Display Quality

The new Chromebook's display is still a fairly mediocre TN panel, but for anyone used to the majority of low cost PC notebooks over the past few years it's really not any different. The 16:9 display measures 11.6 inches along the diagonal with a 1366 x 768 resolution.

Viewing angles are pretty bad. Max brightness tops out at 233 nits, although contrast ratio is better than a lot of low cost notebooks. The low max brightness means that outdoor use will be an issue, generally speaking for really bright sunlight you'll need something closer to 500 nits to be usable.

LCD Analysis - White

LCD Analysis - Black

LCD Analysis - Contrast

Given the price tag however, the Chromebook's display is passable. What's more bothersome is that PC makers were fine shipping this quality of a display in systems that were 2x the price of the new Chromebook.

Keyboard & Trackpad

The new Chromebook retains the chicklet keyboard that its predecessors introduced. Key feel is a little mushier than I would like but overall the keyboard is pretty good. There's obviously no backlight, which again is a concession Samsung had to make to hit the Chromebook's aggressive price point.

As this is a Chrome OS device there's no Windows/Apple key alternative, just oversized control/alt keys which I really do appreciate.

Chrome OS' keyboard shortcuts do mimic those of OS X. Ctrl + W will close a Chrome tab/window, and more universally ctrl + L will shift focus to the omnibar. There's a row of shortcut keys at the top of the keyboard. Shortcuts include brightness and volume controls, page forward/back and refresh keys, as well as dedicated keys for maximizing the current window and switching between windows (although alt+tab still works for that as well). There's no capslock key, but a dedicated search key in its place. Perhaps Google doesn't want Chromebook users to contribute to overly capitalized YouTube comments.

None of these aspects of the keyboard are new, they've been around since the first Chromebook. There are no dedicated page up/down, home or end keys unfortunately (although alt + up/down will work as a page up/down replacement).

The trackpad is the weaker of the two input devices on the new Chromebook, and even it isn't all that bad. Tracking accuracy is good, and I never had any unintentional taps. The trackpad is actually a clickpad with no discrete buttons. Two fingers on the clickpad will trigger a right click (a two finger tap and click both work). Two finger scrolling is also supported, although there aren't any other gestures. My biggest problem with the trackpad is its click + drag performance isn't all that good. Compared to some of the garbage that has shipped in much more expensive PC notebooks (and Ultrabooks for that matter), Samsung did a good job with the Chromebook.

Inside the new Chromebook User Experience & Usability
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  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    I think netbooks are the more obvious comparison. You can buy Intel/AMD powered netbooks running Windows/Linux for $200 and up. The "better" choice depends on just how basic your computing needs are and how much you can live with a cloud-based operating system. Reply
  • Krysto - Thursday, November 1, 2012 - link

    Browsing on them will be much slower, especially on those single core ones that cost $200. I know because I've used one. Single core Atom browsing on a netbook is excruciatingly painful. Plus, I believe I saw in a Cnet review that this Chromebook has higher performance in browsing than IE9 with a Core 2 Quad. That's not a very fair comparison because it used IE9, but still. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Thursday, November 1, 2012 - link

    I wasn't advocating one or the other, just pointing out the obvious comparison is not between used laptops and chromebooks, but between chromebooks and other "netbook-like" laptops.

    It's a tradeoff between running a lightweight, but very limited operating system (Chrome) or a heavier but full-featured and mature operating system (Windows or Linux). Performance versus greater availability of features and software.

    I've also used single core atom netbooks and found them painfully slow. I haven't used the newer dual core Atom or dual core AMD-based netbooks that are more common these days. I'm guessing they are similarly painful, given that single-threaded performance is the major limitation for light workloads.
    Reply
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Chromebook...a "solutiion" still in search for a problem/market to serve. Reply
  • Peroxyde - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Can you please clarify how the Chromebook perform the following tasks in offline mode?

    1. Can I work and save documents when not connected to the Internet?

    2. Is it possible to play music or video files stored on the SD Cards? What media formats are supported? (MP3, MP4, MKV?)

    3. Can the Chromebook access media files over the LAN, via DLNA client or SAMBA shares?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
    Reply
  • FormulaRedline - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    I'm also interested in this. The review doesn't seem to go at all into the required internet connection and how this affects functionality. Unfortunately, we don't yet live in a world with free WiFi everywhere. Reply
  • Selden - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Offline YES
    A/V YES (but not all formats)
    Samba NO
    Reply
  • ddy - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - link

    I want to ask if there is smb, already using the Samsung ARM Chromebook. I have a performance issue on working with Google docs. As you asked about the documents, I wanted to be involved.
    It is not that sensitive to respond, neither on-line nor offline. Does any of you have a similar problem??
    Thanks in advance.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    Nice review, thanks.

    I'd have liked more info about offline use though. Even if I'm online most of the time, it's very important that i can also be productive, and entertained, while offline.
    Reply
  • prophet001 - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - link

    The ultimate digital pick-pocket. Reply

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