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I've had my Chromebook for around 4 months now. In fact I am writing this review on it. I would say I spend hours every day on this machine, and find when I go back to using my old laptop it feels like I am literally travelling back in time.
Let's start with speed. I have never encountered any speed or performance issued on the Samsung Chromebook. Just as it advertises, turning the machine on takes less than 10 seconds. When browsing the internet I never have any issues with connectivity or lag on loading pages. I have yet to see any type of error message or be disappointed by any download or load time.
Next let's talk about Chrome OS. Chrome OS is unique and may be unusual to people who haven't researched how it works. Almost everything you do will be stored on Google Drive, which involves uploading everything you want to save to the internet. This is actually great, as all android phones, and even iPhones have an app which can then access your files remotely also. There are some downsides here however. Because you generally are expected to download onto the cloud, the machine itself does not support the downloading and opening of programmes, such as games or software. I found this difficult when I purchased a streaming package from LoveFilm, and discovered that it uses streaming software called Microsoft Silverlight, which is sadly not compatible for our little Chromebook. On the plus side, you can download most things you need free of charge from the Google App store. One app I have found particularly useful is Pixlr, which I use to replace photoshop that I used to use on my old laptop.
I suppose what I'm saying is, be realistic about what you are using the system for. If you need a device to browse the internet, type some documents and social network, then a chromebook is a great choice. If you are looking to watch DVDs, play games or download software, you will need to look elsewhere I am afraid.
I went into the Apple Shop with my 9 year old, faithful MacBook to have the keyboard repaired and was told 'I'm sorry, we don't support that model any more' (by a guy who would probably have been in school when I bought it!). I toyed with the idea of buying a new MacBook, but at around £900 for a machine I basically go on the net with, it just seemed too much.
I didn't want a Windows laptop though - I have one for work, and am generally in a state of frustration with it. It's so boring and blocky, I've never really liked Windows. And again a cheap laptop would set me back £250 and would be a chunky lump of plastic. Hmm.
So when I saw Chromebooks I was amazed - they offered everything I needed and wanted (simple web browsing, easy to use, occasional applications and a few fun games) and could be bought for as little as £220. They're neither PC or Mac, they run on Android, like many popular and powerful mobile phones (I have a Samsung Galaxy SIII). Amazing, I just had to have one. And on saving up my DooYoo Amazon vouchers and adding a little bit to it, have one I had.
I went for the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12 which wasn't the cheapest Chromebook but I liked the look and the specs of it and it set me back £299, yes, I could have bought a PC laptop cheaper however you have to see this Chromebook - wow - it has all the aesthetics of a MacBook at a PC price, with a friendlier OS.
Currently the stockists are listed as John Lewis, Currys PC World and Amazon but after visiting a John Lewis and a Currys PC World I was told they mainly stock and sell them online, neither had a display of Chromebooks, and I bought it online at Amazon with free next day delivery.
Specifications on the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12 are as follows:
Google Chrome Operating System
CPU / Processor Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Clock Speed (Max.) 1.7GHz CPU Cache 1MB
Screen Size 11.6" Type LED HD Resolution 1366 x 768
Standard System Memory: 2GB Total amount of available memory may be less based on system configurations graphics support, and other factors.
Memory Type DDR3L
Hard Drive 16GB
3W Stereo Speaker (1.5W x 2)
Web Camera 0.3 MP
WirelessLAN 802.11 a/b/g/n
VGA Available only with dongle sold separately
USB Ports 1 x USB 3.0 + 1 x USB 2.0
Multi Card Slot 3- in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
74 Key Keyboard
AC Adapter 40W
Battery Life 6.3 hours approx
Product Dimensions (W x D x H) 11.4" x 8.09" x 0.69"
Product Weight: 2.43 lb
The main reasons I went for the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12 are the internal hard drive at 16GB (which is used only for apps and some local storage, everything else is cloud based), the excellent battery life, and the looks.
The Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12 is a thin profile, silver plastic laptop with the razor sharp stylings of a first generation MacBook Air. The keys are spaced in a Mac / Vaio style, and are a very dark grey with white lettering / numbering. It's stunning to look at.
When the Chromebook is closed the Samsung logo in silver is printed on the back with the Chrome logo in the corner and 'Chromebook'. It looks very modern and due to being such a new thing, many people ask me about it when they see the Chrome logo.
