The high-end 12.1 Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook is the flagship of the Chromebook line. It has everything; it’s super fast, lightweight and portable, and in terms of looks, very attractive. The built-in 3G technology allows you internet access just about anywhere without having to rely on Wi-Fi — but it does have a built-in Wi-Fi adapter too. The Samsung Series 5 3G made it to #1 in the Amazon Bestseller list, but is it worth buying over the cheaper Acer AC700?
Here’s my review of the Series 5 3G Chromebook:
“Sleek” is the main word that comes to mind when I’m trying to describe how the Series 5 looks in person. It currently comes in two equally-attractive finishes — a dark silver and a polished “Mac” white. Both machines look great. I personally like the “Titan silver” finish, but then again I also got a black iPod rather than a white one — it’s entirely a matter of preference. Both have shiny finishes, sleek curves, and an overall “clean” look.
I can’t really say much bad about the Series 5′s counterpart, the Acer AC700 Chromebook, in this arena either. Both models have a definite high-tech “cool factor.” But we at Chromebook Ratings still agree that the Series 5 takes home the prize for best looks.
Surprisingly, the shiny outer casing doesn’t seem to pick up fingerprints as much as you might expect, especially on the white model. The colors seem to hide it relatively well compared to shiny laptops I’ve seen that look terrible as soon as anyone touches them.
The Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook is surprisingly light — reminding me of a Macbook Air at about 3.3 pounds. Despite its lightness, it’s comfortingly robust and feels well-built. Very portable and at 12.1″, easily transportable.
When I booted up a Chromebook for the first time, even though I had heard about the “instant boot,” I was still taken off-guard actually witnessing it. I ended up booting the machine several times in amazement at how fast the Chromebook gets from its powered-off state to the very friendly-looking login screen. You can literally go from a cold machine to searching the internet in about 10 seconds. It’s one thing to see it described, but it’s another to experience it first-hand. It’s great — once you’ve experienced 8-10 second boot times the time it takes Windows 7 or OS X to start up seems like an eternity (and I have both on my main machine).
Even if you tend to leave your notebook in standby mode (like I do) rather than turning it off and on, you’ll still be amazed by how fast it resumes. Closing the lid saves what you’re doing and puts the Chromebook into a low power state. When you open it back up again, the screen turns on and you’re instantly back where you were.
Overall, the Samsung Series 5 3G feels very fast. Everything about the Series 5 is fast — it’s way speedier than the CR-48. It really flies when you’re surfing the internet. I didn’t experience a slowdown in any apps I tried. The 3G felt a lot faster than on my phone, but I don’t know if it actually was or if it just “felt” that way. When it was using the Wi-Fi it felt even faster, as expected.
A lot of the apps for Chromebooks work offline, so you’re not restricted to using the Series 5 only while you’re connected to the internet. Although, with the 3G adapter (plus free Wi-Fi being almost everywhere these days — even at McDonalds) it’d be really hard to find a place in America where you couldn’t access the internet with the Samsung Series 5 3G.
Watching Netflix movies and streaming videos on Youtube in 360p, 480p, and 720p HD I experienced no stuttering or other unwanted effects. I was even able to play videos in 1080p HD smoothly as well — something my netbook doesn’t handle quite as well. Chromebooks are internally optimized for streaming web video and Flash, so it makes sense that the experience of watching movies on the Series 5 is slightly better than on an equally-priced netbook.
The Samsung Series 5 3G’s 12.1″ LED screen is about half-an-inch larger diagonally than the Acer AC700′s 11.6″ screen. It has a HD resolution of 1280 x 800 — again, a little bit better than netbooks in the same price range. The better resolution results in a better-quality picture with perfect clarity.
It’s also worth mentioning that the LED screen has an anti-glare finish that helps when you’re viewing the screen in a brightly-lit room, near a window/sliding glass door, or outside. A matte screen is something that’s a big plus to some and that others could care less about, but I figured I’d mention it here.
If you have an external display such as a monitor, TV, or projector, you can connect it to the Series 5 with a VGA cable. When you hook up the Series 5 to another display, it automatically puts your screen on the connected display in the best supported resolution. Here’s our main gripe with the Samsung Series 5 3G: We’re not sure why Samsung went with a VGA port and not an HDMI port — it was a somewhat odd decision, but not a deal-breaker in any way.
The special keys at the top of the island-style keyboard help make surfing the web feel even faster, once you get used to using them. The touchpad is huge (not a bad thing) and has very good tracking response, though I still prefer to use my trusty portable mouse. Both the keys and the trackpad feel good, there’s good tactile response (certainly much better than a tablet).
Sound quality is also better than I’ve heard on a lot of other notebooks. I typically don’t pay much attention to sound when reviewing because I expect most people will use earphones when they’re out or speakers when they’re at home. However, watching Netflix movies and Youtube videos and listening to Pandora on the Series 5 actually sounds pretty decent for built-in notebook speakers. There’s no built-in subwoofer or anything (and who would expect one for a notebook under $500?), but it sounds fine for general use.
Battery life on this thing is exceptional. If you’re planning to bring your Chromebook with you from place to place, or spend a lot of time away from home, I definitely recommend the Samsung Series 5 over the Acer AC700. I say that because the Series 5 has a ridiculously long battery life — about 8.5 hours. That means you could take the Series 5 3G out and use it for the whole day and not even worry about bringing the cord or finding an outlet.
- Very, very fast.
- Attractive, sleek look in either color
- Slightly higher resolution than most 12.1″ notebooks
- 2 GB of RAM (most netbooks come with 1 GB, especially for the Series 5′s price)
- Inexpensive for a notebook/netbook with its specs
- Solid-state hard drive is extremely fast and prevents drive damage from drops/shocks
- Security benefits of running Chrome OS
- Boots in 8 seconds, resumes instantly
- Lightweight (3.3 lbs) and highly portable
- Extremely long battery life (8.5 hours)
- 3G lets you use the internet almost anywhere
- More expensive than the Acer AC700 Chromebook
- Slightly more expensive than Samsung’s Wifi-only model
- VGA display-out port, HDMI would be nice (the Acer has an HDMI port)
Lowest Price: Buy Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook with Free Shipping
Overall Rating: (5.0) (Perfect!)