The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is now shipping, and Acer is expected to begin selling the AC700 Chromebook any day now. With prices starting at $350, these laptops offer 11.6 inch to 12.1 inch high resolution displays, super-fast boot speeds, and the security that comes from running very little native code since they basically only run the Google Chrome web browser.

On the other hand, you can pick up a 10 to 12 inch mini-laptop computer running Windows 7 for the same price or less. You won’t get the speedy boot times or some of the web-centric or security features that come with a Chromebook. But the laptop also won’t turn into a useless lump of plastic when you’re in a location with no internet access.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook and Asus Eee PC 1215B notebook

The folks at Laptop Magazine decided to pit the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook against one of the closest competitors they could find: An Asus Eee PC 1215B Windows 7 laptop. Both have 12.1 inch displays, but the Chromebook has a 1.66 GHz Intel Atom N570 dual core processor with GMA 3150 graphics while the Asus laptop has a 1.6 GHz AMD E-350 dual core CPU with Radeon HD 6310 graphics. The Asus laptop retails for $450 or less, which is about $20 higher than the suggested retail price for the Samsung Chromebook.

Laptop has a point-by-point comparison looking at the user interface, performance, battery life, and software available for each. I’ll try not to ruin the surprise, but one laptop came out ahead in almost every test. You can find details at the Laptop blog.

I reviewed the Series 5 and the Eee PC 1215B recently as well. On the one hand, it’s hard to truly compare these two devices, because one is designed to run a full range of third party applications while the other is designed to offer a stripped down and simple user experience for people who primarily want a speedy web browsing experience. I can’t say I’m horribly impressed with the Chromebook concept right now, but I suppose I could see it being an attractive option for someone whose computer needs are very different from mine… if the price was much lower.

What about you? Which would you rather have? A Chromebook, a netbook, or some other sort of low cost laptop?

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21 replies on “Would you rather have a Chromebook or a netbook?”

  1. Linux can boot just as speedily as Chrome. I cannot, or have yet to, find a compelling reason to use a Chome book. Does it work with all Google software? Ie, sketchup, Google Earth, the two that I like in particular.

    1. Technically it can, since Chrome OS is Linux.  But you’re going to have a hard time getting a standard PC to boot a standard Linux distro as fast as Chromebooks do, simply because the CBs use a lot of hardware cheats to get that boot time with that specific OS.

      I like my CR-48.  It’s very convenient when you just need to hit the web for something…open it up, and you’re there pretty much instantly.  It’s convenient.  But the prices that are being asked are a bit above the “convenient” range.

      Chrome OS is getting better all the time, but I just don’t know when it will feel like a for-real OS instead of a weird hack.  They *really* need to dump the current New Tab page for something more like a dashboard or home screen.  Google could really learn *a lot* from Jolicloud at this point.

  2. a cheap windows laptop is the best option, since windows has much more usefulness for me than the half-baked Chrome OS. it’s hard to beat how much value you get from a windows based machine, all the productivity, multimedia tools, gaming, etc etc.

  3. why go for a crippled hell  if one already owns the paradise ?
    on my netbook i’m running almost every “shit” if needed ALREADY and if necessary in parallel (systems, emulators and software) … even at a better price (incl hd display and 3g option) 

  4. I’ve used a ChromeBook (CR-48) for 5 months and find myself using it much more often than my Win 7 laptop.  I use the Chrome browser on both and many Google cloud-based apps including gmail, gdocs, Picasa and gcal.  In the Google cloud I have little need for the Windows file system and other features. The simplicity and freedom from malware and backups is nice.  I occasionally need to operate without wifi so the Verizon 3G is essential.  Adding that to a netbook  would require a data plan adding perhaps $400 to the cost over 2 years whereas the Samsung 3G Chromebook includes the data plan.  For a person who likes the free Google cloud and minimal expense and upkeep this is ideal.  

    1. I’ve read a lot of commentary about the Chromebook. I want to congratulate you as being one of the select few who has something wonderful to say about another historical Google hardware experiment. Good pitch I must say which leaves me a bit suspicious. I’m mostly joking about that but seriously, the endorsements of the Chromebook are a rare sighting indeed.

      1. I also have had a good and constantly improving experience with my Cr-48.  For portable computing, I don’t need or want anything else. For gaming or power computing, my desktop is a much better choice, but that’s the case with all the other choices listed in this poll.  

  5. I tend to default to a netbook and a 7″ tablet these days. I’m much more drawn to the ASUS Transformer at this point. 

    Chrome has immense potential, long term, as an aspect of ubiquitous computing. Given a dirt cheap (<$100) smartbook implementation the idea would be perfect in many cases.   But if the price is on par with a netbook it's a nonstarter.

    1. No — I’m not evaluating specs, except as they reflect the ability (or inability) of manufacturers to bring the price down significantly below that of netbooks.  I’m also not evaluating products on their “hackability,” unless you count installing non-stock applications as hacking.

      Reading the linked review, two or three “use cases” are identified for which a Chromebook would be better than a similarly-priced, similarly-specced Windows (or Linux) netbook.  One is the author, a businessman who “lives in the cloud”; the quick booting (plus quick connection to WiFi, which I wasn’t aware of as a specific Chromebook advantage not available to netbooks) and tight integration with Google’s online services work well for him, including the ease of setup on a new machine.  Also good for him is the included free (for 100 MB / month, which ain’t much) 3G service, but that’s not specific to Chromebooks (it won’t be offered with all, and could be offered with any netbook); he also likes the “rental” model as an alternative to providing one’s own IT and paying for hardware and/or software upgrades, or repairs, piecemeal.

