New Samsung Chromebook and Samsung Series 5 550 head-to-head

New Samsung Chromebook and Samsung Series 5 550 head-to-head

Summary: Samsung and Google dropped a new Chromebook into the market for only $249, showing that a quality laptop can be cheap. The new Chromebook and the older Samsung Series 5 550 model are similar. Which one should you buy?

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TOPICS: Laptops, Google, Samsung
45
Two open
New Samsung Chromebook vs. Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook

I am in a unique position as I have the two premier Chromebooks in my possession. I bought the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook a few weeks ago and have been using it as my primary work machine since the purchase. This week Google sent me a new Samsung Chromebook ahead of the product unveiling and I've been using it for a few days. 

The Chrome OS is coming into its own based on the interest I see in the platform. The two Chromebooks I have are good reasons for that interest as the prices are driving folks to consider the platform for the first time. Having and using both of these fine laptops is getting me a lot of correspondence about which one is best. This article comparing the two is the result.

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Hardware

Side by side
New Samsung Chromebook (front); Series 5 550 (rear)

The 550 is a thin laptop with a quality build that is light enough to be highly portable. It has a good keyboard for heavy text entry and a large buttonless trackpad that is great to use. The 12.1-inch display of the 550 is nice and vivid, although not the brightest on the market. The ambient light sensor does a great job of automatically adjusting the screen brightness to keep it easy to use while optimizing power consumption.

The new Samsung Chromebook is about the same thickness of the 550 (0.81 inches) but is much lighter at 2.43 pounds. It is very similar to the MacBook Air in both size and appearance. It has a good keyboard much like that on the 550, and the trackpad, while good, is a bit smaller than that of the 550. The new Chromebook has the same light sensor of the bigger sibling. The 11.6-inch display of the new model is of similar quality of that of the larger model. The 12.1-inch display on the 550 is slightly brighter than that of the new Chromebook.

The primary difference (besides size) of the two Chromebooks is the different processors. The 550 has an Intel Celeron processor which runs things snappily, while the new Chromebook has a Samsung ARM processor. It also performs well, but I would say the 550 is a bit faster. It's barely noticeable but the new Chromebook with the ARM processor seems just a step slower. That could be due to the additional memory (4 GB total) in the 550 versus the 2 GB in the new Chromebook.

Two closed
New model (left); Series 5 550 (right)

The new Samsung Chromebook has two USB ports (one 3.0, one 2.0) while the 550 has two USB 2.0. The new model also has a full HDMI port compared to the 550 which has a DiplayPort. The 550 also has an RJ-45 jack for ethernet which the newer Chromebook lacks. Both laptops have a full SD slot for memory expansion to add to the 16 GB of internal storage they each have.

Usage

Size comparison
New model (left); Series 5 550 (right)

One of the advantages of the Chrome OS is how the Chrome environment is set by the user's Google Account. Logging each of these Chromebooks into my account makes both devices functionally the same without any action on my part. The execution of both devices is identical, with no differences even though they run different processors.

The 550 cold boots in 12 seconds while the new Chromebook only needs 10. They both resume from standby almost instantly when the laptop lid is opened. 

Chrome OS works the same on both devices. Using each laptop is exactly the same as the other with no compromises nor differences. Using each is as simple as opening the lid and getting straight to work. 

Both Chromebooks have good battery life with the 550 perhaps slightly better. Given the more power efficient ARM processor in the new Chromebook, I suspect Samsung used a smaller battery to help make the form smaller and lighter. I easily get over 6 hours with each device, usually over 7 hours of real use.

Note that each of these Chromebooks is available with a 3G option but I have the Wi-Fi-only version of each. Working on Wi-Fi is as easy as expected and impressively each Chromebook instantly connects to the hotspot as soon as the lid is opened. There is never a lag reconnecting to the network, unlike some other laptops I have used.

Conclusion

Either of these Chromebooks are a good investment for folks like me that spend a lot of the day in the Chrome browser. They are identical in function and either will work for those considering a Chromebook.

I would give the svelte form of the new Chromebook an edge over the 550 as it is more portable and easy to carry. Otherwise they are both easy to use and I don't give an edge to either. I consider either Chromebook to be a good investment.

