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Samsung and Acer Chromebooks: More netbook than notebook

Find out why the Samsung Series 5 and Acer Chromebooks are thin-client netbooks, not ultra-portable notebook replacements.

In December 2010, Google launched the Cr-48 Chrome notebook as part of a pilot program to test and promote its Chrome OS. I cracked open the Cr-48 and discovered hardware from Intel, Qualcomm, Azurewave, SanDisk, and Samsung. Five months later, Google is taking the project mainstream and has dubbed these new Chrome OS notebooks--"Chromebooks".

At Google I/O 2011, the company unveiled the first two commercially available Chromebooks-- the Samsung Series 5 and a machine from Acer. Starting June 15, consumers and businesses can purchase a Chromebook for under $500. Businesses can also rent them for $28/month per user through Google's Chromebooks for Business program.

Google touts its program as a way for businesses to significantly reduce the total cost of ownership for their computers. And, TechRepublic's Jason Hiner believes it may "entice a lot of organizations to consider ditching Windows for Chrome OS".

This is probably true, but consumers and businesses need to understand exactly what they're getting with the Samsung and Acer Chromebooks--netbooks, not notebooks.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook

The Samsung Series 5 will be available in two flavors--a Wi-Fi + 3G model for $499.99 (US) and a Wi-Fi-only model for $429.99 (US). You'll be able to purchase the Series 5 from Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.

Hardware Specifications:

  • Processor: 1.66 GHz Intel Atom dual-core N570
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
  • Storage: 16GB mSATA SSD
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Communications: Wireless-N Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and optional 3G (requires Verizon Wireless subscription)
  • Display: 12.1" LED (WXGA, 1280x800 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio)
  • Video out: VGA (via optional dongle)
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-ion battery (up to 8.5 hours of life)
  • Ports: Two USB 2.0 ports, 4-in-1 memory card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)
  • Camera: 1Mp HD Webcam
  • Audio: Built-in digital microphone and stereo speakers
  • Dimensions: 11.6 x 8.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Keyboard: Full-size Chrome keyboard
  • Input device: Oversized multi-touch trackpad

Acer Chromebook

Like its Samsung counterpart, the Acer Chromebook will be available in Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + 3G models. The Wi-Fi version is expected to cost $349 (US). The W-Fi + 3G model will undoubtedly cost more. You'll be able to purchase the Acer Chromebook from Amazon.com and likely other retailers.

Hardware Specifications:

  • Processor: 1.66 GHz Intel Atom dual-core (likely the N570 used in Samsung's Series 5)
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
  • Storage: 16GB SSD
  • RAM: 2GB DDR3
  • Communications: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and optional world-mode 3G capability
  • Display: 11.6-Inch LED-Backlit LCD (1366 x 768 resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio)
  • Video out: HDMI
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-ion battery (up to 8 hours of life)
  • Ports: Two USB 2.0 ports
  • Camera: 1.3Mp HD Webcam (1280 x 1024)
  • Audio: HD audio support with two built-in speakers
  • Dimensions: 11.6 x 8.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 2.95 pounds
  • Keyboard: Chrome OS keyboard
  • Input device: Touchpad

Bottom line: More netbook than notebook

Basically, the Samsung Series 5 and Acer Chromebooks are well-equipped netbooks. The N570 Atom processor and integrated graphics accelerator provide enough power to create and edit most business documents and browse the Web. But, I wouldn't try watching HD video or running CPU-intensive applications on them. The tiny 16GB SSDs will also limit the machines' usefulness when not connected to the network or an external storage device.

In all fairness however, Google doesn't intend the Samsung Series 5 and Acer Chromebooks to be stand-alone computers. Chrome OS is getting a file manager and offline access for applications, but Chromebooks aren't low-cost notebooks. They aren't dumb terminals either. Chromebooks are thin-clients with the ability to function, albeit in a limited way, without a network connection.

The success of Chromebooks will depend on how deeply consumers and businesses buy into the resurgent thin-client computing model--where machines are always connected and the cloud handles the heavy lifting and storage.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

52 comments
dmstenhouse
dmstenhouse

These will be great for sales teams whom are terrible at looking after there work laptops. But I think they will be even better for the average home user who just's wants to browse the web/email/facebook etc. But they really need to drop the price!

