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Samsung Series 5 Chromebook review: Samsung Series 5 Chromebook

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The Good Portable size; bright, clear screen; fast start-up time; long battery life.

The Bad Requires an Internet connection at all times; Chrome OS won't appeal to all; fairly steep price.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is a well-built, adequately powered laptop that's small enough to carry anywhere. Its browser-based Chrome OS and total dependence on a Web connection definitely won't appeal to everyone, though.

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5.5 Overall

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The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is the first laptop to use Google's Chrome OS operating system. The software strips away the familiar desktop, start menu and folder system, instead relying almost entirely on browser-based operation. Sadly Chrome OS is far from perfect, and Google may find it a struggle to convince users to take the plunge.

The Series 5 laptop itself is well-built, with a dual-core, 1.66GHz Intel Atom N570 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a beautifully bright and clear screen. The machine's super-fast start-up time is also pleasing, but its price tag may be too steep for many.

The 3G and Wi-Fi version will cost around £400 when it's released on 1 August, while the Wi-Fi-only model will set you back around £350 when it emerges on 1 July.

To begin with, we'll take a look at Chrome OS specifically. If you're after information about the Samsung hardware, feel free to skip forwards.

Is your head in the cloud?

Although it may seem odd initially, there are numerous reasons why you may wish to opt for an operating system based entirely around a Web browser.

Firstly, while you won't be able to install programmes such as Adobe Photoshop, Windows Live Messenger and Microsoft Office onto your hard drive, equivalent apps are available in the Chrome Web Store. These apps are downloaded to, and operate entirely within, the browser.

Everything takes place in the browser.

This system allows a relatively slow machine to perform processor-heavy tasks, such as video editing, as the remote servers that power the app perform the majority of the work -- all your computer needs to do is keep the browser open. It's a similar system to that used by game-streaming firm OnLive, which allows users to play demanding video games on low-end machines at home.

Since you no longer need to install programmes onto your hard disk, you should find that the Series 5 runs smoothly. It's certainly quick to start up, taking around ten seconds.

Another advantage of the cloud-based system is that, as no data files are stored locally on the laptop, it's less at risk from viruses that can sneak into your machine and tamper with user data. As such, the Series 5 doesn't come with antivirus software, which often noticeably hampers the performance of a computer.

Google claims that Chromebooks may actually perform better over time. The company says it will be able to automatically push out updates to Chrome OS that could lead to improved performance, boosting battery life, for example.

Not-so-polished Chrome

While there may be some good reasons to opt for a browser-based OS, there are sadly more -- and better -- reasons not to. The whole concept of operating permanently in the cloud -- a concept that the Series 5 is sold on -- is probably one that most users would find difficult to live with.

It's very easy to say "all your data is in the cloud", as though it's a positive point, but, in reality, who wants all their data stored online only? Such a system means you are totally dependent on having a reliable Web connection. You won't just have a more difficult time reading your documents if you don't have Internet access -- those files simply won't be available to you until you are next able to get online.

There's a fairly limited line-up of ports.

Certain Chrome Web Store apps, such as Angry Birds, allow the user to sync the app, so it can be played offline, but these apps are few and far between. Google Docs isn't even available offline, even though it has been promised for a while. If Google itself isn't even able to sort out offline editing, it doesn't bode well for lesser developers.

Google is likely to have its work cut out in trying to convince people to compute in the cloud. Many users will find it difficult to believe that an online service will keep their files totally secure, especially after the recent problems Sony has had with PlayStation Network hacks. Even Google managed to wipe the Gmail accounts of up to 150,000 users earlier this year, proving that the system still isn't flawless.

Also, bear in mind that you'll need a fat wallet to pay for all the mobile data you'll consume if you regularly use the Series 5 over a 3G connection.

The 3G-enabled version of the Series 5 comes with 100MB of data per month on a SIM card from Three. While this may be enough for some light Web browsing on a smart phone, it probably won't be anywhere near enough for use with the Series 5, especially if you make a habit of streaming video from YouTube or BBC iPlayer.

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