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Samsung Chromebook and Chromebox show off new Chrome OS

Google's given Chrome OS a Windows 7-esque makeover, introducing two new Samsung devices to run this net-based OS.

Google's given Chrome OS a makeover, introducing two new Samsung devices to run its refreshed web-based OS. The Samsung Series 5 550 is a new Chromebook laptop, while the Samsung Series 3 Chromebox is a miniature desktop computer powered by Google's cloud-based operating system.

The Series 5 550 packs an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, as well as a memory card slot, 12.1-inch, 1,280x800-pixel display and a promised 6 hours of battery life.

The Chromebox, meanwhile, plays host to five USB ports, two display ports, DVI, Ethernet, an Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM. PC World, Currys, John Lewis and Amazon are expected to sell the new gear, though current online details are scant. This John Lewis page at least has a price -- listing the Series 5 550 at £380, even if it does show the computer bearing a big Windows 7 logo.

Hardware aside, the main reason to be interested in these gadgets is that they're powered by Chrome OS, which has been given a revamp that introduces a Windows and Mac-style desktop.

The new look for Chrome OS.

That desktop shows all your apps, also letting you split your browsing into multiple windows -- a feature sorely missing from earlier editions.

Despite some apps that work offline, you still need a web connection to make the most of Google's operating system, which in my experience has more downsides than you might first imagine. There's no installing programs like Photoshop, Spotify or Windows Live Messenger, and the file system is crude, making it tough to shift files around.

I'm not convinced Chrome OS is there yet, but there are signs of progress, notably Google's promise to bring Google Docs offline support in the next few weeks, and Chrome apps that work offline.

My instinct is still that you'd be better served by a cheap laptop with the Chrome browser installed. We're working on getting full reviews of the new kit, so stay tuned for our official verdict, and check out the video below of our US cousins putting the new Chromebook through its paces.

Are you a fan of Chrome OS? Or should Google stick to search? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.