AG4IT
AG4IT

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Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Waste of a couple of years of development. Consumers don't want a Linux OS. Of. 16GB SSD drive? That wilol fill up fast. "Chrome OS keyboard"???

francisco.augusto
francisco.augusto

Why another S.O for netbook why not Android ???? no make sense for me.

temalcolm
temalcolm

Other than the SSD and HDMI it's the same spec's as my netbook. I use Windows home Prem' 7 and OpenOffice. Takes about 1min to boot. Battery lasts about 6hrs if 4hrs are used for Netflixs.

Chasmoes
Chasmoes

These are going to be a game changer in education; a huge market for computers. They provide a full screen experience with a keyboard. Suddenly pads are not so attractive to education because we have a more effective input (the screen isn't split between the keyboard and the content). Like thin clients we can expect a longer life cycle for these devices. The cost needs to come down some, but I'm guessing volume purchases will allow us to pick these up for less than $300 each. Students are gong to love these, and they are going to be all the computer they will need. The idea is that if one loses the device the student can pick up a new device, lose no data, and start where he or she left off. The management console will evolve so that content can be pushed out to groups of students. If a machine gets "lost" the console will be able to pinpoint its location. Google has presented us with a game changing vision of where computing is heading. Hang on!

tomasz.orzechowski
tomasz.orzechowski

I am a software developer. I won't be able to use chromebook myself because of my work but I love the concept. Watching my family using notebooks I see: web browsing all the time and emails only, once a month a small doc via text editor. 50% of my family never saved a file locally. they don't need it... My mom is far away and the task of supporting remotely her windows laptop is frustrating. I have always dreamed of a laptop that you just open and use and not worry about backup, simple and easy to use. So looking at my family - there are already 4 potential google chrome book customers. I also don't buy the whole 'all my data in one company problem'. It is for sure a smaller privacy risk than all the data people post on facebook about themselves every day.

jbalter
jbalter

I think the monthly model maybe the only saving feature of this product, but still at $28/month it seems high. That is $336 per year which over 3 years it would be $1,008... if it where leased over 36 months it would be $20 and then you own it. I think the pricing is really off. Netbooks should be in the price of under $350. over that mark and you miss the market. Google is fighing on so many fronts. The new google apps and other products that have been launched. How much are they puting into this one?

Mosblest
Mosblest

Which is why I think Apple should create a Macbook aimed at corporations based on MacBook Air's minimal architecture. Dark grey unibody shell, no movable parts, basic core duo, slimed down OS installation focued on connectivity, iWorks Professional edition and Windows enterprise compatibility. Make an optional CD/DVD drive and screens options from 11-17 models. Priced it at $499 and up and it will sell insanely great! They can still have a $800 and up consumer model in white and silver with the latest processors. Cha-Ching!

grifs71
grifs71

The majority of end users do NOT need the apps they have right now. They click on everything, downloading spyware/malware into the infamous Windows OS. Open-source utilizing a locked-down Chrome-OS would be superior, who needs storage on the local machine, that is what the cloud is for. This is the FUTURE, the end of having end users with 300G drives filled full of personal data is coming to an end. People need to learn that when you are at your JOB it is NOT your play machine. I am in favor of either A. Virtual Machines that reset at night to the original image for end users. B. Chrome-OS machines that they utilize for work duties and not for social networking garbage or downloading spyware/malware. I do not use Windows anyways, so in my job I run SL6 Linux.

tmacconnell
tmacconnell

I hate Google and the whole "cloud" concept. What everyone can't see is that the 'cloud' is nothing more than a way for big companies to make more money! Google is one of the worst cases of 'big brother' out there today. They are looking at all your data...apps, gmail, web surfing...so they can send or place smart ads in front of you (and make more money from advertisers). I wouldn't trust my company's data to a 'cloud,' let alone one run by google. They'd probably sift through it and sell it to the highest bidder! As for these new computers, they are overpriced as everyone says. ChromeOS is hardly what you'd call an "OS." No thanks.

msyed
msyed

way too expensive - at the right price could be reasonable, my price would be for a sub $200 for the wifi model, for what is essentially a glorified internet browser. However, there are serious Google security issues that have been highlighted in the last few months, with sessions or authentication tokens that can be hijacked over open wifi, the last lot of flaws where tokens remain active for up to two weeks. Dont get me wrong, I love Googe Apps, and use them myself (not over open wifi of course :-) but this will dent the confidence for businesses considering this option.

