Google announced the Chrome OS project two years ago, and with it came the first Chromebook: the CR-48. The Chrome OS concept seemed revolutionary at the time. In 2010 we were well into the latest round of questioning whether today's PCs were fast enough. The Ultrabook revolution hadn't yet begun, and the iPad was starting to gain momentum. Capitalizing on the market being flooded with poor quality, yet affordable PC notebooks that still struggled with the same virus/malware issues they'd been facing for years, Google took the opportunity to attempt to revolutionize the PC OS.


The Chrome OS desktop

Chrome OS was that attempt at a revolution. As an OS built around a web browser, Chrome OS offered many of the advantages that the Chrome browser itself brought to the table: sandboxing, guest mode and constant/painless updates. All user data is encrypted on the drive by default. Security was and remains a major feature of Chrome OS.

Google's revolution extended to hardware as well. The Cr-48 notebook delivered a good keyboard, trackpad and solid state storage. Future Chromebooks would do the same. While the price points of these machines (<$500) kept ultra high resolution IPS displays out of the bill of materials, Google promised good build quality and solid state storage - two things you couldn't find in cheap notebooks of the time.


The new Samsung Chromebook

Since then, some of the traditional PC makers have woken up. Although confined to the $999+ price point, we're finally seeing attention paid to build quality, display quality and storage performance. Over the next couple of years there's going to be increased focus on bringing those premium features down to sub $700 price points.

For Chrome OS and Google's Chromebooks to remain relevant, they also had to move down the pricing stack. With its most recent announcement, Google has done just that. The new Chromebook (Samsung XE303C12) is priced at $249, while maintaining much of what made its predecessors interesting.

Even more interesting than its aggressive price point is the choice of SoC inside Google's new Chromebook: Samsung's Exynos 5 Dual, featuring two ARM Cortex A15 CPU cores. This move makes the new Chromebook the very first non-x86 machine to ship with Chrome OS. Given that I also happen to have a dual-core Atom based Chromebook from 2011, the new Exynos 5 based machine gave me a unique opportunity to get a preview of how ARM's next-generation CPU core would stack up against Atom.

The Chromebook
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  • MadMan007 - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    It is a valid comparison, however there is an unanswered question: What do I get for stepping up to the Celeron Chromebook? And that is a valid question, even though at that price point there are more options. Reply
  • Selden - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    By stepping up to the Samsung 550, you get a larger and brighter (300 nits vs 200 nits) screen (but lower resolution, 1280x800), 4 GB of RAM, slightly better faster CPU performance, longer battery life (much bigger battery), and a card reader slot that doesn't let the card stick out (approx. 1 cm) from the case. For performance, the 4 GB of RAM is probably the most significant factor, as it lets you open many more tabs. Reply
  • jeffkro - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    You also get the ability to play netflix content. Reply
  • LogOver - Thursday, November 01, 2012 - link

    Some benchmarks shows 50-80% better performance for 1.3Ghz Celeron-based chromebook.
    http://gigaom.com/mobile/intel-v-arm-the-chromeboo...
    I would like to see confirmation from Anand. Also some GPU benchmarks (Celeron vs. Exynos) would be welcomed.
    Reply
  • krumme - Friday, November 02, 2012 - link

    And that just proves celeron is no competitor for A15 as the performance difference means nothing compared to the total cost differences for the intended segment.

    An more interesting comparison would even be to the old AMD APU bobcat, in some low voltage variants.

    But ofcourse its the new lowcost AMD/Intel variants that is going to be the main competitors.
    Reply
  • LogOver - Friday, November 02, 2012 - link

    Samsung asks ~$450 for Celeron Chromebook, but this doesn't mean that Celeron-based netbooks have to be expensive. You can buy Acer AO756 for just $265 from bestbuy (and it inclides$100 Win Home Premium and 320Gb HDD which chromebook lacks)
    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/searchpage.jsp?_dyncha...
    And if you wish, you can install Chrome OS on it by yourself.
    Reply
  • AgeOfPanic - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Anand, could you tell us how it compares to the Atom in day to day use? I currently own a Samsung Series 5 chromebook and I would like to know if it makes any sense to upgrade to this model. Seems I would have to take a hit in battery life, but I heard you can at least watch 720p Youtube videos on it. Reply
  • Krysto - Thursday, November 01, 2012 - link

    You can watch 1080p videos on it if you want. It has a vastly better GPU. Maybe you can sell yours, and pay little to no difference to get this new one. The performance improvement overall should be noticeable. Reply
  • AgeOfPanic - Thursday, November 01, 2012 - link

    Anand doesn't seem to be too convinced. Performance in normal browsing seems acceptable. Don't really understand, because Chrome on a tablet is plenty fast. Reply
  • krumme - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    It looks like ARM 15 is making it very difficult for Intel and AMD for this low cost market. Especially with win8 machines comming.

    I dont know how Intel can catch up to this competition with the new Atom. When 22nm Atom hits market, TSMC is printing dirt cheap A15 on 28nm for everyone and his brother; tablets, phones, notebooks. Heck even some server segments is going Arm. And the performance looks like its sufficient for grandma.

    The new Atom and new bobcat better have some tangible performance benefits both on cpu and gpu side - they simply need to drive most if not all, pc games well on a notebook.

    I am impressed by the performance of ARM here.
    Reply

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