If I didn't already own the 550 I would probably buy the new Samsung Chromebook given its much lower price ($249 vs. $449). It's almost half the price of the 550 which is a great price. Since I do have a 550 I will keep it and pass on the new Chromebook. I only need one and like both so I'll just keep the 550 for now.

Topics: Laptops, Google, Samsung

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45 comments
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  • Thank you linux open source developers

    for helping give Google a free ride.

    Good sales pitch of an article... I'm sure customers will read every line of the terms of service before using... :)
    HypnoToad72
    • Re: for helping give Google a free ride.

      Google has also contributed its share of Open Source, e.g. the entire Android stack, a bunch of Linux stuff, and a whole load of other projects. It also sponsors the annual Google Summer Of Code.

      Don't say Open Source developers "get a free ride".
      ldo17
  • Thank you linux open source developers

    for helping give Google a free ride.

    Good sales pitch of an article... I'm sure customers will read every line of the terms of service before using... :)
    HypnoToad72
  • Users like them

    I heard the 5 guys who bought these machines, like them as well!
    P. Douglas
    • Gifts for the less technically inclined

      Last year my wife and I got our kids Kindle Fires for Christmas gifts to get them used to tablets. It was quite a hit. This year we "might" at least get the older one a Chromebook as she is at an age where she needs to start typing more for school. Of course we may just give her some old hardware that we have sitting around and run down a different path for gifts entirely. :)
      sys_engineer
  • 550 has 2 USB ports (one on each side)

    Thanks for doing this side-by-side comparison. Other articles say that the ARM Chromebook is faster than the Atom version of the Chromebook but slower than the Celeron version. You're not seeing any difference in performance?
    Taxman45
    • Slight difference

      There is a very slight difference in performance but not measurable. It's that close.
      JamesKendrick
      • Slight difference

        just add 8GB of memory at less than $50, and you will have a 12GB machine that roughly will be twice faster for less than $300.
        kc63092@...
        • Errrr.. RAM doesn't work like that.

          Adding RAM only improves speed if you have enough applications running that you have to swap RAM to disk. It isn't linear either.
          Mah
          • $150 SYLVANIA Netbook PC w/ Minecraft VS. Chromebook

            Well, if you want to run Minecraft at a DECENT FPS, then you can't have 2GB RAM, Let alone, 1GB RAM. Plus, the Chromebook CAN'T run Minecraft, because there is no Chrome OS configured application for Minecraft. CURRENTLY, Minecraft only runs on Mac OS, LINUX, and Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (and Windows 8, but it should be in beta, because there are so many problems with it). So, my netbook is Windows 7 Ultimate, and at stock came with 1GB RAM AND Windows 7 Starter. Of course, I upgraded it and got 4GB RAM,(4GB is the Max for my PC's Motherboard, I have DDR3 4GB MAX 1-Slot Machine) and of course, as I said earlier I upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate. I also hooked it up to my TV using a VGA cable I had purchased from BEST BUY, got a simple, optical mouse from the, as I call it "Devices Droor" in my room, and I also purchased a Microsoft Wired keyboard that I got for $19.99 at Wall Mart. Finally, I got a nice desk chair from Wall Mart, and as I walked by a yard sale one day, I got a USB CD-Rewritable Drive (External CD Drive) for 1$. Now I have a decent Desktop PC.
            Jesse Clay Denton
          • By The Way....

            I'm 13.
            Jesse Clay Denton
      • i would LOVE to know

        did you test heat dissipation between the two? having no fan would make me thing the new one run hotter, but if it didn't, not having to rest it on a smooth surface or worry about restricting airflow to the CPU would be a huge benefit.
        portermiked
    • Performance comparisons

      The Samsung 550 has 4gb of RAM, while the new ARM Chromebook only has 2gb. For reasons I have never understood, Chrome OS is not particularly efficient in memory management and garbage collection. With more than 8 or so tabs open, or after use for several hours, memory becomes tight, and inactive pages will be purged; when you switch to an inactive tab, there is a noticeble lag as it reloads. With 4gb of RAM, it's harder to run into this limit on the 550.

      As an example, I'm using an S5 Chromebook at this moment, with 4 tabs open (each is a fairly resource-intensive page), and out of 1889 mb total memory, only 105 mb is free. For comparison, I have never seen my Atom-powered netbook with 2gb of RAM use any swap space, no matter how many apps I have running, or tabs open in Chrome.
      S_Deemer
      • Memory leak?

