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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.

  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

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

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    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.

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  2. I saw your password.

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

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

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

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    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.

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

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

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

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

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    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! :)

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      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

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  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

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

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  7. Any ideas on the camera’s resolution?

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    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.

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

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

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  9. 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”!!

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  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.

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

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    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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  11. Michael Benninger Thursday, October 18, 2012

    As far as I know, ‘From Dust’ is the only app in the Chrome Web Store that doesn’t run on my Sammy 550. I don’t suppose it would run on the “new” Chomebook, but maybe you could check, Kevin? Awesome review, by the way. Great to see ChromeOS continue to grow.

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  12. This looks awesome…and affordable!

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  13. Is there anything that could be a developer switch? Like older ones had?

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  14. Is this a good choice for my college student? Can MS Office be loade on this machine?

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  15. What does the power brick look like?

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  16. My most important question, with the move to ARM does it support always-on active notifications? AKA, when it’s asleep will it beep or have a light flash when you get a new email?

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    1. I see no evidence that it does. There is no indicator light for notifications, nor a sound setting for them either, for starters. Unlike a smartphone, when in “sleep” mode, this appears be more like a hibernation mode from what I can tell.

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  17. Wonder if you could run current microsofh programs on the Chromebook. Otherwsise, how could you work on your regular PC and transfer your documents to the Chrome, or vice-versa?

    Senez

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  18. Kevin you’ve grown some facial hair since your last chromebook review! When I heard of the new chromebooks I came here right away as your review was the most fair review I saw of the previous 5 550. Thank you for the unbiased Equally skeptical and optimistic review!

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  19. sad I cannot view the video because it’s in Flash,using jelly bean on a Motorola Xoom.

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  20. Nuruddeen Lewis Sunday, October 21, 2012

    Great review. I’d like to see a video showing the process of importing a video from a USB or sd card, uploading it onto the chromebook, and perhaps even doing some minor editing to it in the browser. I guess I’m just interested to see how easy it is to get other content onto the chromebook without sending it by email.

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  21. Can you have iTunes on the new Chromebook?

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    1. No, you can’t install any apps on a Chromebook. However, you can copy any unprotected music files from iTunes to a Chromebook if you want.

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  22. Looks very tempting.
    But are you stuck with the os? Perhaps Android?
    Does it have a boot-loader, so that you could install W8, Linux, ….

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  23. I read somewhere that netflix won’t run on this new chromebook. Could you confirm that?

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    1. That is correct for now, Liu. Here’s the detailed information on the situation and why it exists: http://gigaom.com/mobile/new-chromebook-brings-a-little-fragmentation-to-chrome-os/

      I wouldn’t think this issue will linger for too long.

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  24. $249 certainly is compelling, but I don’t think I’d give up my $400 Windows netbook. It’s still only a browser with limited storage and limited functionality. I can see my mom using something like this, but for ripping DVD’s, running Office or viewing premium web content… it’s just not what I consider a serious work tool.

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  25. Please update your video player. it does not work without flash , so I cannot play your video.

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  26. Important question! Do sites like Hulu (ok..Hulu) consider this a desktop OS or mobile OS? I ask because, as any Hulite knows, some shows only show up on the “web” while others show up on mobile apps, Roku, etc.. Can you watch the “web-only” content? This is the deal-breaker for my wife. :)

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  27. can you store files?

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    1. Absolutely! There is 16 GB of on-board flash storage, 100 GB of included Google Drive storage online and you can add memory cards at will through the SD card slot.

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  28. Can you connect a usb mic like the Blue Yeti to use during google hangouts?

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    1. Great question – I”ll give it a try later today and let you know. I use a Samson USB condenser mic with my desktop so I’ll plug it in to the Chromebook and see.

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      1. did you ever figure out if you could use a usb condenser mic?

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  29. Can I install Microsoft Office to this chromebook ?

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    1. No. You can’t install any apps to a Chromebook; only Chrome browser extensions.

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  30. So what is the purpose of having 16GB of onboard storage when there are no applications to utilize media or files that aren’t going through chrome? Is it just for uploading photos and files to Google Drive?

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  31. Kevin, you were so helpful in directing me to my International Galaxy Note 2 (could not be happier, especially with my $30 monthly T Mobile unlimited plan)
    My business requires me really to only be on extranets and email when I travel and I hate lugging around the big heavy laptops. Would you recommend this for someone like me? Again, I need to retried google emails and basically login and make changes to hotel inventories on extranets like Expedia, Orbitz etc. I dont need word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc. Just something I can us to login to my various extranets and update as needed but phones and 7″ tablets are just a bit difficult without the full size regular keyboard a laptop provides
    Thanks, as always, for your expertise
    -Another Kevin

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    1. As long as you can access your data through a browser, I think this is a great, low-cost solution, provided you have either Wi-Fi or mobile broadband access, of course.

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      1. Yes, 90 plus% of what I do is thru a browser but I struggle at times to use my iPad or phone especially entering numbers and rates into browser fields. I always hated traveling with a laptop though due to how long they take to boot just to make a few changes. The only thing I ever really need to do is email which, of course, I can do thru Gmail. I am picking up the Samsung Chromebook today.
        Thanks again for your help Kevin!

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        1. Then I think this is aimed perfectly for your needs. Let me know what you think after you get it. :)

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  32. This is dumb, but can the SD card expand the storage not in Google Drive

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  33. Ive been using my chromebook for over a year now and dont even touch my macbook anymore. Its not about what it can or cant do, its the fact that its so simple and does everything that I need to do. LOVE MY CHROMEBOOK!

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  34. Ive been using my chromebook for over a year now and do not even touch my macbook anymore. Its not about what it can or cannot do, its the fact that it does everything I need it to do. I LOVE MY CHROMEBOOK. So many cloud solutions, no desktop or anything to clean. I just close tabs and everything is gorgeous. good article

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    1. “Its not about what it can or cannot do, its the fact that it does everything I need it to do. ” Great comment; I completely agree. ;)

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