Shane Brady: Google Chromebook In-depth Review

Written by Shane P. Brady

You need a portable personal machine, you want something that’s light, capable and features long battery life. You also want something that’s great for the things you do online. Shane Brady’s in-depth review here.

Find my long-term in-depth review below.

I’ve been reviewing the Google Chromebook by Samsung. And over time, after examining the latest laptops, notebooks and subnotebooks, it’s ended up as my main squeeze.

No one is more surprised about this than I am.

Look, if you need a portable personal machine, you want something that’s light, capable and features long battery life. You also want something that’s great for the things you do online. Despite expectations to the contrary, the Google Chromebook ended up the winner in all these areas. Here’s why.


In this review, I dug into the Samsung Series S550 Wi-Fi-only edition. That’s because, for people like me who already have an abundance of hot spot-capable devices, the more expensive 3G version is overkill.

The specs, which I’ll include below, are the least interesting part of the S550. Find them here if you disagree. To me, it’s about the experience. And the details of everyday use. Rip it apart and you’ll see it isn’t ideal in all respects, but what it lacks in individual features, it makes up for overall.

A great example of this is its trackpad. I checked that out first because that’s one place where I find many PC-compatible and other non-Apple devices stumble the most.

For a small laptop, a good trackpad is critical to a smooth experience. The S550 has a pretty good trackpad — not the best — but as good or better than many I’ve tried across the top PC-compatible makers.

The display too, is not top notch. On my particular device — and this will vary depending on the exact unit you look at, appeared a little washed out.

But the keyboard was a pleasant surprise. I found that my large hands felt comfortable on the wrist rest and the keys have a nice touch. After looking at those three issues, none of them stellar, I checked out the actual user experience in terms of what it’s like to really use it today. And that’s where I hit a turning point, as you’ll see below.


Logging in to this Chromebook is like logging into a Google account anywhere. That’s nice. I use two-factor authentication on my Google account. That’s a feature supported in the Google Chrome OS, too.

Log in and you’ll see a lot of familiar icons. The bottom left of the screen contain shortcuts to a Chrome tab, Youtube, Google Search, Gmail and an apps button. All my Chrome apps show up via the apps button. That makes the Chrome OS feel a little more like a full OS versus a browser window.


The kinds of things I’ve been working on the last few months outside of my day job are all doable on the Chromebook.  My email client has been the Gmail web app for years.  I’ve been writing songs, poems and prose in Google docs for the last year. My instant message client of choice, GTalk, is a separate app in Chrome OS and keeps me connected to friends and family.

TweetDeck has been my Twitter client for a while, and it has a Chrome version that works quite well.  There is even an SSH client for Chrome/Chrome OS that lets me connect to my servers.  If I need to connect to a machine on my network, I can use a remote desktop Chrome app that connects me to my Mac or my PC.  In terms of being productive I have most of my tools.


But there’s more than just great productivity with Chromebook.  It’s called entertainment. Youtube is an obvious destination, but you also have a Netflix app for watching movies. Amazon Instant Video works well as a replacement or stopgap.

I stream music from Google Music and Rdio and will add Spotify when it comes out as a web app.  I put in an SD card to watch mp4s.  I’ve done a couple Google Hangouts that were not as smooth as on my Macbook Pro, but they weren’t a dealbreaker for me.


Image credits: Shane Brady

Now for some reality. It doesn’t play PC games and there is no Java support.  The local disk is only a 16GB SSD which means you really need good connectivity to take advantage, but I believe that’s become the case for almost everything we do.  If I don’t have Internet connectivity I can’t really be productive.

The target market: business and education. That’s the beauty of this. It’s for people who just need a basic computing experience and a reliable solid state device with little or no local storage.

After using the Chromebook, my conclusion is that Chromebook is great for someone like me, who works in the cloud and accesses the Internet through a browser.  The weight, the battery life, and the speed of Chrome makes the Chromebook a really reliable computing device.

I haven’t missed anything from my Macbook and I feel more productive since I have fewer distractions available.  Sure, distractions are my problem, but I can’t help but feel the Chromebook is helping me focus.  I would recommend everyone try out a Chromebook and see if it fits your needs.

I did, and I’m happier for it.

Bottom line: The Google Chromebook by Samsung offers a fast, clean, and productive computing environment that will fill the needs for anyone who mainly uses web-based apps already.

Company: Samsung
ProductSamsung Series 5 S550
Price$449.99; with 3G $549.99
ProsFast, light, capable of being a productivity device
ConsReally needs solid online connectivity, small local storage, limited app selection