Samsung's Series 5 Chromebook is a netbook in the purest sense of the term because, unlike traditional notebook computers that run the Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems, the Series 5 offers an entirely web-centric experience. At its core is Google Chrome, a freeware web browser that runs both websites and cloud-based apps from the Chrome Web Store.
Weighing just over 3 pounds, the Chromebook offers a 12.1-inch, 1280x800 extra-bright display; a 1-megapixel high-definition webcam; two USB ports; and a reader for MMC, SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards.
The Chromebook's full-size, chiclet-style keyboard makes typing a breeze. Familiar web browser functions — page back, page forward and refresh, for example — appear on the keyboard's top row.
I was captivated by the stunning eight-second boot-up time. Its speedy recovery from sleep mode — less than two seconds — is equally impressive. Also notable is the 8.5 hours of productivity that users enjoy between battery charges.
Online textbooks look fantastic on the Chromebook. In addition, popular web services such as Accelerated Reader and Edmodo load quickly, depending on network traffic volume and the speed of the data connection.
JPEGs and PDFs open by clicking on the file. Microsoft Word documents are compatible as well, but they must first be uploaded to Google Docs. With Google's Scratchpad app, users can perform word-processing tasks while they're offline and configure the device to sync automatically with Google Docs the next time it establishes a network connection.
The Samsung Chromebook can be configured and managed centrally through a web-based console. IT staff can set up all Chromebooks to have cameras disabled, for example, or control proxy settings and home page using this feature.
Chromebooks also reduce computing costs by eliminating many time-sensitive IT tasks, such as application distribution and upgrades. And there's no need to purchase costly antivirus software licenses because the devices are built to run nothing but a browser.
Many of today's powerful desktop applications aren't available as web apps. Although many rudimentary tasks can be accomplished with a good web app, proprietary software titles and drivers requiring traditional operating systems may dictate whether the Samsung Chromebook is right for a school or district.
Dropped Wi-Fi signals are common on mobile computing devices, but they are especially frustrating on the Chromebook because all work comes to a screeching halt until the connection can be reestablished.