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Samsung Series 5 Chromebook shows off sweet looks, quirky Chrome OS

We get up close and personal with the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook. It's an attractive piece of kit, but the jury is still out on Chrome OS.

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Andrew Hoyle
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The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is the first laptop in the UK to use Google's cloud-based Chrome operating system. Since we first got our hands on Chrome OS last month, we've been furiously debating whether or not we could live with its stripped-down, browser-based user interface. We're still not convinced, but the Samsung Series 5 just may be gorgeous enough to persuade us to take the plunge.

Chrome OS is not your standard operating system. It's easiest to think of it as having the Chrome browser as the only piece of software on a laptop. Because that's pretty much all it is.

Instead of having a capacious hard disk drive for installing programmes and saving files, it operates almost entirely over an Internet connection, making use of Web-based apps and extensions such as Google Docs, Spotify and even the frighteningly ubiquitous Angry Birds. This severely restricts the number of functions it can perform, but has the great advantage of superfast bootup time and none of the security problems inherent in Windows.

Windows users, however, will certainly feel out of place to begin with, as Chrome OS has no start menu, no folders to organise and no desktop. It's an unusual way of doing things and one that definitely won't be to everyone's tastes.

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook itself is a dashing slice of tech. The 12.1-inch screen and 20mm thickness makes this a great ultra-portable machine that can easily be thrown into a backpack without a second thought. From our initial hands-on it seems very well built too, so you needn't worry too much if you're constantly lugging it between meetings.

Under the hood, the Chromebook is packing a 1.66GHz dual-core Intel Atom processor paired with 2GB of RAM, which should make most tasks a breezy joy. There's no dedicated graphics card, but with no way to install pixel-hungry HD shooters, we can't hold that against it. It should be more than capable of handling the aforementioned irritated avians though.

The skimpy Chrome OS results in a whippet-fast startup time of around 10 seconds, helped by the 12GB SSD drive, which has a much faster read/write speed than standard hard disks. Wireless n Wi-Fi and optional 3G connectivity will keep the Chromebook connected to the Web -- crucial to actually use the thing.

Samsung claims the Chromebook will squeeze out over 8 hours of battery life with normal usage, and up to 5 hours of video playback. We'll see how those figures really stack up once we get our hands deeply into it.

The Series 5 Chromebook will be on sale from 2 July for £349 for the Wi-Fi only model or £399 for one with 3G. It's a real wildcard of a laptop and we're going to have to spend some time getting used to it before we decide whether Chrome OS is worth the investment.

In the meantime, check out the photos from the launch event and use the comments below and our official Facebook page to tell us what you think of Chrome OS and the Samsung Chromebook.

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The wide trackpad is pleasant to use and supports multi-touch gestures.
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The isolated keys offer comfortable typing at speed.
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Here we see a size comparison with the Chromebook and a standard Biro. Exciting!
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The Chromebook's shell may be plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap.
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The Biro is back, showing us how portable the Chromebook is.
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The Chromebook's screen displays the CNET UK homepage very well. But then, it looks good on any device.

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