Samsung Series 3 Chromebook – Initial Review

Samsung Series 3 Chromebook
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook

My review of the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook is based on having it for about 3 weeks. To understand why I really enjoy using the device, here’s a little background before jumping into the details of the review. I had been debating about getting a new computing device for a while now. I currently have a MacBook Pro that I absolutely love and does everything that I want still but it has a couple of shortcomings. The first is that the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to and the problem is compounded because I have 2 hard drives loaded in it. The other is that it gets hot to touch after a while. However, as a device that’s plugged in at my desk and hooked up to my Apple Thunderbolt Display, it still does it’s job incredibly well.

I needed a device that had the following attributes:

  1. Light – It’d be nice to be able to carry something that was less than a pound

  2. Decent keyboard – I want do some light work including writing out long email responses as well as moderate surfing for research. I also need to log on to servers to write SQL statements as well as do work with servers.

  3. Lasts for 5 to 6 hours without charging – I don’t want to be lugging a power cord

  4. Enough horsepower to write code – I don’t need to code daily but I do dabble in code from time to time

I debated among four devices – the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, MacBook Air, Microsoft Surface and a Chromebook of some sort and ultimately settled for the Google Chromebook. Among the Chromebooks, I debated between the Samsung Series 5, Acer and Chrome Pixel, Samsung Series 3 and settled for the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook.

The Chromebook comes with:

  • Samsung Exynos 5 Dual 1.7 GHz 1 MB cache CPU

  • 2 GB RAM

  • 16 GB HDD

  • 11.6″ 1366 x 768 Screen

  • 11.4″ x 8.09″ x 0.69″ big

  • 2.43 lbs

  • 1 x HDMI, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0 ports

All in all, the specs for the Chromebook is rather unimpressive with the exception of the price and weight. It is very reminiscent of a small MacBook. The silver colour, the function keyboards at the top, the trackpad that has no buttons, and the trackpad navigation features (two finger right click, two finger scroll up and down) are all very MacBook’ish which made the transition very easy for me. While it does look like a MacBook, it lacks the finish of one. It feels extremely cheap and plasticky. As I got the Canadian version, it comes with an international keyboard that makes typing a bit frustrating for me.

Despite my negative remarks describing the product, it is truly an effective product for me. The Chromebook without any modifications is truly a browser attached to a keyboard. As I am someone that is deeply entrenched in web applications and sometimes very specifically Google web applications, this is a truly ideal device for me. I had originally purchased the Chromebook as a travel machine. Something that I would carry with me whenever I wasn’t at home given it’s lightweight and long battery life. I had only expected to do minor surfing on it, answer a few emails and use IM to quarterback the development from it while I was away from my primary laptop.

I find myself using the Chromebook around the house in the evenings. It’s nice to park my laptop at my desk and use this device to write my blogs, organize my thoughts and even plan my tasks. As I’m able to SSH from the Chromebook, it also allows me to do some lightweight work on my servers when I need to. Looking at my devices, the Chromebook fits between the Nexus 7 and the Macbook Pro. I like the Nexus 7 for consuming information like an e-reader and do light weight communication and my 15” Macbook Pro is meant to do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to programming or if I have to open up multiple screens at the same time for me to do intensive work.

There are other features I haven’t explored yet – such as the HDMI output, the USB 3 connector as well as using the SD card slot. It’ll be interesting to see if the 2GB of RAM starts to become a problem for more extensive use of the device.

To summarize, the Chromebook is a lightweight, cost-effective device if the majority of the work you do is via online web applications.

Pebble Watch – An initial impression

Pebble in it’s box

 

My Pebble journey began last year after reading about it and debating about it’s usefulness in my life, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a Pebble watch by funding the renown Kickstarter project. My primary use case was that I was finding myself in many meetings and it’s generally considered rude to look at your phone during meetings. One downside though was that I ended up being late to more meetings then I would like. After 6 months without an update, I had given up hope on the device and had long forgotten about it.

I was ecstatic when the watch arrived a couple of weeks ago. The box is only contained two things: the watch itself and a charging cable. So I proceeded to plug in the cable and came back to it after a couple of hours. To my chagrin, the watch remained off. A few quick presses of the buttons didn’t do much. Some quick searching on the Pebble site, I found out that I had to press the button for 4 to 6 seconds. Once I could get the watch on, I ran into a few problems connecting to the Pebble service. From what I read, this happens when you have a custom ROM. The workaround is relatively simple and can be found here. Aside from those two problems, setting up the watch was seamless after that.

The Pebble watch is shockingly simple and effective making it an extremely useful device. The Pebble watch looks and feels like a normal watch. It’s primary function is the ability to notify the watch wearer of events such as incoming email, sms, google talk, and phone calls. It also has the ability to control music which is an added benefit. There are some brilliant design decisions that they’ve made that makes absolute sense. At first, I was a bit surprised that the watch doesn’t queue notifications. However, I’ve appreciated that this is a watch and only the last notification is the one that matters. One of the things I look forward to are the apps that will be developed over time. I did dip my watch into the bath tub for a good 10 seconds and the phone works as good as ever.

There are some nice features that I hope to see developed over time. The big one is probably the ability to remotely alert the phone. I haven’t worn a watch in over two decades so I keep removing my watch and consistently misplace it. It’d be nice to have a Lookout equivalent for my watch. Another feature that I’d like to be able to see is the ability to create canned emailed and SMS messages and use them to respond from my watch.

I’ve had the Pebble watch for almost a couple of weeks now and I love it.