      Another “use case” is the author’s immediate family, in that they can share the machine without stepping on each other via their respective Google logins, though this is mostly an advantage relative to the (single-user) iPad.  Also, the limits of what one can do to it make it easier to support his father, who’s prone to downloading and installing malware.

      My question is, are there really enough people out there for whom these advantages outweigh the lack of a cost advantage over netbooks, and the disadvantage of not being able to install other applications?  How many businesses trust “the cloud,” and specifically Google, enough to put all their eggs in that basket (including their IT, in the “rental” model)?  And is the inability of the author’s father to install malware going to be enough compensation for his inability to install anything else that’s not available in the browser?  I just am not convinced that, in the “age of apps,” substantial numbers of people will be willing to return to the “age of web apps” (only).  But again, I’m trying not to fall into the “I see no use for it, therefore it’s useless” trap.

      By the way, you really should have noted up front that this “good review” is on your own blog…

      1. Heh, I was actually about to delete that link as spam, but since you’ve actually taken the time to read and respond, I guess I’ll let it be for now. 🙂

  6. The AMD E-350 walks all over the ATOM, but one thing the sammy has going for it is a very superior screen: high brigthness & matte. But otherwise you are way better off with widows 7 and you can put jolicloud on it under dual boot, best of both worlds!

  7. Well, since I bought a Lenovo s205 and immediately installed linux on it, that should tell you which way I lean.  I think 12″ Netbooks (or notbooks as some have dubbed them), are really a great compromise between the power of a full on Notebook computer, and the portability of a traditional netbook — particularly when using AMD’s e-350 APU.  Seriously this thing rocks.  I haven’t completely ironed out all the bugs in my linux install, but I can get real work done on it. 

  8. Premium netbooks forever! Silly Chromebook. There are bad ideas and then there are bad ideas. It’s obvious that Google doesn’t have trend watchers planning their product and launches. Who’s excited about yet another laptop idea when everyone is emptying their wallets and their kids piggy banks to get a tablet??

  9. I wrote up some thoughts on this recently and concluded that I liked the Chromebook idea – I mostly only use my browser (Chrome!) on my netbook these days anyway.  However Chrome OS seems to offer fewer options than full on Windows and therefore it just feels like it should be cheaper.  

    The Sammy is a nice looking piece of kit and of course it is a 12″ model (vs 10″ netbooks) but for me to bite it just needs to be cheaper!

  10. I think when the prices of Chromebooks come down they will find a very nice niche….   Myself i feel that netbooks are for the most part toys….  Chromebooks are tools…

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by toys vs. tools here.  If you read the LaptopMag review, they find that there’s nothing that the Series 5 can do that the EEE PC 1215B can’t do better, with three exceptions: the Chromebook boots 20 seconds faster, its battery lasts a few tens of percent longer, and it has the ease of setup and malware resistance that results from an “app ecosystem” that makes iOS’ “walled garden” look like the Wild West (exactly one “app,” albeit a capable one, namely the browser).  And, of course, there’s plenty the EEE PC can do that the Chromebook can’t.  Or are you comparing 12″ Chromebooks with 10″ netbooks, and making the tools/toys comparison based on screen tininess?  If so, the EEE PC 1215B in the comparo is a 12″ netbook (or “netbook-spec mini-laptop” or some such locution, if you define a “netbook” as 10″ or less) — that should answer that objection.  I’ve done plenty of real work on a 10″ Linux netbook in coach class seats, where I couldn’t open the lid of a MacBook; gcc, IDL, and the like all run, slowly but well enough for coding, debugging, and dumping graphs.

      I am aware of the “I see no use for it, therefore there is no use for it” trap, so I’ll try not to fall into it; but unless the three advantages above (and I’d be tempted to exclude battery life, since that’s highly variable between netbook setups) are decisive to a buyer, I just can’t see how Chromebooks will be able to gain any market traction.  Their hardware is very similar to that of netbooks, so it’s hard to see how they could be built significantly more cheaply; the small SSD vs. large(r) HDD is not a big fraction of the cost, nor is the (presumably) smaller amount of RAM a Chromebook could live with, while the screen, battery, and frame seem comparable.  Unless Chromebooks can be made to function (well) on a much cheaper processor, and/or one that uses much less power so that the battery size can be cut back without hurting battery life, I don’t see a cost advantage, or a size/weight advantage either; and we’ve already seen that having a free OS doesn’t help cut costs enough to make a difference, after Microsoft slashed XP license prices and then came up with Windows 7 Starter.  (It’s not clear to me from the LaptopMag review, by the way, what version of Windows the as-priced, as-tested EEE PC 1215B was running.)

      So — the appeal of the iPad vs. netbooks was in the “magical” (Apple’s word) touch interface, the light weight and compactness, and the long battery life without the carbuncle of an extended-life battery sticking out the side.  That commanded a (modest) price premium over netbooks, and established a market segment.  The appeal of a Chromebook vs. netbooks is what?  “Instant on” boot and somewhat longer battery life, with similar size and weight?  Is the instant setup (log in to your Google account and you’re good to go) useful enough, frequently enough, to enough people to create a market segment without a significant price _decrease_, forget about a premium?  (I have a similar question about the usefulness of some of Apple’s iCloud selling points, BTW.)  Or am I completely missing the point here?  “I see no use for it, therefore…”

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