Samsung Series 5 Chromebook Review 2021: Specifications, Pros and Cons

The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is that its entire startup sequence takes 8 seconds. That’s from the moment you hit the power button, to when you can browse the web. Think about that for a moment. No programs loading, no updates, just an open web browser ready to go wherever you want.

Now, think of how long it takes your netbook to boot up.

Speed is one of the main characteristics behind Google’s Chromebook, and the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook Laptop demonstrates this to full effect. From the moment you hit the power button on the Series 5 Chromebook, you barely have time to lean back in your chair before the computer’s ready for you.

Chrome OS was designed to get you to the internet as fast as possible, and in this, it succeeds. It’s a unique feeling to use a brand-name computer that comes with literally no bloatware. There’s no anti-virus software eating up resources in the background — the Series 5 doesn’t need it. All you see when you turn it on is Chrome OS, with your apps right there.

It’s only surprising it took until 2011 for this kind of computer to be made — Chromebooks are what Netbooks should have always been. Once you’ve gotten your hands on a Chromebook and used it to surf the web, you’ll never want to use a netbook with Windows 7 Starter again unless you have to.

And, unlike Windows, Chrome’s updates are expected to be seamless and will actually make your Chromebook faster as time goes on. This is possible because so much of the processing is offloaded onto the cloud, rather than being limited to the processor, RAM, and hard drive (which is a lightning-fast SSD — a pleasant surprise).

The screen is bright and sharp, with a size of 12.1″ and a high-definition resolution of 1280 x 800 making 720p HD videos look spectacular. The complete absence of all the Windows 7 services, background processes, and bloatware running on Chrome Samsung’s GPU, as well as a newer, faster dual-core processor, makes video performance on Chromebooks (including Flash) very good, and frequently better than on Windows netbooks. By the way, the screen is anti-glare — something your eyes will thank you for if you’re using your Chromebook near windows, bright lights, or outside.

The keyboard on the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is full-sized. It has special keys to go with its intended role as a fast web surfer. There are keys to shift between windows, a full-screen key, as well as keys to control the screen brightness and volume. Under the mac-like island-style keyboard is an over-sized, rather a plain touchpad. The plainness of the touchpad is made up for, however, by the revolutionary “Search Key,” which replaces the Caps Lock on Chromebooks. If you prefer having Caps Lock, just check the setting in Chrome that makes the Search Key behave like Caps Lock instead. But give it a chance — it’s really convenient to be able to hit a single key and instantly be able to search the web.

When you plug in a USB thumb drive, a memory card (The Series 5 comes with the industry-standard 4-in-one multi-card reader), or a USB portable hard drive, you’ll see Chrome’s file manager, which is basically some file properties and an all-purpose preview window (sounds like they’re taking some cues from OS X here)/

Samsung’s specs state that the battery will last 8.5 hours of “active use.” As with all notebook batteries, we can expect the actual battery life to be a little less. If you’re watching videos in 720p or playing games, we’d say 6-7 hours is a more likely estimate.

 Samsung Chromebook Series 5 specs 

Samsung’s Series 5 Chromebook has a slightly larger screen than Acer’s model. 12.1″, as opposed to 11.6″, may not seem like much, but when you’re comparing notebooks in this size class, half an inch one way or the other is noticeable to some people. However, both models are assuredly ultra-portable and share the same “ultra-light” weight of only 3 pounds.

Looks-wise, the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook laptop has more of a rounded appearance than the Acer, and comes in two finishes, white and titan silver.

Full Specs:

12.1″ HD LED Display (1280×800 resolution)
Intel Atom N570 Dual-Core 1.66Ghz Processor
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
2GB DDR3 RAM (Maximum of 2GB)
16GB mSATA Solid-State Drive (SSD)
Built-in dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and World-mode 3G (optional)
HD 1MP Webcam
Stereo speakers
Built-in noise-canceling microphone
2 USB 2.0 ports
3.5mm Audio In (for using an external microphone)
3.5mm Audio Out (for using external speakers)
4-in-1 memory card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)
Mini-VGA display-out port
Full-size island/chiclet-style keyboard
Over-sized multi-touch trackpad
8.5 hours of continuous battery life
Dimensions: 8.6″ W x .08″ H x 11.6″ D
3.26 lbs / 1.48 kg

Notes:

  • The 1280×800 display has a higher resolution than most netbooks. The 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio provides less vertical constriction than is present on 16:9 netbooks — great for viewing web pages.
  • Netbooks under $400 come pre-configured with 1GB of RAM and require an upgrade to increase the memory to 2GB. The Samsung Chromebook comes with the RAM upgraded to full capacity.
  • The solid-state drive, in place of a traditional spinning hard drive, makes the computer both resistant to shocks and bumps and provides blazing-fast SSD performance. Both Chromebooks have an unprecedented boot time of only 8 seconds.
  • Chrome OS employs multiple layers of protection including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot. Chrome OS users do not have to worry about viruses or virus protection.
  • The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook has a full-sized keyboard, to prevent uncomfortable typing and accidental keystrokes on many netbooks.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook Review

The high-end 12.1 Samsung Series 5 Chromebook Linux 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 Chromebook Series 5 made it to #1 in the Amazon Bestseller list and it is still the best Chromebook 2021, but is it worth buying over the cheaper Acer AC700?

Here’s my review of the Series 5 Chromebook:

Outer Appearance:

“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 Chromebook  xe500c21 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.

Performance:

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 startup 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 Chromebook 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. Due to its performance and lightweight, this is the best Chromebook for college students.

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 McDonald’s) it’d be really hard to find a place in America where you couldn’t access the internet with the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.

Video:

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.

Display:

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook 12.1″ LED screen is about half-an-inch larger diagonally than the Acer AC700′s 11.6″ screen. It has an 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 and this Chromebook laptop also known as the best Chromebook for artists because of its wider screen plus HD display.

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 Chromebook: 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.

Other:

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 a very good tracking response, though I still prefer to use my trusty portable mouse. Both the keys and the trackpad feel good, there’s a 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 Chromebook 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.

Pros
  • Very, very fast.
  • An 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.
  • The 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.
Cons
  • 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).

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