Sunday, March 24, 2013

Samsung Chromebook 303C

This is very off-topic, compared to what I usually would publish.

Some week ago, I got myself a Samsung Chromebook 303C. The device is best described as a 10" ARM-powered netbook-like gadget.

Some details in short

The device has got

  • a really nice full-sized keyboard,
  • multi-touch touchpad,
  • a built-in webcam,
  • a built-in microphone,
  • built-in stereo speakers,
  • 2GB RAM,
  • 16GB SSD storage,
  • a integrated WiFi interface,
  • 1 USB 3.0 port,
  • 1 USB 2.0 port,
  • an HDMI interface,
  • an SDHC card reader,
  • a single jack headset connector,
  • and a power jack.
I may have forgotten one or the other thing, more specific information can be found on Samsung's webpage.

First of all, I bought the thing for having something lightweight, inexpensive to carry about daily. One of the most important points for my was a decent keyboard... and actually, I am very very happy with this one!

Some observations

Things I like:
  • the keyboard is really smooth and precise
  • the sound of the little speakers is impressive
  • the touchpad is very responsive
  • the display is crisp and has an excellent brightness range and is matte
  • the lower power device does not generate a lot of heat and no noise at all
  • very low battery drain during sleep
  • the start-up time from cold boot is amazing!
  • the device needs 12V, making it ideal for field-day operations
Things that could be better:
  • the white power-LED on the right side of the keyboard is somewhat irritating
  • a replaceable battery would be a benefit for longer journeys
  • individual sound-in and sound-out connectors
  • the headset connector is not really smooth
  • WiFi occasionally stops transfers, although the connection did not drop
Things I don't like, but can understand / live with
  • the display hinge projects quite a bit, I figure, this way it still is sturdy
  • there is an access port in the back, which is for a SIM card of more pricey models, with a very flimsy lid
  • one needs 2 hands to open the display lid
  • the plastic feels cheap, but than again, it is a cheap device
Things I really don't like at all
  • there are no left / right mouse buttons, a right-click is a strange two-finger gesture
  • there is not obvious way to quickly disengage the touchpad, which would be practical for writing longer texts
  • an SDHC-card projects a whopping 7mm out, rendering the card reader useless a storage extension, the card reader has no "spring action", a card to be easily accidentally pulled out... what were they thinking?!
  • the power supply is really out of date and weight...

Conclusions and Thoughts

All in all, this is a cloud device. Being offline means that many things can't be done. There are some applications which can be used offline, hence basic functions as text-processing, using a calendar or a basic spread-sheet are still available.

ChomeOS, which runs on the device, is a very down scaled Linux, which in essence uses the Chrome browser for running HTML5 applications.
There are presently first attempts to create full Linux distributions, e.g. Ubuntu by Canonical. Over time there should be some stable distributions available for a full offline experience.

I am happy with the device, knowing its' limitations and the intended use.