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The new ARM-based Samsung Chromebook is far more than an amazingly cheap, good lightweight laptop. It will revolutionize how we use PCs.
Yesterday, Google suddenly unveiled, in cooperation with Samsung, the first ARM-powered Chromebook and for remarkably affordable price -- $249. There also is a $329.99 model, that includes 3G. Both are available for pre-order now from major retailers, and Google Play will join stores selling the WiFi-only model next week.
The question: Will you buy? It's the right time to ask, because the price is so appealing. From my initial testing, about 24 hours now, it's hard not to recommend this new Chromebook, if for no other reason than price. But as I'll further explain in my forthcoming first-impressions review, there are plenty of trade-offs for the price -- and benefits, too.
At this early stage of testing, I see two major buying categories for the new Chromebook: Someone who considered an older model (but was put off by the price), or even purchased one, and buyers looking for something else that doesn't require purchasing a new PC. The latter group could include everyone owning one or more aging PCs to those new to computing and put off by it. Easy is the best way to describe any Chromebook, from setup to ongoing management to daily use. If you can navigate a browser, you can use Chrome OS.
Google and Samsung unveiled the second-generation Chromebook, the Series 5 550, in May for $449. A 3G model sells for $549. I wouldn't recommend either 3G Chromebook. The cellular radio simply is not good enough, when Verizon, which provides the service, is largely standardized on much faster 4G LTE.
How do the WiFi models compare?
$249 Chromebook: 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos 5250 dual-core processor (ARM); 11.6-inch matte display, 1366 x 768 resolution, 200-nit brightness; 2GB RAM; 16GB SSD; SD-card slot; Webcam; USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports (one each); WiFi A/N; Bluetooth 3.0 compatible (dongle required); HDMI port; Chrome OS 23. Weighs 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) and is 0.8 inches thick.
$449 Chromebook: 1.3GHz Intel Celeron 867 dual-core processor (x86); 12.1-inch matte display, 1280 x 800 resolution, 300-nit brightness; 4GB SDRAM; 16GB SSD; Intel HD graphics; webcam; two USB ports; Bluetooth 3.0 compatible (dongle required); DisplayPort; WiFi A/N; Gigabit Ethernet; 4-in-1 media card slot; and Chrome OS 21.
Yesterday, BetaNews reader Bobby Frank asked: "Should I swap out the two Samsung 550's i just bought last week for my teenagers for this new model and save myself a total of $500? Will this new model perform as well? Btw, is an ARM processor better than the one x86 in my kids' current Samsung 550?"
Performance is absolutely slower on the $249 Chromebook. The Q is what's good enough for the money. I really like the keyboard and overall ergonomics better of the cheaper model. At the request of someone on Google+, I did quick Peacekeeper benchmarks yesterday from my live account (extensions loaded) rather than guest account: 971 for $249 Chromebook, 1848 for the 550. The newer one has Chrome OS 23, but the older is (supposedly) up to date at Chrome 21.
Bottom line: I find video to disappoint on the cheaper model compared to the older one. If the teens do Netflix and YouTube, this might not be best choice. Otherwise, the higher screen resolution, better keyboard and coolness (no fan needed with ARM) make up for what performance what your teens will loose from the 550.
I will rerun the same benchmarks from guest mode for my first-impressions review. Meanwhile there is another value proposition regarding both Chromebooks. The cheaper one comes with 100GB Google Drive storage -- two years, for free.
Google Thursday announced a new $249 Samsung Chromebook, finally delivering a Web-optimized computer at a price that makes sense for consumers.
The “new Samsung Chromebook,” as Google executives officially refer to it, will complement the existing $449 Chromebook and the $329 Chromebox computers, both of which are also manufactured by Samsung. Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and apps for Google, told a San Francisco press conference full of analysts and reporters that the new Chromebooks were the first of many more to be launched with a number of partners.
Google will sell the new Chromebooks at Best Buy beginning next week, Pichai said. The new netbooks will also be available via Google’s Google Play online store.
Distractions From Google's Messaging
The press conference was thrown into disarray, however, by two premature releases of Google announcements that distracted attendees attention. First, the the company published the webpage advertising the new Chromebooks live before the press conference was completed. More significantly, a draft press release of the company’s surprisingly weak third-quarter results hit the SEC before they were expected to be announced Thursday afternoon.)
That could be one reason it remained somewhat unclear what the exact differences were between the new Chromebook and previous versions. The new Chromebook will weigh 2.5 pounds, measure 0.8 inches thick, and is spec'ed at more than 6.5 hours of battery life. That’s a little less than the 7 hours seen in typical Windows 8 notebooks and tablet. The key difference is apparently that the new version of the Chromebook is the first to use a less-expensive ARM processor from Samsung, a dual-core A15, along with a less expensive battery, explained Linus Upson, vice president of engineering at Google, in a brief interview.
A Perfect Companion?
Pichai portrayed the ecosystem of Windows devices, however, as one that requires constant support. He positioned the Chromebook as the perfect companion device.
“The most common uses cases are as an additional computer for the home,” Pichai said. “[The parents] have Windows or a Mac, but they can use the Chromebook and leave it on the living room and give one to their kids. You’re never maintaining or updating these devices. This use case really really excites us. This goes to the heart of what the project is about.”
Google originally portrayed the Chromebook as the perfect low-cost, low-administration device for businesses. Thursday’s focus was more on the home and education. Google’s Pichai said that the Chromebooks are being used in pilot programs by hundreds of schools, although they’re actually deployed in far fewer.
Pichai said that the new Chromebooks would run the standard Google suite of services, including offline Gmail and Docs, which allows the normally connected Chromebooks to operate without an Internet connection.
A badly written FBI warning about Android malware has been taken to be about Android's security, when it's really about idiot users.
And a laptop. Following the recent Pwnium 2 competition, a hacker nicknamed “Pinkie Pie”, has successfully compromised Google’s Chrome web browser and received a free Chromebook and a cash prize of $60,000. Earlier this year, Pinkie Pie and Sergey Glazunov have also reaped a reward of $60,000, following the successful escape of everyone’s beloved sandbox. [...]