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Samsung Chromebox Series 3 review:

Samsung Chromebox Series 3

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The Good attractive way into the world of Google's Chrome OS; low price.

The Bad occasional software and hardware incompatibilities; only 16GB storage.

The Bottom Line The attractive Samsung Chromebox Series 3 desktop turns Google's web-based Chrome operating system into a decent option for low-cost desktop PC shoppers, so long as you're happy with shortcomings such as low storage and an OS that's still teething.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.5 Overall

While some American schools have metal detectors on the entrance to stop wayward kids smuggling in a chrome, Samsung is looking to get in the back door by targeting its affordable Chromebox Series 3 desktop PC at schools. Not only is it aimed at kids, it's also suited to anyone looking for a low-cost PC.

The US has got the jump on us Brits with the Chromebox already locked and loaded Stateside. Our CNET.com cousins have grasped the cold metal, cocked their trigger finger and pointed their review in our faces. So we're not about to disagree with the following review, which is based on the insights they've gleaned during their tests.

We're waiting on news of when Samsung's latest desktop PC, which is built around Google's Chrome operating system, will hit the UK, but various online retailers are listing it for around £280.

Should I buy the Samsung Chromebox Series 3?

Google Chrome sets itself apart by being an almost entirely web-dependent operating system, with the added benefits of prompt start-up, thousands of available apps, built-in virus protection and secure cloud storage. So all your films, music and files are stored online. Chromebook laptops launched a year ago with the underwhelming Samsung Series 5 Chromebook. The Chromebox is the first outing for the Google's OS on a desktop PC.

Samsung Chromebox Series 3 top
The Chromebox has only got 16GB of storage... has Samsung got its head in the clouds?

So is it a good option for general-purpose budget computing? CNET.com's reviewer Rich Brown thinks not, due to occasional issues with hardware and software compatibility. What's more, the tiny amount of on-board storage means the Chromebox is far from ideal as a small home theatre PC. But despite these shortcomings, the Chromebox is still a very likeable computer.

Chrome OS

Google's Chrome operating system is the search giant's software experiment, played out in public. It first emerged in 2011 and hardly set the tech world on fire, underwhelming us with high prices and the drawbacks of being entirely reliant on Internet access. While the Samsung Series 5 was pleasingly portable, staying constantly online can be a challenge for a laptop that's supposed to be used on the go.

If you're travelling by air, out at business meetings and conferences, or simply sat in a cafe, there was no guarantee of a reliable connection. Google attempts to mitigate this by building in data network support with its laptops in the US. Of course, you have to pay extra for that, which meant that the Chromebook suddenly appeared less like the affordable option it was intended to be.

You're not likely to be carting your desktop PC around with you though, so you'll retain a more-or-less persistent connection to the Internet. At a stroke, that's one of the big question marks hanging over the Chrome answered.

The OS is basically an expanded version of Google's Chrome web browser. While the system boots up into a familiar log-in screen and desktop environment, once you start playing around with applications or downloading, you'll most often find yourself in a traditional Chrome browser.

For a full run-through of how well the operating system works, see this standalone review of the Chrome OS. But one of the headline benefits is expanded support for offline documents and files. While most of what you get up to on the Chromebox takes place online via the Chrome browser or through Chrome-specific applications, the OS does let you see local files.

File types that are supported include most Microsoft Office formats (such as DOC and DOCX), as well as PDFs, JPEGs, GIFs and other common image files, and various audio and video types. You're not able to edit these files, apart from basic photo tweaking. But the mere fact you can access them offline is a marked improvement over the previous generation of Chrome OS.

Samsung Chromebox Series 3 top flat
You don't get a mouse or a keyboard with this no-frills package.

Hardware and performance

Because the Chromebox comes with a 16GB solid state drive rather than a bog standard hard drive, it boots up in seconds. The PC also supports USB keys and flash media cards (the latter if you connect a USB card reader). That means you shouldn't have any problems accessing your files.

The 1.9GHz Intel Celeron B840 is an up-to-date, dual-core budget CPU, and it comes with 4GB of memory. Those are reasonable specs for this price range.

If you're sniffy about Celeron processors, remember that this is a cheap PC that is almost completely web-driven. That doesn't mean the CPU makes no contribution to general performance, but most of Chrome OS's browser-based doings are unlikely to tax the brain too much. Apart from some downloadable games, the reviewer found no major performance gripes.

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