        I have noticed that too, particularly recently. After a while, the system becomes slow and unresponsive, and unresponsive and I reported it as s bug. It is probably a memory leak.
        Mah
  • Good overall review

    I've tried USB Chrome OS and it seemed speedy, I'll take that new Chromebook off your hand if you don't already have someone to pass it on to! :)
    zaphenath
  • hmm,its design remind me something...

    It looks like the MacBook Pro Retina copy on the photos
    Maria Davidenko
    • Here's Apple's version of the Chromebook at $999 :)

      http://www.slashgear.com/macbook-air-11-6-review-22109859/
      Mah
      • Actually it's spec'ed in an eerily similar way to the Apple Macbook Air

        The differences are limited to where extra storage and CPU power wouldn't yield worthwhile performance improvements on the Chromebook's server based computing approach. It is clear where Google's inspiration comes from.

        Comparing the new ARM Chromebook to Apple Macbook Air 11.6":-

        PRICE:
        Macbook=$999
        Chromebook=$249

        DISPLAY:
        11.6-inch 1366x768 for both.

        STORAGE:
        Macbook= 64GB Flash SSD
        Chromebook= 16GB Flash SSD ($50 extra for 64GB Flash SD card to take this up to 80GB)

        PROCESSOR:
        Macbook= 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
        Chromebook= 1.7GHz dual-core ARM A-15 Cortex

        RAM MEMORY:
        Macbook= 4GB DDR3
        Chromebook = 2GB DDR3

        SIZE AND WEIGHT:
        Macbook= 11.8 in x 7.56 in x 0.68 in. Weight 2.38 lb
        Chromebook= 11.4 in x 8.09 in x 0.69 in. Weight 2.43 lb

        GRAPHICS:
        Macbook Air= Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics
        Chromebook= ARM Mail T604 high end integrated graphics

        RESOLUTION:
        1366x768 on built-in display, up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display for both

        VIDEO OUT:
        Macbook= Mini DisplayPort (requires purchase of adapter for HDMI)
        Chromebook= HDMI port

        USB:
        Macbook= 2 USB 3.0 ports
        Chromebook= 1 USB 3.0 port + 1 USB 2.0 port

        WIRELESS:
        Macbook= 802.11 a/b/g, Bluetooth 4.0
        Chromebook= 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0

        KEYBOARD & TRACKPAD:
        Full size keyboard and oversize multi-touch trackpad for both

        BATTERY:
        Macbook=5 hours continuous use
        Chromebook=6.5 hours continuous use and ultra low standby consumption.


        The main differences are in the price, the smaller amount of RAM and SSD for the Chromebook, which are logical because the Chromebook doesn't run local apps or store data locally. The RAM of 2GB only makes a difference if you have more than about 15 web pages open simultaneously. Some people claim that they frequently have more than that many browser tabs open simultaneously, but I have never got anywhere near that - although I suppose it is possible to get that if you open webpages that automatically open new tabs. This only commonly happens with porn sites (so I am told).

        The brand new ARM Cortex A-15 dual core chip is the first in production, and is the first ARM chip to challenge Intel for desktops and servers. It is supposed to be just short of lower end Intel i3 dual core performance, which is more than you will ever need for fast performance given that Chromebooks don't run local applications except for the browser.

        The integrated graphics chip is also brand new and supposedly also one of the fastest around at the moment. It also accelerates all aspects of graphics and audio, taking this load off the CPU, which is probably part of the reason for the impression of speed and smoothness that reviewers have commented on. See this for info on the new ARM CPU and GPU designs.

        http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/07/arm-mali-t604-hands-on/
        http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/10/samsung-exynos-5-dual-white-paper-specs/
        Mah
  • I love the 550 and Chromebox; here's why

    The only app I've not found through a browser is a decent HTML editor. There are a few online ones, but they are inconsistent and terrible. I even do screen captures now with a browser app. And though I have a custom i7 rig with tons of memory and a 3Tb HD, the Chromebox is also, much like author James Kendrick, my primary machine now. IT JUST WORKS! Therefore, I can't say I'll ever spend big money for a machine ever again.
    zaine_ridling
  • deja vu

    anyone remember netbooks? where are they now?
    Xenon8