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Samsung Chromebook 550 review

Does the new Samsung Series 5 Chromebook overcome past problems?

Our Verdict

The new Samsung Chromebook is a fine piece of kit which is a step on from its predecessor. Although Chrome OS is still not perfect, it's progressed a long way in a short time and could become a key challenger

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 1280 x 800
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Improved speed
  • Fast boot up
  • Attractive design
  • Light and compact
  • Support for 3G mobile internet

Against

  • Underpowered for HD
  • Not as intuitive as a tablet
  • Not suitable as your main PC
  • Redundant if no internet

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE550C22 has been given a hefty upgrade compared to the specifications of other Chromebooks. While on paper its 4GB of RAM seems a bit like overkill, considering what Chromebooks are designed for, it's a welcome addition. The Chrome OS operating system - and the Chromebook as a whole - feels a lot more sprightly with the added RAM, running tasks much faster.

A 16GB SSD hard drive keeps things fast as well. Of course, it's a lot smaller than hard drives found in laptops, but the main idea of a Chromebook is that the majority of your documents and files are stored online in a cloud service.

An SD port enables you to pop in a memory card for more space. There are two USB ports as well, and as with previous Chromebooks, inserting a USB flash drive will automatically open up a new tab in Chrome with the contents of the USB drive displayed.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE550C22 review

The interface of Chrome OS has been improved, making browsing files a lot more pleasant, and not such a culture shock if you're used to Windows as your operating system.

One of the most important things to remember is that rather than windows opening on your desktop and containing files or programs, Chrome OS uses tabs instead. So a USB drive with files on it is accessed in a similar way to a webpage. It takes a little getting used to, but once you become accustomed, things start to click into place.

Probably the most important specification of the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook, and one that's missing from earlier Chromebooks, is 3G functionality (on the more expensive 3G version, not on the cheaper Wi-Fi-only model). Plug in a SIM card with a mobile internet data contract and you're able to browse the internet while out and about - without having to depend on Wi-Fi networks.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE550C22 review

This dramatically increases the usefulness of Chromebooks, because before if you were away from your home Wi-Fi network, or not able to connect to a free Wi-Fi hotspot, then you'd be unable to access any files or services on the cloud.

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Computing on the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE550C22 via a 3G signal is far more flexible. Of course, if you find yourself in one of the 3G blackspots that are sadly still common - especially in rural areas - then Chromebooks are still going to be rather limited.

It's also worth remembering that a SIM card isn't included with the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook, so you'll need to sign up with a mobile operator and get a contract or pay as you go data plan. This is an extra cost you need to factor in, although there are some good deals to be had - giffgaff offers some excellent data deals, for example.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE550C22 review

Of course, with 3G mobile internet you're not going to be wanting to use it abroad, lest you enjoy getting humongous phone bills. There's also the fact that while 3G is an improvement on previous mobile internet technology, it's still rather slow, so streaming TV shows is a no-no.

The 3G-only Samsung Series 5 Chromebook won't benefit from the far faster speeds of 4G internet either, in the US or when 4G eventually comes to the UK.

However, with a 12.1-inch LED screen, you'll hear no complaints from us about image quality - the screen is bright, crisp and a pleasure to gawk at.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE550C22

Support for 802.11a/bg/n wireless networks is also very good, especially if you have a wireless N router, so you can take advantage of the increased range and speeds of the newish wireless standard. 'Newish?' we hear you ask - that's because the wireless 802.11ac standard is rolling out as we speak, with a much increased speed and range.

As with the lack of 4G, the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook XE550C22 isn't crippled by the absence of wireless AC, but it's not as future-proof as you'd want from such a potentially innovative product. Especially one so reliant on the internet.

Tech Specs

Product TypeNetbook
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
BluetoothNo
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time8.50 Hour
Solid State Drive Capacity16 GB
FireWire/i.LINKNo
HDMINo
WebcamYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyChromebook 5
Processor ModelN570
ColourArctic White
Operating SystemChrome OS
Brand NameSamsung
Processor Speed1.66 GHz
Processor TypeAtom
Screen Size30.7 cm (12.1")
Number of Cells6-cell
Screen Resolution1280 x 800
Standard Memory2 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.50 kg
Cache1 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
64-bit ProcessingYes
Chipset ManufacturerIntel
Chipset ModelNM10 Express
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11b/g/n
Total Number of USB Ports2
Height20.3 mm
Width294.6 mm
Depth218.4 mm
Screen ModeWXGA
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Product Series5
ManufacturerSamsung
Product ModelXE500C21
Product NameChromebook XE500C21 Netbook
Pointing Device TypeTouchPad
Product LineChromebook
Aspect Ratio16:10
Manufacturer Part NumberXE500C21A01US
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing Information

Nothing but the Web
Chromebooks are built and optimized for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time. So you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers.

Thin & Light design - just 3.3 lbs.
Weighing in at 3.3 lbs and just .8 inches thick, the ultra compact design provides maximum portability without compromising on functionality and optimal performance.

Instant Web
Chromebooks boot in less than 10 seconds and resume instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe Flash. In fact, Chromebooks are designed to get faster over time as updates are released.

Maximum Memory2 GB