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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  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    I think netbooks are the more obvious comparison. You can buy Intel/AMD powered netbooks running Windows/Linux for $200 and up. The "better" choice depends on just how basic your computing needs are and how much you can live with a cloud-based operating system. Reply
  • Krysto - Thursday, November 01, 2012 - link

    Browsing on them will be much slower, especially on those single core ones that cost $200. I know because I've used one. Single core Atom browsing on a netbook is excruciatingly painful. Plus, I believe I saw in a Cnet review that this Chromebook has higher performance in browsing than IE9 with a Core 2 Quad. That's not a very fair comparison because it used IE9, but still. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Thursday, November 01, 2012 - link

    I wasn't advocating one or the other, just pointing out the obvious comparison is not between used laptops and chromebooks, but between chromebooks and other "netbook-like" laptops.

    It's a tradeoff between running a lightweight, but very limited operating system (Chrome) or a heavier but full-featured and mature operating system (Windows or Linux). Performance versus greater availability of features and software.

    I've also used single core atom netbooks and found them painfully slow. I haven't used the newer dual core Atom or dual core AMD-based netbooks that are more common these days. I'm guessing they are similarly painful, given that single-threaded performance is the major limitation for light workloads.
    Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Chromebook...a "solutiion" still in search for a problem/market to serve. Reply
  • Peroxyde - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Can you please clarify how the Chromebook perform the following tasks in offline mode?

    1. Can I work and save documents when not connected to the Internet?

    2. Is it possible to play music or video files stored on the SD Cards? What media formats are supported? (MP3, MP4, MKV?)

    3. Can the Chromebook access media files over the LAN, via DLNA client or SAMBA shares?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
    Reply
  • FormulaRedline - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    I'm also interested in this. The review doesn't seem to go at all into the required internet connection and how this affects functionality. Unfortunately, we don't yet live in a world with free WiFi everywhere. Reply
  • Selden - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Offline YES
    A/V YES (but not all formats)
    Samba NO
    Reply
  • ddy - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - link

    I want to ask if there is smb, already using the Samsung ARM Chromebook. I have a performance issue on working with Google docs. As you asked about the documents, I wanted to be involved.
    It is not that sensitive to respond, neither on-line nor offline. Does any of you have a similar problem??
    Thanks in advance.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Nice review, thanks.

    I'd have liked more info about offline use though. Even if I'm online most of the time, it's very important that i can also be productive, and entertained, while offline.
    Reply
  • prophet001 - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    The ultimate digital pick-pocket. Reply

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