User Experience & Usability

Similar to our performance analysis in the Surface review, there are really two sides to the performance of a Chromebook. There's the user experience as well as what the underlying hardware is capable of. I'll start with the user experience.

Chromebooks have never been all that robust when it comes to user experience. When Google first announced them they didn't even support mounting USB storage, although that has since been rectified. Although Google may have grand visions for where Chrome OS could go, today it serves one real purpose: to provide an affordable platform for a good web experience free of viruses and malware. To that end, the new Chromebook accomplishes its goal fairly well - as did the devices that came before it.

Chrome tends to be my favorite browser, and the experience maps fairly well the Chromebook platform. Web pages render properly and quickly (given the hardware that is). Compatibility isn't an issue. Everything just seems to work.

Obviously a major selling point of Chrome OS is that the web now allows for many content rich applications to be delivered directly in the browser rather than through a standalone executable. Google helps give access to these applications through the Chrome Web Store, although it's important to note that not all of them will run on the ARM based Chromebook (nor is there a good listing of those that will/won't run). The apps themselves vary in type from simple games to productivity tools. Many are quite functional, but the performance just isn't very good compared to a $500 tablet or even a $500 PC.

Technically the Chromebook can do a lot, but for anything other than browsing, YouTube and Google docs use I wouldn't get my hopes up. The heavier apps just don't run smoothly on the platform. Even web browsing isn't what I'd consider fast, but it's still acceptable. To put things in perspective, I got a performance warning trying to play Cut the Rope on the new Chromebook. Stability can also be a problem. Try to deviate too much from normal web browsing and you'll be greeted with long pauses and even system locks. For example, while testing WebGL performance on the new Chromebook I had to power cycle the machine after the browser became unresponsive. Normal web browsing is fine though.

There are other annoyances that aren't strictly performance related. For example, Netflix streaming won't work on the new Chromebook. Although image browsing support is native to the OS, there's no support for RAW camera files from a DSLR.

For the basic necessities however, the Chromebook does embody the fast enough computing concept. I researched, wrote and did almost all of my work while preparing this review on the Chromebook and generally found the experience acceptable. Other features like Pandora worked just fine (although I'd occasionally get hiccups in music playback if I loaded a particularly complex page). Whenever I'd switch back to my Ivy Bridge notebook I'd really appreciate the extra speed, but for writing and web browsing duties the Chromebook got the job done. Had Chrome OS been built around a lesser browser I don't think I would be as positive about the experience.

Display Quality, Keyboard & Trackpad Performance: Atom vs. ARM's Cortex A15
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  • superflex - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Way to use the crappiest pictures of the display you could wrestle up.
    If the display is on par with other 768 TN panels used in laptops reviewed by AT, why did you use those washed out pictures of the display? I don't see the same lack of photography skills when reviewing other laptops with similar panels.
    I guess since Google isn't stroking AT the same way Apple does, a fair review with fair pictures would be pointless.
    Hacks!
    Reply
  • PsychoPif - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Why would you base your opinion on a picture when they provide numerics to back up the review?

    Since I learned about Photoshop, I no longuer believe what I see on a picture anyway.
    Reply
  • superflex - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Ever hear the phrase "A picture says a thousand words"?
    For the casual viewer, who may not delve into the display numbers, the pictures certainly do tell a story. It just depends on what story AT wants to tell.
    Reply
  • superflex - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Look at the review of the Dell XPS 14Z. According to the numbers in this review, the panel in the Sammy CB is on par, if not better than the one used by Dell. Look at the pictures of the Dell display vs the CB display. Are they on par with one another?
    You can certainly influence a consumers purchasing decision based on some sub-par photographs.
    Well done AT.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Do you really think the people technologically sophisticated enough to be interested in an AnandTech review are the same people who would base their purchasing decision on one photograph of a display? Reply
  • superflex - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Do you really think nobody will do a Google search for "Samsung Chromebook Review" and find AT's site on the list?
    I guess Google is smart enough to know a persons IQ and direct them away from AT and its "sophisticated" readers.
    Sheeesh, get over yourself.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Seriously? Just start reading the review, it is clearly not targeted at consumers. Heck, there's a photo of a circuit board on the first page! There's a tear down of the device (complete with photos) before the display is even discussed! Who is going to read this review other than people who care deeply about the technical aspects of the Chromebook?

    But I'm starting to think you know that, and the real reason you're upset is because AnandTech pointed out that the Chromebook has a crappy display.
    Reply
  • SND_ - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Most likely the Chromebook doesn't have a very good display AND the picture sucks.

    I did notice that the display looks very poor in that image. I doubt it's that bad (two feet in front of you). . . typing "Chromebook" into Google will fetch you better pictures of suggesting a display of higher quality.
    Reply
  • LogOver - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    I would like to see a comparison with the Celeron-based Chromebook Reply
  • krumme - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Celleron is a different price segment.

    The comparison was perfect and valid imho.
    Reply

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