The first day with my new Samsung S5 550 Chromebook went well, but that's often the case with new gadgets. The euphoria that comes with a new device often gives way to a reality that is not quite as good as that first day. Having used the Chromebook heavily for week I am happy to report it is just as good now as on that first day.
Chromebooks are not for everybody, it's important to make that clear. Folks who need certain programs may find being constrained to web apps in Chrome to be a liability. I work online in Chrome on every system I use so the Chromebook is tailored for my work routine.
Samsung has nailed the hardware in this Chromebook. The size of the Series 5 550 is a perfect balance of portability and utility. The 12.1-inch display is a good fit for using Chrome and at no time do I wish it was bigger or had a higher resolution. I can put the browser in full-screen mode and have no wasted space on the screen, yet access the taskbar and apps easily.
The chiclet keyboard is very good and as a fast touch typist I can type as fast as on any device. The key layout is simply perfect for me and I don't wish any keys were positioned differently. This is rare as most keyboards have one or two keys placed in such a way that results in mistyping, but not on this one. The top row of special keys designed to operate the browser (back, forward, refresh page) make working in the browser just right.
The thin and light Chromebook is one of the most comfortable laptops I've used. That comfort starts with the outstanding portability and extends to using the laptop in any situation. It's a simple process to slip the Chromebook out of the bag and sit down anywhere to work. Open the lid and in seconds the system resumes with no lag to connect to whatever Wi-Fi network is available. It rivals tablets in that regard, a good feat for Chrome OS.
The most significant piece of hardware on the Samsung Chromebook that makes it work so well is the large trackpad. This one works so fluidly it is the only one I've used that rivals that on Macs. The two-finger scrolling is incredible and the buttonless operation simply works. I have not been tempted to connect a mouse even once, something I do on every laptop I use. This trackpad has become the standard for me.
There really isn't any software in Chrome OS other than the browser, and it's as good as they get. It is the full implementation of Chrome so all bookmarks and extensions installed on any system are simply there on the Chromebook. The browser looks just like it does on any system so there was no learning curve whatsoever.
I have added some extensions to the Chrome browser on the Chromebook since I've been using it so heavily. These extensions add functionality to the browser to better help me get things done. Following are the major extensions I have added to the Chromebook that I am using in my daily work.
Chat for Google- this provides a simple chat window for using Google Talk. I can conduct text, audio, or video chats easily in a window while using the browser.
Clearly- this extension presents web pages in an easy to read format upon request. I can save web pages in this format to Evernote, my primary information database.
Document viewing- this allows me to open most Microsoft Office documents right in the browser. It comes in handy when colleagues send me documents in email.
Elegant Calculator- this is a good calculator accessible in the browser. There is both a basic calculator and a scientific calculator selectable.
Reeder for Chrome- I spend a lot of time in Google Reader keeping up with hundreds of RSS feeds and this extension puts a nice skin on Reader. It isn't an official Reeder app, it just looks like it.
Scroll to Top button- this installs a simple opaque button on all web pages that takes you back to the top of the page when clicked. It is incredibly useful.
Tweetdeck- I am on Twitter all the time, and the Chrome Tweetdeck extension is great. The recent update makes it work very well on the Chromebook.
Email this page by Google- this does exactly what it says.
It is worth checking out my list of useful Chrome web apps that also round out the Chrome OS. Note that all of the extensions listed and all web apps work with any Chrome browser installation, no Chrome OS required.
The Chrome browser and extensions turn the Chromebook into a full-fledged computer as capable as Windows PCs and Macs. The Chrome OS has evolved in its short lifetime and using it is now like using any computer, not just a browser. The Chrome OS is updated automatically and without impacting using the Chromebook. This is an advantage over other platforms that cannot be downplayed.
The Samsung S5 550 Chromebook has turned into my full-time work system. I now reach for it first thing in the morning, leaving the 27-inch Windows PC on my desk. I grab the Chromebook when I head out the door to work, leaving the iPad and keyboard behind. I did not expect the Chromebook to make such an impact on my work routine. It's a good impact and I am very pleased with my purchase of the Chromebook.