Friday, November 16, 2012

Samsung Chromebook Series 3 Review


If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a tech geek looking for justification to blow $250 on a new toy, the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook. I can’t tell you that it’s a must buy, or that you should buy something else. So far it meets my needs; I am satisfied.

Before going into why I got the Chromebook, let me tell you that what you have heard about it is true.


  • It has a 16 GB hard drive. You can expand storage with an SD card.
  • It’s small and lightweight.
  • It has enough horsepower to run; but, it will chug a bit on steep hills.
  • Battery life is pretty good.
  • It’s silent. No fans or drive noise.  
  • It’s a good computer for $250; it’s not a great computer.

My initial reaction was not good. The ads say there’s nothing to set up when you buy a Chromebook. Well, it took about 20 minutes to set up and download updates before I could log in. It also hung up a couple times. Since then, it’s been pretty smooth.

As for how I justified to myself why I needed it, here goes.

Why I Got It

I get invited to events to record video and take photos. The reason I’m invited is so that I will upload the content to the web ASAP to help hype up the event or the organization hosting the event. I’ve always thought that it’s best to post content while the event is going on, or immediately afterwards.

My vision was to be able to pop out a memory card from my camera and into the Chromebook for uploading. The instant startup and good battery life would make it less of a hassle to quickly do the uploads without waiting for the damned thing to boot up and shut down. Windows computers always slow down with age and endless updates.


My old laptop was taking 15 minutes to boot up with Windows Vista. When I changed it to Ubuntu, it was fast at first; but, it’s starting to bloat too. Plus, the old laptop is heavier and larger. In other words, I was in the market for another laptop anyway. The question was mainly about finding a suitable replacement.

Accessories

Last night, I plugged my Flip camera to download video for uploading to Youtube. I copy/pasted some HD video from the Flip cam to an SD card plugged in. Not a problem.
I plugged in a USB mouse; no problem. I plugged in my Blue Snowball microphone; no problem.

I know that printing can be problematic if I don’t have a Windows machine running at home.

I love my old Android Galaxy Tab; but, the inability to plug in thumb drives, memory cards, and the lack of a keyboard were holding me back from being productive on the go.

Why It Fits


Some of the complaints about the Chromebook are actually the selling points for me.

The small solid state hard drive is sufficient for my needs. Well, not so much the size; it was the solid state part that sold me. I replace several hard drives a year for my clients. A fact of life is that hard drives fail. They fail when they have ideal conditions, and especially fail when they are on devices that move around and get bumped. There are Asus netbooks running Windows 7 at Best Buy cheaper than the Chromebook. But, they all sport 320 GB hard drives. That’s pretty large for a netbook; but, it would be a real pain to replace the drive on a device without a DVD drive.

I had the opportunity to buy the 5 series Chromebook for $299, a floor model. But, besides the extra cost, that model is a little bit bigger. One selling point for me on the 3 series model was the physical size. There is about a 1 pound difference between the two models. Portability won in this case.

In terms of power, the only thing that is disappointing, which I expected prior to buying the Chromebook, was that Evernote simply would not be an option. I have more than 4000 notes in my Evernote account. PC browsers choke when I use the Evernote website for my account. I expected the same for the Chromebook. Sure enough, it struggled. If ever there were a 3rd party app I’d want to install, it would be an Evernote client.

If you’re the type to have 50 browser tabs open, minimum, forget it. The Chromebook will crumble. But, if you’re heavy into Google Apps and such, you won’t need open tabs. It’s a very simple matter to open a Google service as if it were an app. It’s my polite way of saying that it’s the wrong device for the ADHD crowd. 


There are only 4 ports on the Chromebook. SD card, HDMI out,, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0. That’s a bit sparse if you plan on plugging in all kinds of stuff. But, bogging down your Chromebook with peripherals seems like an attempt to make it into a workstation.

Assessment

And that brings me to my assessment of the Chromebook. Do you know how you can got to any chain restaurant and cound on the food tasting the same? That’s what the Chromebook is like; it’s like using Chrome on a PC, Mac, or Linux machine. You get pretty much the same experience at all of them.

If you are like me, you mainly operate out of a browser. When you switch among several computers and an Android tablet, you need to be very invested in cloud computing for consistent access to your work.

I wish I could say that the Chromebook is amazing; but, in reality it’s like taking off a pair of pants and putting them back on, expecting them to feel different. Chrome has been my main browser since it launched; the Chromebook is all Chrome. So, I consider the familiarity and consistency a success. In other words, it's great because it's unremarkable. More importantly, it allows me to get the job done.
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