May 30, 2012 (11:05 AM EDT)
Google Chromebook, Chromebox: Visual Tour
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
Samsung's new Chromebook Series 5 550, and its screenless, keyboardless sibling, the Chromebox, represent a substantial improvement over the company's first generation hardware, thanks in large part to changes in Google's Chrome OS.
Samsung has done its part by using a fast Intel Core processor to replace the less capable Intel Atom processor in first-generation Chromebooks and by introducing the Chromebox ($329), a small Chrome OS computer without screen or peripherals for businesses and schools. Google, meanwhile, has revised the Chrome OS interface and has taken advantage of the speedier silicon by implementing hardware acceleration, which makes the new UI much more responsive.
The Chromebook Series 5 550 ($449/$549 w/3G) sports a more subdued look than its predecessor. It weighs about the same and is still made of plastic rather than metal.
Now that Chrome 19 has reached stable release, users may find Google's Web-based operating system feels more like a familiar Mac OS X or Windows machine.
Within six weeks, Chromebooks will be much better suited to mobile usage because they will be able to operate without a network connection. Google says it will soon add offline editing support to Google Docs. Once that happens, it will be possible to use a Chromebook at conferences or on the road without fear that a network signal loss could render the device inoperable.
While Chrome OS is still a browser-centric operating system, it's starting to feel less alien. Older versions of Chrome OS keep the browser window locked in place. With Chrome 19, multiple browser windows can be opened and can be repositioned, revealing a desktop behind them. While the desktop is just a visual metaphor to help with file organization and navigation, it's a powerful one because it's all most computer users have ever known.
Google is also in the process of building Google Drive into Chrome OS. When Google Drive integration reaches stable release in the next few weeks, Chromebooks will feel even more like every other laptop. That doesn't necessarily undermine Google's aim to make Chrome OS devices less like the typically computer, which is to say easier to maintain, less vulnerable to security problems, and faster to start up.
Dig into our slides to see the current state of Chrome OS hardware.
The Series 3 Chromebox is a CPU in a box. It supports two monitors and includes six USB 2.0 ports. It scores 3.5x faster than last year's Chromebook on the v8 benchmark and also has DVI single link output, and support for Bluetooth 3.0. Cat not included.
A bit less bold, the matte silver finish of the Series 5 550 is attractive but not compelling. This device is no MacBook Air, but then it's not priced like one either.
One of the best improvements in the new Chromebook is that Google has rewritten the trackpad software. If you used one of the first generation Chromebooks, you may have gotten the sense things just didn't feel right. The new trackpad is much more responsive.
Notice anything different? We've left the Chrome browser window for something that looks like a desktop with folders.
Google Senior VP Sundar Pichai has suggested that we don't need files anymore, thanks to Chrome OS. Thankfully, Chrome OS hasn't given up on files. If this Chromebook wasn't fresh out of the box with a Guest Account, you'd see files listed in this screenshot.
Take a look at the Chromebook's USB port and a SD card slot. These were present before, but they're a reminder that Chromebooks have connectivity options.
Featuring a 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800 display, the Series 5 550 weighs 3.3 lbs. and offers 6 hours of battery life. It comes with 4 GB of RAM, built-in dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Gigabit Ethernet, and an optional 3G modem. There's an HD camera--just the thing for a Google+ Hangout. And it has ports to spare: two USB 2.0 ports, a 4-in-1 memory card slot, and a DisplayPort++ connector.
If you like to work with multiple monitors or have a favorite keyboard or mouse, you may want to give the Chromebox a try.
Just look at all those ports. But Chromebooks are good for more than hardwired connections. With Google Cloud Print, you can print to any cloud-connected printer. And thanks to Chrome Remote Desktop Beta, you can connect to your Mac or PC at home as if it were wired to your Chromebook.