Google and Samsung announce new Chromebook, Chromebox

Google and Samsung announce new Chromebook, Chromebox

Samsung's Chromebox is the first outing for Chrome OS in a nettop-like device, but is there really a demand for such a high-price low-flexibility product?

Google is having another bash at the laptop market with a new Samsung-manufactured Chromebook, this time joined by a cut-down nettop device running the same cloud-powered OS.

The idea of a Chromebook, for those who haven't come across the concept before, is simple: the device itself features cut-down hardware and limited local storage, connecting to Google's cloud-based services including Google Docs and Gmail through a custom Linux-based operating system where the Chrome web browser forms the shell.

In addition to tying in to Google's own cloud services, the Chromebook platform supports third-party web apps and apps provided through the Google Chrome Store - including a raft of casual games like Rovio's hit Angry Birds.

Google's previous Chromebook efforts haven't been well received, however: the advertising giant launched its devices to great fanfare, but the seemingly high price and limited flexibility of a mandatory internet connection meant consumer adoption was slow.

That doesn't mean Google's giving up on its hopes to take over your entire computing experience, though. In partnership with hardware maker Samsung, the company has announced a new Chromebook alongside the first Chrome OS-based nettop.

First, the Chromebook: dubbed the Series 5 Chromebook 550, the cut-down laptop is based on a dual-core Sandy Bridge Celeron 867 processor running at 1.3GHz alongside 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD for local storage. Accelerated graphics support is provided by the Celeron's onboard Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU, and connects to a 1280x800 12.1in display with a DisplayPort output for up to 2560x1600 resolution displays.

The system will be made available in two different flavours: a Wi-Fi only version, which boasts support for 802.11abgn networks, and a 3G-enabled version with pre-paid mobile broadband connectivity. Both models include a wired gigabit Ethernet port. The device includes the familiar Chrome keyboard - which ditches certain keys, including Caps Lock, in favour of dedicated Chrome OS keys including a search key - and a large trackpad. Battery life is rated at six hours.

The upgraded Chromebook is joined for the first time by a Samsung-manufactured nettop dubbed the Series 3 Chromebox. While the chip inside is still a Celeron, it's a faster B840 1.9GHz model. Aside from the processor, the Chromebox is remarkably like the Chromebook: 4GB of RAM is included alongside 16GB of local storage and both 802.11abgn and gigabit Ethernet connectivity. The system also supports dual monitors, with both DisplayPort and single-link DVI outputs. Six USB 2.0 ports are also included, for peripherals.

According to Samsung, the new Series 5 Chromebook performs more than twice as fast as existing Chromebooks while the Chromebox is around 3.5 times faster. UK pricing has been confirmed at £379 for the Wi-Fi-only Series 5 Chromebook and £279 for the Chromebox, while no pricing has yet been revealed for the 3G-enabled Chromebook.


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Byron C 31st May 2012, 14:13 Quote
I doubt this will succeed; at least, not nearly as much as much as Google & Samsung need it to.

I quite like ChromeOS, but it really has had limited consumer take-up. Principally because the only way to get it is to: compile ChromiumOS yourself from source code (whilst also compiling drivers for your hardware), get your hands on a ChromeBook, or find someone who has helpfully compiled a build of ChromiumOS (see Hexxeh's builds, Lime in particular) and hope that it works with your hardware. Hexxeh has done a pretty incredible job with ChromiumOS (and with seemingly anything he turns his hand to - I wish I had half the talent this guy does), but it's still not something that the average consumer is going to try out regularly.

It's a great idea, but sadly I think there's a lot more work to do in order to convince people that they want a ChromeBook over an iPad or a MacBook Air.
Bokonist 31st May 2012, 17:21 Quote
16 GB local storage will never provide any meaningful computing experience until ISPs provide genuine high speed broadband for everyone, and stop throttling those that do.
Byron C 31st May 2012, 17:30 Quote
Originally Posted by Bokonist
16 GB local storage will never provide any meaningful computing experience until ISPs provide genuine high speed broadband for everyone, and stop throttling those that do.