richard.tatschner
richard.tatschner

Conceptualy there is nothing innovative here. Thin client architecture has been around for decades with Citrix and more lately VMware. So why has thin client technology remained in the minority? The adoption of these technologies for SMBs has always been financially driven. The cost of ownership is offset by the cost of infrastructure support and Thin client architecture is still more esoteric than conventional Lan architecture. It is also wholly dependent on the provider knowing what applications and resources the end user not only needs but what will make him productive and efficient. Even within a moderate office environment there are individuals that require something unique and specialised for their job. This can't be catered for easily in a wholly Thin client environment. So I really don't see Cloud computing being the "single answer to our prayers" that it is touted to be. That said, I do think that these devices have a niche but since this niche is of marginal import to the user the price has to come way down to make it attractive to try.

alec.wood
alec.wood

Which is that these are designed for business users, who by and large manipulate documents and information. They won't play HD video, but how many accountancy firms want their employees watching HD video anyway, wouldn't they rather they spent their time on emails and spreadsheets? The truth is that business users just wouldn't need the raw power of today's modern computers if the OS didn't demand it. So, if the OS doesn't, which in this case it doesn't, and you buy into the cloud concept, then these are perfectly adequate for purpose - run-of-the-mill business purpose, not domestic, not specialist. Personally I don't buy into the cloud concept because of the sheer cost of upstream bandwidth in the UK it's not commercially viable, but, if the cloud concept gains momentum, this may change.

tutor4pc
tutor4pc

The cloud is a way to sell services and products but not a way to run a business. The internet is inherently flawed and full of holes that all kinds of hackers use for fun. I would not even want my people have an internet connection but rather use my internal network, preferably on a main frame. My trust in the internet is so great that I double check my data to make sure they are consistent and correct (as far as I can see). The internet should not be accessible to employees in general because they do to many things on company time that are not company related. And besides, dangers lurk around every corner.

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

If the "cloud" can be custom built, I think it will be a great company gear.

JP-470
JP-470

I add my agreement with most everyone on this post!! To expensive! And what is it good for when there is no connection? It's a nifty idea, but it is not for me: after receiving a dozen email from banks, credit cards etc that my information may have been compromised because they all use the same common service company, I am not sure that I want all my information / applications outsourced to some cloud!!

johnpinna
johnpinna

I can remember in the 90's Larry Ellison was proclaiming the end of the PC. I can't remember the product they were pushing but it didn't work. In the end, it's all about $$$ - if the price can't be lower the $200 - why would you buy what is essentially a limited device when for a little bit more - you can buy a more functional PC. This is not to say that in the future this can't work. As more apps and functionality move to the cloud - this will be come viable.

webservant2003
webservant2003

Okay, I'm a geek and love cool new tech. And the idea of computing in the cloud appeals to my geeky side, but on a practical level for business, I don't know if someone is going to want to trust access to millions or billions of dollars of financial data or corporate secrets to wi-fi or 3g connections to cloud storage. Plus, I'm a teacher and I do a lot of cloud applications like grades, online teaching, etc. If one of our services goes down for a day or two or is down for an upgrade, it is annoying, but unless it happens during finals week, nothing critical is compromised. And that happens on our servers about once a month for a few hours to a few days. A business or mission critical government operation can't say, "Oh we'll get back to you on our negotiations, Google is down" or "We'll take care of planning that military operation tomorrow because we can't retrieve the data we need from Dropbox.

johncymru
johncymru

I have a 'low end' notebook that came with Windows 7 HP and on which I also run Linux Mint which is better specced with regards to CPU, RAM, storage and connectivity and runs for about the same time with the provided battery and cost less than these Chromebooks. They are going to have to drop way below that price point, perhaps close to half, to make them even remotely interesting.

thisaintmyemail
thisaintmyemail

I'm sorry, but if It's not x86, it's not a computer, it's a toy.

