Chromebook reviews recommend this Samsung model (starting at $249, Amazon) as a good buy, but with a few caveats. It's important to understand that Chromebooks are not laptops in the traditional sense. They're web-oriented machines that require an Internet connection and run online apps almost exclusively, so this isn't the kind of system on which you install regular PC programs. That said, the Samsung Chromebook does what it's designed to do pretty well. A PC World reviewer notes that this Chromebook seems a bit more like a tablet than a laptop because of its slim size and the fact that it uses a Samsung mobile processor rather than an Intel or AMD processor. But the reviewer praises this little Chromebook for its speed, declaring it faster than a tablet and plenty fast for web browsing. She also calls the Samsung Chromebook's keyboard respectable and says the touchpad, which supports multi-touch gestures, is quick and responsive. Overall the video and sound are adequate, the reviewer says, although she wishes the screen was a bit brighter.
A reviewer from Wired recommends this as a second computer but says he now uses his Samsung Chromebook more frequently than any other machine, even though it can't run normal PC software. He's very impressed with the Chromebook's six-plus-hour battery life and found the full-size keyboard and trackpad comfortable and responsive. The plastic build of the machine feels cheap, according to this Samsung Chromebook review, but that contributes to the very low price and doesn't detract from the device's appearance; it's easily mistaken for a MacBook Air. The machine updates automatically and doesn't require antivirus software.
Almost all Chromebooks have screens that measure 14 inches or smaller, and this one is pretty small by laptop standards, at 11.6 inches. It has 1366 x 768 resolution, the same as most budget laptops with bigger screens and high enough for 720p high definition. Unlike the other laptops we looked at, this system uses a mobile processor, a Samsung Exynos 5. It's basically designed for tablets, but it works well enough in a small system like the Chromebook. This model has an HDMI connection, an SD memory card slot, one USB 3.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port. Naturally, it supports 802.11n wireless connections, which is essential because this Chromebook doesn't have a built-in Ethernet port for plugging in a network cable.
Like all Chromebooks, the Samsung uses the Chrome OS, which is essentially an operating system built around Google's Chrome web browser. The Samsung Chromebook has a 16GB solid-state drive rather than a traditional 320GB or 500GB hard drive, as well as 100GB of cloud storage on Google Drive for two years (a $120 value; after that, your stuff doesn't go anywhere, but you can't upload any more unless you pay). SSDs are super-fast, which means that Chromebooks boot up almost instantly. The Chromebook is too small to have an optical drive.
Chromebooks are interesting alternatives to regular laptop PCs, but they're not for everyone. Users who are comfortable with Google's Chrome browser and other Google products will find the Chromebook universe familiar. There are plenty of functional apps in the Chrome library to handle just about any task you can think of, but users loyal to programs such as Photoshop, iTunes, and Microsoft Office will feel a bit alienated. For the right user, though, the Samsung Chromebook -- with its low price, portability, and web centricity -- is a worthy alternative to a traditional laptop. The Samsung Chromebook reviews page on Amazon counts hundreds of satisfied buyers.