple of movies' worth of use on a transatlantic flight.
If you eat, sleep and breathe Google services, the Chromebook 5 550 could work for you. Everyone else: get a Windows 7 laptop. You'll get much more storage and functionality, and a bigger screen for less money -- Toshiba, HP and others offer bog-standard 15-inch laptops for under £350. If simplicity is what you're after, you can bag a Wi-Fi only iPad for £400, or an(which has a detachable keyboard for added flexibility) for the same price.