Samsung Series 3 Chromebook: First impressions
I recently lost my laptop, an old Gateway laptop (older model dual-core Intel processor, 3GB RAM which I had upgraded to 4GB, 320GB hard drive), and went looking for a replacement. I was on a budget and couldn’t justify a $500-800 investment on a higher-end laptop, and after realizing the majority of my computer use is in the browser, I decided to spend $250 on a Samsung Series 3 Chromebook.
When I first turned it on, I found that the “8 second startup” quote is not exaggerated. It takes almost exactly 8 seconds to get to the login screen, ready for a password to be typed in.
Additionally, the advertised battery life of 6.5 hours seems to be accurate. In fact, I often get even more out of it — 7 to 8 hours with only light web browsing — however more intensive activities such as watching Netflix drains the battery a little quicker, but that’s to be expected.
One of the most important things to note about this laptop I think is that everything feels like it “just works.” From the title bars on windows to the dock at the bottom of the screen with pinned apps, ChromeOS has succeeded in making everything simple. Unlike when setting up Windows, or Linux, you don’t have to hack things together and configure everything to your liking — after all, it’s just a browser.
But calling it “just a browser” does ChromeOS injustice, in my opinion. After all, at this point with Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, and Slides), Google Play Music (I’m a fan of All Access as a great Spotify replacement), and the Secure Shell app, this laptop feels like home to me.
Now to get to some of the design features of the laptop… I’m a big fan of chiclet keyboards, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The shift key seems to be perhaps a bit slow (oftentimes an extra letter is capitalized by accident, an issue I don’t have on most keyboards), but overall the keyboard is comfortable and easy to type on. Of course the caps lock key has been replaced with a search key, which is similar to the windows key on most laptops. It provides quick access to Google search, as well as access to any webapps you have installed.
The function keys have been replaced with a series of functionality keys: a back/forward for web pages, reload, full screen/restore, switch window, brightness controls and volume controls. The function keys aren’t missed, as there is not much use for them in the ChromeOS environment.
The touchpad seems to be a Synaptics ClickPad — these are the ones without designated left/right buttons, which support some gestures, similar to Mac laptops. I’m not a fan of them typically, as they often cause issues on Linux-based operating systems. The drivers just aren’t all there. However, Google seems to have done some work on the drivers and it actually works quite nicely (admittedly my first day with it was a bit troublesome, but I adjusted to it quickly.)
The webcam performs well in both low-light and bright locations. It is not high quality however I did find it to be perfectly acceptable for most tasks.
The actual build quality of the laptop is probably the only real weak point I have with it. The laptop is as light as the MacBook Air at only 2.5 pounds, which is great, but the laptop definitely does not feel as sturdy as, for example, an Apple laptop might. While it doesn’t feel like it will crumble in my hands, I am not convinced it would survive a good drop. Looking around on Google a bit, it seems the screens may be prone to cracking. Furthermore, on the day I bought the laptop, I did not have a case for it and made the mistake of putting it in my backpack with a few notebooks and textbooks. On the commute to school, it managed to gain a few scuff marks on the lid. Nothing too awful but it definitely takes away from the “shiny” imitation-metal plastic.
All in all, I’m quite happy with the Chromebook. It seems to run very well. I’ve had no issue with Google Play Music, Netflix, or YouTube, even when multitasking with multiple of these media sites running at once.
This laptop isn’t for everyone — you do have to realize you will be more or less restricted to the cloud for everything. However, I do think that even if I got another higher-end laptop, I would have use for this one. It’s great for tossing in your bag quickly, and having for lightning fast access to the web.