Not so sure about that, myself. My netbook only had an 8GB SSD and I managed just fine on it. ChromeOS itself probably won't even take up half of the available space - the builds by Hexxeh can fit on a 4GB USB drive, and I can't see an official vanilla build being much bigger.

Of course it is highly dependant on an internet connection, no denying that.
Skiddywinks 31st May 2012, 18:49 Quote
It's just too much money with too many caveats.

If it was like £150 for the Chromebox, then it might happen. But the Chromebook is never going to sell at prices like that. At work (Asda, heyooo), we get laptops in with the latest AMD and Intel mobile chips, also 4GB of RAM and in some cases even dedicated GPUs, and they fall in line with the £379 price tag, and sometimes even less.
misterd77 31st May 2012, 19:05 Quote
CHROME is about 10 yrs ahead of its time, when we all get rocking superfast4g, then it makes sense, anyways, hate chrome, although love the form factor of that case in the pic.....I would love something that small thats capable of gaming, stick a laptop motherboard in it, with a decent gpu, and you got a small, but portable gaming rig, dont even need a large drive or optical drive, just a ssd and 4/5 usb ports, onboard wifi etc....anyone know where I can pick up laptop motherboards ?, and, more importantly, the graphics cards for them, would be nice if I could find an sli one, or even a crossfire config, and stick a couple of mid range gpu's in it, PROJECT COBRA is born.............
Nexxo 31st May 2012, 20:00 Quote
My wife bought a Chromebook as a compact, light laptop to do home office tasks on. Within a month she switched to a Macbook Air.

We really wanted to like the Chromebook. It is nicely designed, incredibly light, has an awesome battery life and near-instant boot times. I even got over the mediocre quality of the screen, because the overall build quality was decent and the keyboard one of the best I've ever seen on a laptop.

So where did it fail? In stupid little details. You couldn't print to the network printer (you have to go through a computer connected to the same network, which has Cloud Print installed, and is up and running at the time). You couldn't access local network storage --a ludicrous oversight considering this is supposed to be, in effect, a cloud terminal.

It does not recognise half the most obvious files stored in the File Manager on the machine itself. For instance: click on a .jpg file and it will automatically open it in a (web browser based) image editor, but click on a Word document and it does not know what to do with it (File Type Not Recognised). You have to first download a plugin (Cloud Save) to manually (through calling up a right-click menu not directly on said file icon, but by selecting the file and then right-clicking in the bottom info bar of File Manager) upload said document to Google Docs, where you can view it but not work on it before converting it to Google Doc format. Cloud Save should have been a standard part of the File Manager; moreover there should have been obvious menu options to sync and in the same process convert the locally stored documents to Google Docs.

Working in Google Docs is a PITA. You can sync your Office documents automatically, as you work in MS Office, to Google Docs via Google Cloud Connect. Neat, huh? Except that you cannot work on these documents with the Chromebook. You have to first convert them to the Google Doc equivalent formats. These documents are in turn not accessible by the MS Office suite. This makes seamlessly working between a Windows (or OSX) desktop and Chromebook impossible.

ChromeOS was meant to appeal to the business market as a low-cost, low maintenance secure system for employees working away from base. The icons on the home page however look like something out of Fisher Price; an OS designed for five-year old's. It is a far cry from the look of Blackberry's Playbook Tablet which looks like an executive's OS.

It makes sense that some apps, like Calendar and e-mail should be accessible off-line (a bit like on most Smartphones) so you can work on them until the next opportunity arises to synchronise. You could not do that on ChromeOS. This is now being remedied by... separate, 'offline' versions of the apps! So now you have Google Calendar, and Offline Google Calendar; GMail, and Offline GMail sitting side-by-side rather than integrating the offline feature into the main app.

We really, really wanted to like ChromeOS. We really did. It could work. It could work so easily... but somehow it missed the target by a mile. So I'm afraid we are selling the Chromebook and sticking with a full-fledged laptop.

At least the Chromebook makes an awesome basis for a Linux OS system.
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