Samsung Series 5-550 Chromebook Review: The Chromebook Matures
User Interface, Display and Audio Quality
The new Series 5 is a Chromebook, so it of course does not run Windows. This means that it does not need all of the shortcuts normally associated with Windows, which gives the designers extra space when they design the keyboard.
Most typists will love the results. Key caps are large, yet there is still ample room between each key. Overall width is equal to keyboards found in 13.3” laptops despite the 12.1” display. As if that weren’t enough, individual key feel is decent (for a laptop of this size) and there’s plenty of space for resting your palms. The old Series 5 was already a decent machine to type on. The new Series 5 is the second most enjoyable ultraportable I’ve recently used (the ThinkPad X230 still takes the #1 spot).
That alone would be excellent, but it’s topped off with an amazing touchpad. Early versions of Chrome OS had a problem with multi-touch scrolling. I noted that this was fixed with the latest version installed on the old Series 5. The new model does nothing to ruin the experience. Instead it classes the touchpad up by adding chrome trim that better defines the borders of the usable surface.
Display And Audio Quality
The Series 5 retains its 12.1” display and offers a resolution of 1280x800. That may not seem high, but remember that this is a small device that will generally sit on a desk or your lap. From several feet away the picture looks incredibly sharp.
That will be the case even in full sunlight thanks to a matte coating and bright backlight. Samsung has managed Lenovo ThinkPad-like levels of usability. Outdoor use is enjoyable so long as you don’t angle the screen towards the sun.
Overall quality is a reasonable. Black levels are average and contrast looks a bit low due to the matte coating, but the display’s high perceived sharpness helps make up for such issues, as does smooth rendering of banding test images. My only real beef is viewing angles. They’re extremely poor, so you’ll have to adjust the display angle frequently for the best image.
Audio quality isn’t bad, but only because the volume usually isn’t high enough to cause issues. Turning them all the way up introduces distracting distortion. Keeping volume at a modest level results in clear sound but also fails to sufficiently overcome moderate ambient noise. Anyone who enjoys music should grab a pair of headphones.