Review – Samsung ARM Chromebook – first impressions

28Dec12

I’ve been without a laptop for a few weeks[1], and whilst tablets are fine for consumption and the occasional comment I’ve missed having a keyboard for proper creative work. I’ve been tempted by Lenovo’s Black Friday sale for the X230[2], various Ultrabooks and Netbooks[3], but by the time I’d got an SSD[4] I’d be looking at £400-£500. As soon as I heard about the new Samsung ARM based Chromebook at £229 I liked the idea[5]. Once I had the chance to play with one in a shop then I was totally convinced[6].

Since Santa didn’t bring me a Chromebook for Christmas I ordered one from John Lewis for delivery to my local Waitrose, and picked it up on the way home from a family outing this afternoon.

Things I like

The screen and keyboard are great – loads better than a 10″ Netbook, and subjectively better than the 11″ X121e. The trackpad is also nice in use, and I don’t find myself missing a trackpoint too much. The two fingers touch for right click takes a small amount of getting used to, but isn’t a big deal.

If battery life really is 8hrs then I’ll be impressed.

Size and weight is great – my daughter thought it was an 11″ Macbook Air (having briefly used one at a friend’s Christmas Eve party).

Performance seems good, with impressive boot time, and using Chrome and Google Apps feels much the same as a decent spec PC (with an SSD).

Multi user support was a breeze to set up.

Niggles

I’m using the SSH app. When I installed this on Chrome on my PC I could launch additional sessions by opening a new tab and clicking on the app, but the app doesn’t appear when I open a new tab. If I click on the app in the launcher then it just takes me back to the existing session. To get other sessions open I need to right click on the SSH tab and duplicate it.

I also tried out an RDP app on my PC before buying the Chromebook, but didn’t see the note that ‘Chromebook ARM does not currently support native client extensions but will in ChromeOS R25 expected to be released sometime in January’.

I miss some keys… like Del, and Home, and F5. I also think the resize key should go into full screen mode.

There’s OpenVPN support, but it seems to be almost impossible for a mortal to configure.

Overall

So far it’s living up to expectations, and it feels like a great little machine for not very much money. I’ll follow up with more once I’ve put some miles on the clock (and if I find resolutions to some of the specific issues).

I’m pleased to confirm that it’s great for writing blog posts on.

Notes

[1] Technically I still have a laptop, but since I started using my Lenovo X200 Tablet as my main PC in a docking station it’s become somewhat stranded there.
[2] Which is inexplicably *loads* cheaper in the US than the UK.
[3] Apparently Netbooks are dead. It’s a real shame that nobody seems to be making Intel i3 powered ones (preferably with HD4000 GPU) at a reasonable price any more, as it seems the AMD APUs that are popular now aren’t really powerful enough – I’d happily buy another X121e at the same price.
[4] If you’re not using an SSD then you’re literally waiting your life away.
[5] More so once I read that it can run Ubuntu, though that’s still a work in progress.
[6] Though the mix up of labels for ARM powered and Core i5 Chromebooks initially gave me some false expectations. Suffice to say that the i5 version has some nice features like Ethernet and Displayport, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra money.



One Response to “Review – Samsung ARM Chromebook – first impressions”


  1. 1 What Are People Doing On All Those Cheap Chromebooks? | Chris Swan's Weblog

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