Google Chromebook: 3 months in

Google Chromebook: 3 months in

Summary: The Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook surprised me when I discovered how well it worked for me three months ago. The real test of a gadget is the big picture so here's my take after three months of use.

TOPICS: Google, Laptops, Samsung

When I bought the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook three months ago I was surprised how well it fit into my work routine. I was not sure how well Chrome OS would work for me but it did right out of the box. Now that I've been using it heavily for 90 days I can better share my experience with the Chromebook.

See also: Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook: All in after a week | 11 good Chrome web apps for the Chromebook

I can't state strongly enough how great it is that the Chrome OS stays totally out of my way when I work.

Let me start by making it clear that Chromebooks and Chrome OS are not for everyone. Those who use special Windows or Mac programs for their work should give the Chromebook a pass. Chrome OS is in essence an extended implementation of the Chrome browser and that's it.

I spend all of my work day online, and specifically in the Chrome browser no matter what system I use. The Chromebook is thus a perfect fit for me and my work routine is why it works so well. The Chrome browser and collection of web apps I use handle everything I need so the Chromebook is a good solution for me. This is even more apparent after 90 days using the Chromebook as my main daily work system.

Getting more attention

The Chromebook gets a lot of attention when I use it in public, more so than any other gadget I use. Google has been running a big TV ad campaign for the Chromebook and it has definitely brought the gadget to the attention of the public. I am regularly approached when using the Chromebook by those who have never seen one in use and field lots of questions about it.

These folks are impressed when they see the performance of the Chromebook. This still impresses me too as there is no lag when I use it. Everything happens immediately, more so than the MacBook I have been using for years.

The big concern that people express about the Chromebook is fueled by the belief that you must be online to use it. When asked about this I first ask them when was the last time they used their laptop with no web connection? They invariably admit they can't remember. I then point out that during those rare instances when there is no connection I can still create writing documents in Google Drive.

Right now I happen to be working underground in the downtown Houston tunnel system while waiting for an appointment. There is no Wi-Fi available and to my surprise I have no Verizon 3G or LTE signal down here. My Chromebook is offline but I am still able to work.

I simply opened Google Drive and created a new writing document. I am working the same as I would online. When the Chromebook is connected to the web my document will by synced with the Google Drive cloud with no effort on my part. I'll then copy and paste the article into the ZDNet online editor with no fuss.

How's the hardware?

Read this

My 60 days with the Surface RT

My 60 days with the Surface RT

After more than two months of day-in and day-out use, the strengths and weaknesses of the Microsoft Surface and Windows RT are easier to see. Here's a long-term update.

Three months with the Chromebook has cemented my satisfaction with the Samsung Series 5 550 hardware. The battery lasts all day no matter how hard I push it. I never have to be concerned or pay attention to the remaining battery life when I am away from an outlet.

The keyboard on this Chromebook is fantastic and I can easily write thousands of words a day. This is a major requirement of mine as a writer and it gets a big thumbs up.

As impressed as I was with the trackpad on this Chromebook when I first got it, I like it even more today. It is better than any trackpad I have used on any Windows laptop and just as good as the gold standard of trackpads, those on MacBooks.

Since the Chromebook is at its core a cloud-based system, the limited storage has not been an issue for me. The few times I wanted to copy some photos and MP3s to the internal storage I plugged in an SD card and copied them over. I haven't used a USB flash drive as I haven't needed to but could if I wanted.

Chrome OS -- hassle-free

The more I use Chrome OS the happier I am with how it stays totally out of my way every day. I open the lid and the Chromebook is connected to the web and ready to go in 1 or 2 seconds. The rare times I restart the Chromebook it only takes 8 - 10 seconds which includes automatically firing up the Chrome browser with my 5 startup web sites fully loaded.

I can't state strongly enough how great it is that the OS stays in the background when I work. The Chrome browser is front and center, including the web apps and extensions that make my life easier. I never, ever worry about updates and the system has never crashed the entire time I've owned the Chromebook.

Google keeps the system and all apps up to date quietly in the background so I am always running the latest and greatest with no effort. When a major system update occurs it is downloaded in the background; I only know it's happened when a little up-arrow icon appears in the system tray indicating a restart is necessary to implement the new version. I don't have to interrupt my work for this I can do it whenever I want. The system keeps working fine until I do.

To finish the update I just hit the power button and the system cleanly shuts down in seconds. Hit the button again and the 10 second cold boot happens and I am up and running and the hardware, OS, and all apps are up to date.

Once again, it's not for everybody

The purpose of this article is to answer all of the questions I get asked daily about how the Chromebook is holding up for me. A Chromebook is not for everybody and I am not suggesting it is. But, if you spend most of your time in a web browser you may be surprised how well a Chromebook may work for you.

See related:

Topics: Google, Laptops, Samsung

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • please disclose

    Are you receiving any form of payment in cash or kind from Google?

    This post sounds suspiciously like a paid advertisement.
    • Of course not

      I only write about my actual usage experience.
    • How lame!