Installing new apps is a doddle too, and there's a whole host to choose from. You can install games, learning tools, entertainment apps (such as Netflix which works very well on the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12) and so on. The range seems to be growing, too, as more and more people invest in these low cost, high power, stylish laptop alternatives.
Most apps do need a permanent internet connection to run but there are plenty of offline capable apps too so don't let that put you off - you can still use the Chromebook if there is no internet connection available. I have mine at home 99% of the time so it was never much of a concern or consideration for me - but if you're worried you can't work on a word document or Excel spreadsheet on the train - yes, you can. Just make sure the app you are installing is offline capable, there are plenty, and you can store locally too using the 16GB of available hard drive space.
Some of my favourite apps are:
Pixlr (a fantastic alternative to PhotoShop)
Google Docs / Zoho Writer (Both excellent and free alternatives to Microsoft Word, and also fully compatible with Word)
Zoho Sheet (A feature packed spreadsheet application)
FaceBook and Twitter (No introduction needed)
Netflix (A great Chrome OS version of this movie streaming service)
... the rest I just do directly from the browser as it's such a fast and easy to use browser.
The screen I can't fault - bright, and with amazing clarity. Same goes for the sound, too, it's loud, with excellent top and bass and generally listening to music and watching movies on it is a pleasure.
In terms of battery life I find I am getting around 5 and a half hours from it which I'm really happy with, obviously were you working offline you'd get an extra hour at least but I'm more than pleased I'm getting such a long time for such a low price laptop as I used to get 6 hours on the MacBook and I didn't want to drop down too much from that.
The keyboard is very easy to type on, well spaced and just sensitive enough, and the mouse is very Mac - wide, large and with an invisible single mouse button, I love it. It might take a little more getting used to if you are coming from a PC laptop but I don't think you would find it restrictive as you can do everything you want to with the mouse including scrolling. There is no need to 'right click' (joy!)
For gaming, obviously this isn't a high end gaming laptop. But if a few cheeky games of Angry Birds and other low demand (but modern!) games are your thing, then yes, the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12 will easily handle that. Basically for every day needs it's spot on.
Another thing I have noticed is that due to the architecture of the laptop and the operating system / browser, I never get any pop ups and don't really need to worry at this time about virii. I don't know whether that will change, likely it will, but I've not had to install any type of virus checker as yet.
So, would I recommend the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12 - and Chromebooks in general? I think the answer here would be a resounding yes - for most people. I use my computer to browse the net, go on DooYoo, watch movies and pretty casual tasks. For that, this is an absolutely amazing laptop. I wouldn't recommend it for home offices, heavy workloads and so on, I wouldn't recommend it as a gaming, graphics or audio work laptop, but it's not designed for that.
For the money I cannot fault the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook XE303C12, I am so glad I took the plunge and went for a Chrome OS laptop. I can't comment on the other Chromebooks in the range however mine, I love, and I hope it lasts me a long time, which if the build quality is anything to go by, it will. Five stars out of five from me.
I'm blown away by this laptop, it's beautifully simple and simply beautiful.
This review is of the Samsung Chromebook model number 303C12 which was released in late 2012 and is the latest in the Google Chromebook choice of laptops.
I purchased this Chromebook as I wanted a lightweight laptop which I could use when travelling and I prefer to use as near to a full-sized keyboard as possible, so a tablet was out of the question. Although I think the MacBook Air computers are superb, they are too expensive for my own needs.
When I opened the box I noticed that there was a small instruction manual, and also a Google sticker for those that want to put it on the laptop. I plugged it straight in, noting positively that the power lead was reasonably long, and didn't need any instructions as I found it very intuitive. It really is a matter of turning it on, connecting it to wi-fi and Google, and that's it, ready to go.
Since purchasing this Chromebook, I have been very pleased with it. Essentially this computer is an extension to the Chrome browser, so there isn't Windows on it, and there isn't the option to install computer software onto it, just apps. For those that need certain software, such as Office for example, this could be a problem, but for my purposes it was fine.
