Video hands-on with Google’s new $249 Chromebook

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:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoK8p1OZDV4]

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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