Samsung Series 5-550 Chromebook Review: The Chromebook Matures
Introduction and Design
Samsung played a little trick on me when I reviewed the Samsung Series 5 earlier this year. You see, I barely finished my review of it when – surprise! – Samsung announced the new Series 5 550.
With that said, I can forgive them. They sent me the new model to review as well. It is a complete redesign both inside and out. The updated exterior is built with better quality materials and is only available in silver instead of your choice of white or black.
Inside, Samsung has thrown Atom aside and replaced it with an Intel Celeron 867. This part uses the Sandy Bridge architecture and offers two cores clocked at 1.3 GHz. It, of course, lacks the Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost features found in some Core series products.
The rest of the laptop is similar to the previous model. The display size is the same and the hard drive is still a 16GB SSD instead of a standard mechanical hard drive. Going with a Sandy Bridge part has also upgraded the graphics, so the pathetic GMA 3150 found in the previous Chromebooks has been replaced with Intel HD, albeit a low-power version with a base clock of 350 MHz and a maximum clock of 1 GHz.
These improvements have resulted in a price adjustment that brings the new Series 5 back in line with the debut price of the original. You can expect to pay $450 for the Wi-Fi model or $550 for the 3G version. Consumers who opt for the 3G version receive 2 years of free service from Verizon, but the data cap is a strict 100MB per month. That’s enough for occasional web browsing but not enough for serious use.
Increasing the price puts the Samsung Series 5 back in competition with budget ultraportables like the ASUS 1225B and the Lenovo X130e. Can the Chromebook and Chrome OS hold up against such competitors? Let’s find out.
The updated Series 5 goes for a far more professional look than the original, which was particularly approachable with the white lid. Matte silver is now the order of the day. It covers every surface and is broken up only by the black key caps and a hint of chrome trim that lines the touchpad.
Exciting it’s not, but it does resist fingerprints and stains. Most of the material is plastic, but Samsung has placed brushed aluminum across the palmrest. It is a nice touch that gives this inexpensive laptop a hint of luxury. The only aesthetic issue is the bottom of the chassis, which is a different color of silver than the rest of the laptop. It looks as if a supplier messed up and ordered the wrong shade.
Build quality is surprisingly robust for a laptop that’s priced under $450. The chassis feels as solid as ultrabooks costing twice as much and the display lid is resistant to flex. Panel gaps are small and the display lid closes with a satisfying thunk.
Connectivity is limited, even for a laptop of this price. There are two USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort and a combo headphone/microphone jack. That’s it. Limited connectivity on a laptop geared towards web use is not surprising, but it’d be nice to see HDMI instead of DisplayPort.