The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook 550 is the second laptop from Samsung designed to run Chrome OS. But while last year’s model had an Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM, the new model has a Celeron processor and 4GB of memory.
You might not think that it takes bleeding edge hardware to run an operating system that’s basically designed to support one app: the web browser. And you’d be right. Celeron chips aren’t exactly top-of-the-line processors.
But Samsung’s latest Chromebook is enough faster… and Chrome OS enough more polished, that this year’s model feels light-years ahead of the Series 5 Chromebook that launched in the summer of 2011.
Google and Samsung loaned me a Chromebook 550 to review for a few weeks. I’ll have a detailed review soon, but I wanted to share some initial impressions today.
While the original Chromebook started to feel sluggish with more than 5 or 6 browser tabs open, I haven’t noticed any speed issues at all on the new model. I also haven’t seen a web page crash even once — something that happened from time to time with the older Chromebook.
Then again, I’ve only been using the laptop for about a day so far.
Google has also made a number of changes to Chrome OS in the past year. While the web browser is still effectively the only app running on the operating system, there’s now a sort of desktop view. This lets you view a list of apps (including the file browser, and any web apps you’ve installed) without first opening a browser window.
It also lets you run a browser tab in windowed mode. One of the biggest headaches I had with Chrome OS in 2011 was my inability to open two browser windows side by side. Now you can do that.
The operating system still boots incredibly quickly, and resumes from sleep even faster. It also synchronizes your apps, extensions, history, and other data with any other Chrome browser instances linked to your account. So if you use Chrome on your Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android device, you can bring all of your settings to the Chromebook 550 just by logging in with your Google account.
That also means that if anything ever happens to your Chromebook, all you need to do is get your hands on another one to pick up right where you left off. There’s only 16GB of storage for local files anyway, so odds are most of your music, documents, and other files will be stored online if you’re using Chrome OS.
Overall the Chromebook 550 seems like a big step up from the original Samsung Series 5 Chromebook — but I still find myself wondering why anyone would buy a Chromebook for $450 or more when a similarly priced Windows laptop is perfectly capable of running the Chrome web browser.