Samsung Series 5 550 12.1-Inch Chromebook Review

Samsung recently upgraded their flagship Series 5 Chromebook with a spade of performance enhancements — and an all new (well, mostly-new) name. But is the brand new Series 5 550 any different than last year’s model? More importantly, are the new upgrades worth your money? Let’s find out.

Our Review:

First thing’s first — I have to say, the redesigned Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook looks even better than its predecessor (the heretofore best looking Chromebook when compared with the more basic-looking Acer). The notebook’s appearance is now even sleeker; the outer shell looks and feels a lot more expensive than the Series 5 550 actually is.

Samsung 5 550 Chromebook from the side

The Series 5 550's improved outer casing and port connectivity is apparent at a glance.

I personally like the way the outer covering looks better than the older Series 5, which looked nice, but was a real magnet for fingerprints, dust, skin oils, and other potential blemishes. Don’t worry, I know looks aren’t that important to everyone, but it is the first thing you’ll notice when you see the machine in person.

Fortunately for the non-superficial types out there, Samsung has done a number of improvements on the inside of the Series 5 as well.

The Series 5 550 has gotten a huge boost in performance. Samsung has improved both the software and the hardware with brand new enhancements that, performance-wise, beat the older model Chromebooks by a mile. Combined with the latest version of Google’s Chrome OS operating system, this thing is honestly a beast when it comes to video, streaming multimedia, browsing, and running apps.

The processor of the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook has been upgraded from an Intel Atom to a Celeron, and you can really feel the difference right away. The included RAM (one of our only caveats with last year’s Series 5) has also been upgraded from 2GB to 4GB of RAM. The Chromebook now feels less like a cross between a netbook and a laptop, and even more like a premium notebook/tablet that specializes in the web. It’s still cheaper than the iPad, and a lot easier to use with the full-sized keyboard and capacity for connecting accessories like external hard drives, wireless mice, and so on.

Web browsing on the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook is just… well… blazingly fast.  Likewise, there have been huge improvements in the way the newer Samsung Chromebook handles video. The older model was great at playing HD video, but the Series 5 550 is even better. 1080HD movies look great on the Samsung’s anti-reflective 12.1″ HD screen, and play without any stuttering.

It’s a much better movie watching experience overall than on my old netbook (which I recently got rid of) or even my girlfriend’s high-end 17″ laptop with the expensive graphics card — that thing stutters all the time when we’re trying to watch Netflix videos in HD (let alone the noise from the fans). This Series 5 550 Chromebook, when it comes to watching HD videos in 1080 on NetFlix and YouTube, performs a lot better overall and doesn’t heat up nearly as much (which means the quips on 30 Rock aren’t drowned out by fan noise).

As far as the outside of the Chromebook goes, aside from the fact that Samsung made the laptop look a lot sexier, the ports are still the same as on the prior model. That means you get all the standards you got on the first Series 5: 2 USB 2.0 ports, a multi-memory card reader/slot, HD webcam, Kensington slot, ethernet port, and so on.

But wait — the VGA port (which seemed a bit out-of-place on the original Series 5, as we noted in our review) has been upgraded to a full HD capable DisplayPort video-out port. That means you can hook up your HDTV, external monitor, projector — whatever — to your Samsung Series 5 550 and it will have the ability to output in full 1080HD.

The size (12.1″ class) and physical weight of the Samsung Series 5 550 is the same as the older model — a mere 3 pounds — meaning it’s just as lightweight and transportable as ever.

With all the improvements to the Samsung Chromebook’s performance, the battery time has taken a small decrease. In real world terms, you can still expect to get a solid 6 hours of usage out of the Samsung Series 5 550 before you need to plug into an outlet. Honestly, 6 hours unplugged is plenty long enough for 99% of people, although I have to say that the older Series 5 does still beat the newer Samsung slightly with ~8 hours of maximum battery life. I’ll take the performance enhancements to the rest of the machine over an extra hour or two of battery life any day, but your needs may vary.

The Series 5 550 still comes in WiFi and 3G + WiFi editions. Of course, the WiFi-only model is about $100 cheaper, so if you don’t need 3G capability, that’s the one I’d recommend. If you frequently travel places without a good wireless signal (or just want to be able to use your Chromebook anywhere without worrying about finding an accessible Wi-Fi hotspot) an extra $100 upfront is definitely worth the freedom 3G provides.

That about covers the improvements — everything I didn’t mention above (the 8-second boot time, the responsive trackpad, etc.) is just as good as it was on the older Series 5, which achieved a perfect 5.0/5.0 on our review last year. If you’re in the market for a Chromebook, this is the one to get right now.

Pros:

  • New Intel Celeron dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM provide extremely fast performance.
  • Software and hardware enhancements have made the Series 5 550 feel much faster than the older model.
  • Solid-state hard drive prevents drive damage from accidental impacts/drops.
  • 3G + WiFi capability lets you access the web from just about anywhere.
  • DisplayPort with HD video-out capability.
  • Excellent stutter-free performance for streaming videos and movies.
  • 3G model comes with free 100MB/month of Verizon 3G service for 2 years.
  • Long battery life (6 hours)
  • Boots up in only 8 seconds.
  • Lightweight (3.3 lbs) and highly portable.

Cons:

  • Cost of the new Series 5 550 is more than the older Series 5 is currently going for on Amazon.
  • 6 hours battery life is lower than ~8 hours on older Samsung Series 5 model.
  • Hard to find any other cons with this model, really.

Current Lowest Prices: Buy Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook (Wi-Fi) with Free Shipping

Buy Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook (3G) with Free Shipping

Overall Rating: (5.0) (Perfect!)

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About Jake T.

Blogger. Chromebook Reviewer. Chrome-magnum. Then I say something.