WmTConqror
WmTConqror

The one child one laptop concept. Have a standard "google" or "linux" set of base apps (Open office or Google docs, etc) burned directly to a memory location provide some usability without connection. a usb or other removable storage spot. When needed the client into a main system, and that runs virtual machines, so that the then "dumb terminal" can emulate whatever OS you are teaching.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I want one for a dedicated banking/shopping PC. That is - if it uses a read only OS from the cloud. I assume the SSD is for files and sudden offline events - at least, that was the original plan.

rcgconsulting
rcgconsulting

Based on hardware specs, and a very brief description, these devices would seem to be nothing to get excited about, let alone worthy of $500. However, we have no idea (from this article) what they look like, how they feel, and exactly what they run. A similar spec sheet of the iPad wouldn't impress me too much either, but in the real world they're very desirable products. When do we get to see the whole story?

djmorrissey
djmorrissey

They are a road we're all heading down - but until Cloud storage becomes more stable (less prown to outages) - something dependent on it will not get wide acceptance. If these were more functional when isolated from the cloud they would be more viable, but the price point would be off with the additional hardware needed. They will survey in a nitch; hopefully until the infrastructure they need becomes availible. Until then - I see them viable as point of service mobile solutions in hotels, resorts, and some large corporations

shawfield
shawfield

Businesses must pay $50 per user ( amortised over 3 years ). When compared to M'soft Office, its cheap. Or more accurately, M'soft Office is expensive when most users need only a quick word pro & limited spreadsheet functionality. So there is a case to be made for these devices in a business environment. Its a bit silly to 'judge' them as if they were Laptops to be used by enthusiasts/geeks with all their demand for power-use.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

This will be like the netbooks that originally came with Linux desktop and very little storage. People may buy them but will soon find that they are so limited that they will give them up for a real computer. Shoot, the iPad looks more useful than these things.

l_creech
l_creech

That said, if they bring the price down to something withing reason I could see Chromebooks working well for many of my customers (mostly non-profits that already are using Google Apps Education Edition). At the current price I'll keep selling Lenovo Thinkpads which have much better specs for roughly the same money.

mike.smith
mike.smith

Google never intended these to be full on laptops, they access google apps and docs online and thats what they do not much else... its a shame they are a bit more expensive than what i was hopnig for but still, they will do what they are designed to do.. and maybe you could install another OS on them but why would you want to? We have hundreds of cheap netbooks that have very similar specs that we can do that with.. I do believe for these to catch on the prices need to drop.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

That's the only way I can see a justification for the price. Which begs the question: why pay extra for something that's available for free?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Charging the price for a cheap notebook or an expensive netbook is wrong considering it is not as feature rich as either of them. A laptop that can only browse the web (Essentially, cloud apps) probably sits in the 200 dollar range.

Al_nyc
Al_nyc

The samsung has the specs of a $225 net book. They must be dreaming if they think they will sell any for $200 more.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

For anyone who didn't get the memo it's important to inform people that these things aren't really computers, even less so than a netbook. At least a netbook is capable of running desktop software. Perhaps there will be a hack that allows you to run various Linux binaries but the Chromebook doesn't really have much of a hard drive. I have more storage in my pocket.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

With Atom processors, integrated graphics, and tiny storage capacity, the Samsung Series 5 and Acer Chromebooks are thin-client netbooks; not ultra-portable notebook replacements. Basically, Chromebooks are thin-clients with the ability to function, albeit in a limited way, without a network connection. The success of Chromebooks will depend on how deeply consumers and businesses buy into the resurgent thin-client computing model???where machines are always connected and the cloud handles the heavy lifting and storage. Are you users and IT infrastructure ready for Chromebooks? Could they do their current jobs, using their current tools, from a Chromebook? Check out the hardware specs on the first two Chromebooks and let me know: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/itdojo/samsung-and-acer-chromebooks-more-netbook-than-notebook/2596

money!

Sounds like googles vision..sure enough, lets all hail to google, google are just stiring up this cloud concept for the money, Google have just presented us with nothing more than just your attention.

cloud smaller risk than puting data on facebook?? but millions use facebook not cloud, both pose great risk but with personal data in the cloud that you can only access through a cloud provider thats an even bigger risk if cloud goes data goes...cloud providers would just be snooping anyway because they can. The cloud model has been criticized by privacy advocates for the greater ease in which the companies hosting the cloud services control, and thus, can monitor at will, lawfully or unlawfully, the communication and data stored between the user and the host company

jbalter
jbalter

More and more business needs items we would have called personal 3 years ago. There are videos and persentation that many clients play on the mobile device. Audio at one time was not a business function and now with webcasts and video conference is a must.

