Samsung Series 3 Chromebook review
- USB and HDMI support
- Comfortable keyboard
- Improving Chrome App Store
- Disappointing speaker position
- Poor front-facing camera
- Screen not very vibrant
As Microsoft ushers in Windows 8 in a bid to unify laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones all under one OS, Google continues to push the concept of cloud storage and working inside the speedy confines of its Chrome web browser by announcing the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook.
Following on from the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook which improved on the first Chrome OS running laptop, the 11.6-inch Series 3 is an affordable alternative to the MacBook Air 11-inch and a slew of Windows 8 hybrid tablet- laptops such as the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and Dell XPS Duo 12, but does it really give you value for money?
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook: Size and build
If you loved the minimalist look of the Series 5, you’ll be happy to hear that the Series 3 maintains the same stylish, slender design that has a MacBook-esque feel to it, until you actually put your hands on it and realise that it is a grey plastic chassis as opposed to an aluminium like the one found on the pricey Apple laptop.
Weighing in at 1.14kg the Series 3 is lighter than its predecessor (1.28kg), but at 0.8-inches thin only marginally more portly but it is generally a slim shell that is far from heavyweight when carrying it in a rucksack.
In terms of connections you’ll find the 3.55mm headphone jack and SD card slot on the left side of the laptop while round the back there’s a USB 3.0 port that can also be used to charge the Chromebook plus USB 2.0 and a HDMI video/audio port to display 1080p video.
Additionally there’s an unused SIM card slot which indicates the possibility of 3G support, while two speakers sit underneath and deliver decent sound but are easily muffled if resting it on your lap.
Open up the laptop and you’ll find a Chiclet style keyboard that looks Apple inspired with curved black keys that offer great travel and comfort for long typing sessions while there is also a button-less trackpad. Samsung includes some nice keyboard shortcuts to adjust brightness, control volume and even take full and partial screenshots.
Samsung Chromebook: Features
Not a great deal has changed from the Chrome OS relying on Wi-Fi and a Gmail account to get access to the speedy browser syncing bookmarks and tabs from desktop and mobile versions and opening access to applications like Gmail, YouTube, Google Play, Maps and Drive. Google Docs offer offline support which still makes it useful even when you don’t have an internet connection.
One thing you will have to get used to of course is that everything is saved and stored in the cloud, and while there is 16GB of built-in flash storage, you will have to make good use of Google Drive with 100GB of room offered for free for the first two years.
Chrome is of course the key talking point here, but swapping an Intel processor for an ARM based Exynos 5 Dualcore chip processor with 2GB of RAM, it’s similar architecture found in smartphones and tablets which means no noisy fan, and reduces the cost of the laptop without heavily impacting on the overall performance of a laptop stripped to down to the bare hardware essentials.
Bluetooth is also supported, while the Built-in 0.3-megapixel webcam has dropped from the 1-megapixel, which should cater for video chats and Google+ Hangouts but don’t expect amazing clarity or quality in this department.
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook: Screen
The 11.6-inch matte display boasts a 1366 x 768 resolution which is an improvement on the Series 5 and while it lacks vibrancy and great colour, it serves up great levels of clarity and decent viewing angles giving text and images a detailed and sharp feel which is more than ideal for the type of tasks you are probably going to use the Chromebook for.
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook : Performance
Living up to its claim of booting up in around 10 seconds the Series 3 Chromebook also resumes instantly when in sleeping mode and can pick up a Wi-Fi connection relatively quickly which means no loading times to wait for when you need to quickly jump back into editing documents for instance.
Putting that dualcore processor to the test, the Chromebook deals with general web browsing and accessing Gmail comfortably however things can come under a little bit of a strain when you’ve got tabs and apps open aplenty testing that 2GB of RAM to its full potential allowing a bit more time for pages to refresh and churn out content quickly than a fully-fledged PC might do.
In the case of gaming and video playback there can be some very slight but noticeable frame rate issues, but it generally performs well with the ARM based power proving that there is not a dramatic difference between the Intel powered Series 5.
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook: Battery
The Series 3 Chromebook packs a 4080 mAh capacity battery which is capable of around 6.5 hours of battery life and having intensely used the laptop to watch video, play games and use Google Docs to write this review, it made it through a day. Even having used it sparingly on full charge, it made it through a couple of days before we had to re-charge it.
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook: Verdict
So can the cheaper Samsung Series 3 Chromebook pave the way for more people to leave a life of optical drives and desktops littered with icons behind them? The price and performance is certainly a step in the right direction.
For those who are brand new to Chrome, It will definitely take some time adjusting to the strange new Chrome surroundings, having to work mostly within a browser and relying on the Chrome App Store, but it doesn’t take long to see the benefits of a cloud based laptop that does those everyday tasks so effectively and with minimal fuss.
The cheaper components don’t have a detrimental effect on the overall performance, but some traditional laptop users might be concerned about some of its multitasking prowess.
Samsung and Google are trying to sell the Chromebook as an ‘additional’ computer and at £229, the price is definitely right for a great looking laptop that covers most of the a computing bases but still has some way to go before it can be considered an operating system on par with what Apple and Microsoft currently serve up.
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook release date: Available now
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook price: £229