Samsung 550 Chromebook

Samsung 550 ChromebookAlright, it’s true. For 2 months I worked as a Google Specialist, selling two different models of Chromebook (neither of which was this particular model). So I may be a little biased. But hey, these things aren’t any less awesome just because I sold them for awhile. it is what it is, am I right?

I’m right.

Now, if you’ve never heard of the Google Chromebook, you may be a bit shocked by some of the “features” of this device.  But before I get into all that, I’ll start by listing the cold hard facts.

Dimensions:

  • Weight – 3.1 lbs
  • Height – 0.7 in
  • Width – 11.25 in
  • Depth – 8.3 in


Hardware:

  • CPU – 1.3 GHz Dual-Core Intel Celeron 867
  • Memory – 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage – 16GB Solid State Drive
  • Display – 12.1 inch LED Backlight 1280 X 800 (WXGA)
  • Battery – 4-cell Lithium polymer, 51 Wh, 6 hours.
  • Misc. – 802.11n WiFi; 3G model available (Verizon); 4 in 1 card reader; DisplayPort (supports HDMI, VGA, DVI with appropriate adapters).


Software:

  • OS – Chrome OS
  • Virus protection built into OS


Now for my totally objective, unbiased review.

I have been a windows user my entire life (only because I’ve never been in a position financially to even consider a Mac). I have a Nettop, a super old HP Laptop, and a fairly new Acer Laptop; my Wife has a gigantic Toshiba laptop, all running Windows. I’ve also owned a couple desktops in the past; Compaq and HP I believe. Since owning this Chromebook, I almost never touch any of my windows machines.  The Chromebook is faster, lighter, and boots up in about 8 seconds.  It’s just so much more accessible and does almost everything I need it to.

Now, this device has received a lot of mixed reviews ever since it’s grandfather the CR-48 was born. Apparently you either love it or hate it.  If you haven’t already read a ton of other reviews, here’s why some people hate it:

You can’t install software
It’s small
Doesn’t support iTunes
Doesn’t support Skype

Those are the big ones anyway, and they’re even somewhat valid.  Now here are some of the reasons people love it:

You can’t install software
It’s small
Doesn’t support iTunes
Doesn’t support Skype

I know, you see what I did there.

Let me climb onto my Chromebook soap-box for a minute and tell you why I love this product, despite it’s “shortcomings”.

This device is fast.  Super fast.  This device will operate as fast as your internet will allow.  It also boots up in 8 seconds.  That’s right, it doesn’t just “wake up” in 8 seconds, (one thing the Ultrabooks like to brag about) it actually boots up from a complete shut-down in 8 seconds.  And it’s not like those aforementioned Super-laptops that start out really fast but then slow down almost immediately because you’ve spent the first few months making it your personal mission to install every useless piece of software your anti-virus will allow.  This machine is just as fast now as it was when I got it 5 months ago, and I’ve added and removed a ton of different web apps from the Chrome Web Store.  There are people still rockin’ their CR-48 (released May 2011) running just as fast as the day they opened them.

So, how does this little device pull off these seemingly impossible stunts?  Simple.  Let us revisit the list I provided as to why people love/hate the Chromebook.  

The Chromebook, unlike it’s Windows/Mac OS counterparts do not support the installation of software.  I know, right now you’re staring blankly at this screen wondering how it can call itself a computer if it doesn’t allow you to install software.  Well, I promise it’s more than a calculator with a keyboard.  The reason the Chromebook gets away with not supporting the installation of software, is because it’s almost completely web-based.  The apps I added are browser-based web-apps.  If you’re asking yourself what a web-app is, go to gmail.com or yahoo.com.  

These are web-apps.  

You don’t have to install gmail, or yahoo, or Pandora, they just work right in your browser.  This is how the apps on my Chromebook work. The obvious downside to this is that save for a few exceptions (Google Docs, Angry Birds) almost every app requires internet to operate.  This would have been a problem ten, even five years ago, but right now, not an issue.  Between everybody offering WiFi and the ability to wirelessly tether my phone’s 4G to my Chromebook, the internet access is not an issue.  

The advantage to this, is that you don’t have software and drivers bogging your system down.  This machine has 4GB of RAM, and that’s probably twice as much as it needs.  This has actually been made evident by the newer model, the Samsung Chromebook, which only has 2GB and runs just as fast.  This is the secret behind the speed, and particularly the lasting speed of this device.  It doesn’t need a super powerful processor, it doesn’t need a ton of RAM.  My Chromebook doesn’t even have any fans! (except me, I’m a HUGE fan)So it’s completely silent.  It also gets 6 hours of battery life.

Basically, Google nailed it with this device.  They aren’t stupid, they know this device isn’t meant to replace your other devices (much like the Tablet was not meant to replace, but rather supplement your host of electronic devices).  Google realized that 99% of what we do on a computer takes place on the web.  Facebook, Google, Email, YouTube, Video Chat etc etc.  So why not create a lightweight, very portable device that boots up and gets you on the web in just 8 seconds? 

Not only that, it allows you to be much more productive than if you were using a tablet.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tablet, but when it comes to being productive, I like having a full keyboard. And for those of you complaining that your particular software is a MUST HAVE and that this device is crap because it won’t support it, feel free to purchase a MacBook AIR or an ASUS Zenbook

Google won’t mind. 

Google isn’t trying to monopolize the laptop industry. In fact, when Google was training me to be a Specialist, They made it clear that my job wasn’t so much to sell Chromebooks as it was to make sure people who won’t like them don’t buy them.  They were WAY more concerned with returns than sales. 

Google isn’t trying to put a Chromebook in every house, they just want people to buy it and love it.  If you won’t love it, they don’t want you to buy it.  

I LOVE this Chromebook.  From it, I can listen to PandoraSpotifyGoogle Music, Amazon Music, watch YouTube, check Email, Facebook, I can build webpages (this blog, for instance, built by weebly.com, and my other page built by GoDaddy.com‘s website builder). I can edit photos with pixlr.com (web-based Photoshop clone, completely free), edit video with weVideo; I can even print from this device regardless of the fact that I can’t install drivers on this machine (google.com/cloudprint).  And if I want to video chat with someone, instead of using Skype and paying money if I want to talk to more than one person, I use Google Hangouts which allows me to video chat with 9 other people for free and streams better than Skype anyways (an Obama favorite).

And as far as storage goes, the 16GB SSD is plenty when you consider all the cloud services available (Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon, etc) and music services (Amazon Music, Google Music, Pandora, Spotify) I really have very little need to store anything locally.  Which is nice, because if I accidentally destroy my Chromebook I don’t lose any of my data or progress.

So if you want iTunes for some stupid reason this might not be for you. But if you already have a PC/Mac with iTunes and you’re looking for something to carry around with you everywhere you go, you want this device. I promise.
**UPDATE**

I decided it might be fun to show you guys how long it takes to update the OS on a chromebook.  Check it out!

About James Welbes

James is a guy who does things. Lots of things. Nothing weird, mostly computer things like blogging, web development, Netflix. He's a total Google fanboy, (despite Allo) and has been recognized as a Google Expert in Google's Chromebook Central product forum.