60 Comments

Summary:

Google’s newest Chromebook, made by Samsung, only costs $249 and offers the same general performance of ChromeOS is a smaller, lighter package. How’d they do it? This model uses the same chip type that powers smartphones and tablets. Take a look at my hands-on thoughts.

Samsung Chromebook XE303

Google introduced a new Chromebook on Thursday that costs $249 and runs on the same ARM chips that power smartphones and tablets. The new device, made by Samsung, looks extremely similar to the current Chromebook Series 5 550 model that I bought in June and have used as an everyday laptop since. The newer model is lighter, thinner and has no fan, however, and costs $200 less than the prior edition. In 2009, I suggested that Google would use these chips for ChromeOS; I was wrong — until now — but hardware advances make it possible.

I’ve spent a few hours with Google’s new device and have a short overview, comparison to the prior model and thoughts after some hands-on time. Take a look:

ChromeOS is still the same here, although it has a few subtle design tweaks that make it look more professional as a platform. The device comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, can be expanded with an SD card and gains 100 GB of free Google Drive storage; something we expected to see happen at some point. A faster USB port and full-sized HDMI jack for digital TV output is also here, but gone is the wired Ethernet port; it’s Wi-Fi or nothing for connectivity. Google will debut a 3G model in the future, however.

The new Chromebook is just under 2.5 pounds and is both sleeker and thinner. Battery life appears the same as Google says “up to 6.5 hours.” While the 1366 x 768 screen is 0.5-inches smaller, it’s not a detriment. Of course, the biggest change is the ARM processor inside. It’s a Samsung Exynos 5250, which is a dual core, next-generation Cortex-A15 chip of Samsung’s own design. It handles 1080p video just fine and runs the ChromeOS quite well. I’d say the performance is comparable to the Intel-powered Chromebook I have, but perhaps a half-step behind; at least in my few hours of using the device.

At this price, however, Google has a large opportunity for students and general consumers to pick up one of these new Chromebooks. I still believe that a Chromebook isn’t for everyone; I’d never suggest otherwise. For everyday web tasks and basic productivity, however, the device is perfect and attractively priced.

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  1. WiFi Connections Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Kevin,

    If at home and you have a quick google search, which do you reach for first- the new Chromebook or your Nexus 7? They are both side by side…..

    Best,

    Dale Buckey

    @WiFiConnections

    1. It’s a total toss up. Might use my phone even.

    2. The largest device I have nearby.. If I’m in my office, my Chromebox attached to 27″monitor. If in the family room, my Chromebook. If I’m out somewhere and I was going to be at a desk or in a chair for a while, I’d take my Chromebook. If I were spending a few minutes at a coffee shop or restaurant, I’d take my Nexus 7 tablet. If I’m standing in line at the store, my Galaxy Nexus phone.

  2. I saw your password.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel r Thursday, October 18, 2012

      LOL! Appreciate that – I had changed it after I watched the vid myself. I thought the keyboard was off-screen. ;)

      1. That’s a good idea, but to be even safer, use Google’s 2-step sign in verification. It’s very secure.

  3. Please don’t use flash for your video… Cannot watch it from my device

    1. Sorry Ludo, our content delivery system actually uses both Flash and HTML 5 to deliver video, but I suspect you’re using a newer Android device that no longer supports Flash natively. (Just guessing) We should be sending you the video via HTML 5 in that case, but there’s a small issue. Meanwhile, the same video is on our YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoK8p1OZDV4 Hopefully, that one works for you.

  4. Hello, could you please run a Sunspider test on the new Chromebook?

    1. I did, and mentioned the score in the video. ;) Just ran another: 660ms.

      1. Can you run an Octane, V8 and Peacekeeper test?

  5. drivingwithcody Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Can it run iTunes and Microsoft word? I don’t know if that’s a dumb question but I’d like to know

    1. I don’t consider that a dumb question; this is a new-ish platform that not everyone knows about. ;) Essentially, this notebook runs the Chrome web browser and that’s it. You can’t install any apps so everything is done through the browser. That means no iTunes or Word (or any other installable app, for that matter). for Word functionality, I use Google Docs, which is web-based. For music, I use Amazon’s web player or Google Music through the web. Hope that helps explain a little! :)

      1. My CR-48 has been my favorite for as long as I’ve had it (almost 2 years).
        YOU meant YOU CAN install apps? There are tons of apps in the chrome webstore. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/home

  6. any chance you can run some benchmarks? at least the likes of Sunspider, Browsermark, Google V8 , Google Octane ,Mozilla Kraken. It is the first A15 so it would be fantastic to have some benchmarks

    1. Will do that as soon as I can; thanks!

  7. Any ideas on the camera’s resolution?

    1. Not sure on the camera resolution (I’ll keep digging though). I did just have a Google+ Hangout with someone and they thought it looked as least as clear as on the older Chromebook.

      1. The product page on Amazon states that it’s a 0.3MP camera, which means VGA (640*480).

  8. Hopefully the Chromebook is priced to be profitable at point of sale.

  9. richardmgarrett Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Wow, Kevin…great early review and video. This is a really tempting device now for me…to quote Matt Miller “la la la la la”!!

  10. By the way, lack of an Ethernet port is no biggie. If for some reason you need a wired connection, just grab a $4 USB-Ethernet adapter. Chrome OS supports those perfectly.

    1. Not just any USB adapter. AFAIK, only AX88772, AX88178, Pegasus, and smsc75xx devices are supported.

    2. I read somewhere that it comes shipped with an Ethernet port dongle so, if true, that spares you the minimal amount of trouble!

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