      Yes, if you want to be cynical about it then it could be read that way...OR...maybe the guy really likes it? That IS a possibility you know....
    • Samsung Chrome

      Oddly enough I do not get paid either and I would have to agree with James Kendrick. Although I have been using my Chromebook far long than 3 Months. Its a great machine for 90% of what I do. It is the computer I take with me everywhere because its light, easy to carry, and I am able to do most of my work. I only use my Windows machine when I play games that require a local install of software.
    • I agree with the article 100%

      I have one, and I feel exactly the same way. In fact I wrote a review about a month ago and my review and this one are basically interchangeable in terms of the things we mention and how much we like it. It's just a really useful little laptop if you don't need Windows or Mac specific programs.
  • Same here with the Series 3!!

    I was sceptical at first but then after reading your initial review I thought its worth a go at the price they are at, so I dropped some cash on a Samsung series 3. I have a Galaxy note 2 to tether when I'm not near a Wifi hotspot which is very rare. The only slight worry I had was I needed Photoshop tools but a quick look on the Webstore and I found that Pixlr does everything I need. I am also amazed at the amount of offline apps on the Webstore, I presumed there would only be a few which is not the case. Here at Costa coffee (my second office!!) i get no end of questions about the Chromebooks, the main things people are amazed with are: Speed of the device, quality of the device for the price, the keyboard, the battery life and no antivirus needed!! I will still get a Windows 8 Vaio Tablet for home use including Offline all round Media, Steam games and other rarely used programs. Google docs took some getting used to coming from MS Office but that's fine now. Some of the commands and multi-touch also took me a while.The Chromebook is my mobile Office. Thanks again.
  • Chromebook vs Surface

    Interesting to compare Google's and Microsoft's approaches to moving beyond the PC: Google is a Web-native company, its thinking unencumbered by legacy PC baggage, while Microsoft is still thinking in terms of a PC as a starting point, and what it can leave out from that (answer: just about nothing). The result is that one can produce a device that is perfectly at home in the cloud, while the other keeps reminding you that it would really rather sell you a regular PC.
    • RE: Chromebook vs Surface

      How about those alternative browsers for Chrome OS? Is that what you would call 'open'?

      Chrome OS has the same limitation as Windows RT. The default browser is the only option. In the case of Windows RT, it is Internet Explorer 10.

      If a web site is rendered poorly or is not functional with the default browser, there's no option but to try later with a different browser on another device.

      P.S. If there are sites you visit regularly that require the Java plug-in, Chrome OS is not for you. Also, best to test your bank, brokerage and other important sites with the Chrome browser on Windows, OS X or, preferably, the GNU/Linux desktop (e.g., Ubuntu) before going all in with Chrome OS.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Cost of admission

        If the browser *is* the UI, then it's hard to replace it without fundamentally changing the nature of the system. Those who aren't comfortable with that (and I'm not) would want a different sort of UI and there are plenty of Linux ones freely available.

        And maybe in the future, ChromiumOS or something like it becomes an alternative desktop competing with GNOME, KDE, XFCE, and friends.
        John L. Ries
        • Chromium OS

          I'd love to see someone run with Chromium OS. My understanding is that Chrome OS is based on either Ubuntu or Debian. If true, then it's Debian at its core and one could use apt to bring in a few more applications (e.g., email client, another browser assuming that the Chromium browser defaults, LibreOffice/OpenOffice, audio player). I would also feel more comfortable not having to log in to Google to use the internet.

          P.S. It's also the cost of admission for Windows RT where the browser, Internet Explorer, *is not* the UI.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Re: Chrome OS has the same limitation as Windows RT

        True, but only up to a point: the Chrome browser is WebKit-based, the Windows RT one is not. That makes the Google product less prone to compatibility problems than the Microsoft one.
      • You can actually

        Just use the developer mode and install an alternative OS.
  • Yup.

    I completely agree. Have mine for about the same period of time. It is minimalist, sparse, has done everything I've wanted it to, Google Docs works flawlessly -- outperforms anything I remember from ancient Word/Microsoft debacles, and/or "Pages" in my Apple world. The Chromebook has been nicely integrated with my Samsung Nexus phone and Nexus 7 world. I was skeptical at first but am now an enthusiastic believer. The hardware holds up well, it is ultra-portable and I WISH I was receiving any money from Google or Samsung to endorse anything. If you are tired of tech problems and just want to function, get a Chromebook.
    • And...

      ...forgot to add that it was an easy set-up to print wirelessly with my Lexmark printer.
    • What about printing?

      > Google Docs works flawlessly -- outperforms anything I remember from ancient Word/Microsoft debacles, and/or "Pages" in my Apple world

      Can you print your Google documents?
      • Yes

        If you have a specific printer that works with Google Cloud Print.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • No thanks.

    Not worth the money. $250 for a browser that doesn't respect user privacy. Oh wait, its from Google, so its even worse. Will never use a product or service by Google.
    • Opinions are like...

      Cool story, bro.
    • It's a good thing you have other options, then

      Nobody should be forced to use a product or service by Google.
      Nor should anybody be forced to use a product or service by Apple.
      Or forced to use a product or service by Microsoft.
    • Ohh, the humanity!

      They are going to use anonymous data collected about me to show me advertisements for products I might be interested in? Those evil bastards!

      I would much rather entrust my data with super secretive companies like Apple and Microsoft who collect data on me and use it for ????