Almost two years after Google first announced plans to build an operating system based on its Chrome web browser, the search giant has announced that the first Chrome OS-based netbooks – dubbed "Chromebooks" – from Samsung and Acer are set to go on sale from next month. With no traditional HDD for local storage, the web-centric devices store all the user's apps, documents, and settings in the cloud resulting in some trimmed down devices with impressive boot up times and battery life.
Samsung Series 5 Chromebook
Samsung's Series 5 Chromebook sports a 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800, anti-reflective and anti-glare LED backlit display with 300 nit brightness that Samsung says can provide vibrant color even outdoors. Under the hood is a 1.66 GHz dual-core Intel Atom N570 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 16GB mSATA SSD. The Series 5 Chromebooks also feature a one-megapixel webcam, 4-in-1 card reader supporting SD, SDHC and MMC media cards and a li-ion battery with a lifespan of up to 1,000 cycles providing up to 8.5 hours of battery life – with Samsung also claiming five hours of video playback before recharging. There's also an optional VGA adaptor available for connecting the devices to a second monitor or TV.
Users frustrated by slow boot times will find little to complain about with the devices booting up in under 10 seconds and resuming instantly from standby. Meanwhile, for the security conscious, Google is calling Chrome OS the first consumer OS designed from the ground up to defend against malware and viruses through what is calls the principle of "defense in depth." Instead of traditional virus protection software, the OS provides multiple layers of protection, including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot.
Samsung will offer its Series 5 Chromebooks in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + 3G flavors and has teamed with Verizon in the U.S. who will provide up to 100MB of data per month for two years as part of the purchase price. With the web-centric nature of the devices that probably won't be enough for most users, but it's better than nothing and an additional gigabyte will also be available for US$20 a month.
The Series 5 Chromebooks from Samsung measure 11.6 x 8.6 x 0.8 inches (29.4 x 21.8 x 2 cm) and weigh 3.26 lbs (1.48 kg). The Wi-Fi only model retails for US$429, while the Wi-Fi + 3G model is priced at $499, with both available in white or silver.
Acer Chromebooks – similar, but different
There are more similarities than differences between Samsung's and Acer's Chromebook offerings. Despite a smaller 11.6-inch, 1368 x 768 display, Acer's Chromebook features the same dimensions and weight as Samsung's Series 5 offerings. According to the listings on Amazon, the Wi-Fi only model will be powered by the same N570 Atom processor as Samsung's Chromebooks, while the 3G worldwide version will pack a NM10 Atom processor. Other differences include a 1.3-megapixel webcam, the addition of a HDMI port, and a cut in estimated battery life to six hours of continuous usage.
Acer's Chromebooks will also be a bit cheaper, starting at US$349 for the Wi-Fi model, while the 3G worldwide model will go for an undisclosed, but higher, sum.