nwallette
nwallette

Wow, two sentences and wrong on three counts. 1) Atom *IS* x86. 2) The x86 reign won't last forever. MacOS only ported to x86 recently. Linux runs on anything with a CPU. Even Windows has been ported to PowerPC, Alpha, Itanium, and soon ARM: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2011/jan11/01-05socsupport.mspx 3) The cliche mantra that new technology is just "a toy" speaks of someone with no imagination, who can only see through their tunnel vision to the next release of Angry Birds. Try this phrase next time: "It's not for me."

tlgalenson
tlgalenson

I wonder if a sylvania netbook at $100 plus a vidcamera might not be a better wifi solution.

lstowe
lstowe

How is a laptop out of the box any more feature rich than a chromebook?? To get these features you would have to install them. This will waste space on your computer and slow it down. The chromebooks don't need you to install applications, so they wont slow down. You don't need storage capacity in the traditional sense because they are expecting your data to live online. Most of the comments are not looking at this correctly. It's a whole different mind set, so the old rules don't apply. What we should be comparing is performance...

WmTConqror
WmTConqror

I saw this article and it reminded me of the smart refrigerator. The one that has a touchscreen in the door and you could check the internet etc... It's a very clever marketing item but, I don't know that it meets a real need. I could see using something like this if it were only going to connect to and through a company server, in other words a "dumb terminal". But still the price? Oy gevalt!

vortek
vortek

I'd like to know who has a quality 12" dual core/2mb for $225... doesn't exist. Agreed, the Samsung is a bit pricey, but the Acer at $350 would be worth a look. Remember, most cheap netbooks have the limited Win7 'Starter' version... no great shakes.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I can imagine it being just the right tool for some sales functions. Like, shop floor sales promoters and stock checkers. But maybe that's more of a tablet area.

realmrealm
realmrealm

I was very skeptical about the use of a "cloud laptop" as anything but a casual use machine. I have a couple businesses and figured that I never be able to just leave with a chromebook in my hand without having a regular laptop in a bag on my shoulder. That's how it went at first, but as time went on I find now that I can confidently go out and use the CR-48 all day long without a need for a laptop. I can do about 95% of all of my work from it. I think that's pretty darn impressive. My email/calendar/contacts are on the web. I remote support most of my customers through the web. I only had to change to doing 2 spreadsheets (job tracker and priority list) to google docs instead of having it in libreoffice and dropbox. There is a terminal screen available, so I have ssh access to my servers. webcam and microphone built in helps me do conference calls or talk with my wife and kids when I'm on the road. Viola 95% of my work, and almost all of my play is handled by this thing. To those that say these laptops aren't too fast, or that they can't do much. Keep in mind that the CR-48 had a single core atom processor in it. I can watch movies, and crunch 30 some tabs at the same time. It's pretty solid. Remember this aint windows. And oh yeah, there is no data on it to loose if it gets lost or stolen. At any time I can sit down at another chromebook, login and everything is right back in front of me (bookmarks, extensions, apps). The bookmarks keep in sync with my chrome/chromium browsers I use on my other machines....... The price will come down, I mean it's the first ones out, give them a break. Look at the motorola xoom and how much it came out at compared to similiar tablets hitting the shelves now. History shows that first to market will try to bring in a higher price. Once other manufacturers jump on the price will come down. Call me a fanboy, but I feel I have some very valid points to love this thing.

realvarezm
realvarezm

This equipment is a netbook in all its definition or even less, but which slot of your already filled technological space it is suited for. Its hard to tell how the public will hanble this new segment, right now or even in a couple of years, just the tecnological entusiasts will try to buy them but the rest will wait for something with more power and bang. At least i will wait.

Slayer_
Slayer_

That's gonna suck...

vonkprep
vonkprep

Good points you make. Laptop starts empty, sure. But how will a user access graphics programmes such as CorelDRAW where no web app exists? 16GB is not enough and external drives cannot be loaded with bootable programmes? Am I being stoopid? Please advise.

Nathan Wareing
Nathan Wareing

I am writing this from my test CR-48 and I believe it to be a decent machine for what it is being marketed to do. Graphics are not what it will be doing right out of the box but there is Aviary's Phoenix image editor that is in beta and does a decent job so far.

jockey7968
jockey7968

That is right, Chromebooks is only apply to simple office work, web browse, other work maybe not enough resource or utilities to running. Specially is graphic job or multi media.