I primarily use my Chromebook for writing, and I have a gmail account which links into Google Drive. Although no expert, what I've found is that when I want to write a document I can easily open a Google word processor tab in Chrome and start typing. If I'm off-line, it'll save it on the computer until I'm on-line, and when I'm on-line, it'll back it up safely to Google Drive. It's seamless, and means I can work on the move both safe in the knowledge I don't need an Internet connection, but also that my work is safe.
The other really useful feature for me is that the computer turns straight on. With my Windows laptop it'll take a good 15 or 20 seconds before Windows finishes the restart process, whereas this Chromebook quotes a time of around 6 seconds. So far from my usage, it's even quicker than that, just a couple of seconds.
Weight wise this computer is ideal, it's a very light and portable computer to carry around. The battery length is also excellent, I used it for seven hours without needing to recharge it, and this is great for my own needs, as I would never usually be that far away from a power point. It isn't though possible just to switch batteries, as the Chromebook would have to be unscrewed, which is a slight shame. For those needing to replace a battery however, it looks easy enough (although I haven't done it yet).
The Chromebook inevitably relies on the Chrome browser, and this is what I've used for a few years anyway, so this was very convenient for me. It's also very good for those with gmail and Google accounts, again such as myself, as the integration is very good. This also means that it's easy for Google to update the software on the Chromebook, and the computers automatically upgrades every couple of weeks or so, so it's easy to stay on top of security and to receive all the latest updates. As with everything else on this product, I find it all very seamless and easy to understand.
I also remembered when using this product that Google Chrome remembers my browser settings wherever I'm signed in. So I was pleased that when I opened up my new Chromebook, it knew all of the passwords to my favourite web-sites, it had my history, bookmarks and predictive typing of web-sites I visit. Although some might not like this integration for security or privacy reasons, I found it great not having to remember all my various passwords. It showed again though, for those that want it, the integration of Chrome is excellent.
It's still not entirely clear to me what apps will work on the Chromebook and what won't. There are some which I just use from the browser, such as Evernote, which lets me type up new notes when off-line, although doesn't yet have off-line downloads of notes. There are some games which can be installed, but equally there are some apps which I can get on my Android phone, such as Overdrive (useful for getting free books from UK public libraries) which don't work on the Chromebook. Definitely check in advance if it's important that a particular app works though.
The screen isn't necessarily the best, it's not such a smooth screen as my phone or laptop, but it's perfectly readable and I can control the brightness easily. The screen size is 11.6 inches which is a good compromise for me between a large screen which adds weight to the laptop, and also such a small screen I can hardly see it.
I was though very impressed with the key-board, which is full size. This makes it, for me, very easy to type on and I find I can make clear contact with the keys which depress easily and which cope with my typing speed. I find the keyboard comfortable to type for a longer period of time, and I consider this to be a big advantage. I found the tracking pad and mouse buttons to be a bit clunkier than what I'm used to, but that's probably because I'm used to my larger laptop, and they're still perfectly easy to use.
I bought my Chromebook in PC World, which I wouldn't normally do because I find that the service can be a bit hit and miss, but it was 224 pounds which at the time was the same price as Amazon. It's currently a few pounds cheaper on Amazon, and there are probably some deals that can be found, but the price doesn't seem to deviate much from the recommended price of 229 pounds.
One advantage of shopping in PC World, and I think some other retailers, is that a Google Chromebook specialist may be there to help. I noticed on the web-site there was a list of where these stores are. I had a demonstration a few weeks ago from a member of Google staff who was really friendly and engaging with the product, showing me how it worked, checking what apps worked, and offering advice. If you're not sure whether it's of use, and you can get to a store with a Google staff member, this may really help you decide whether it's a product for you.
With regards to some technical specifications, some of which I've had to take from the box as I'm entirely unsure of what's inside! It comes with 2 GB of RAM, a 16 GB hard drive, a 1.7 GHz processor, weighs well under 2 kilogrammes ad has an 11.6 inch screen. There is also an HDMI port so you can display the screen onto a large TV, and also a USB 2 and USB 3 port.
Whether this Chromebook will be of interest depends very much on what you would to use it for. It can't have software installed on it, it doesn't have Windows, it can struggle to play some file formats and it doesn't have a very large hard drive. But for those people who work so much in the cloud, such as myself, this is an ideal product and I'd say it's a superb tool for writers, students or professionals who need to write lots of documents and access the Internet. Overall, I'm very pleased with the product and feel the price it costs is very reasonable.