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.