Samsung's Series 5 Chromebook hit the shelves Wednesday, selling for US$500 for a 3G version and $430 for a WiFi-only model. A teardown performed by IHS iSuppli senior analyst Wayne Lam found that the Series 5 Chromebook has hardware attributes commonly found in a full-featured notebook.
The Chromebook Series 5 is "an interesting device because it's priced like a netbook, but if you look at the construct, it somewhat resembles what Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) trying to do with the MacBook Air," Lam told TechNewsWorld.
The Chromebook Series 5 could initially find it difficult to gain acceptance among users because they may not see how they can use it, Lam suggested. "It's a product awaiting the creation of a use case," Lam said.
That's similar to a criticism often lobbed at tablets, though some models have proven to be better sellers than others.
What the Series 5 Is Made Of
The Series 5 measures about 0.8 inches high -- roughly the same height as a penny stood on edge. It has a 12.1-inch anti-reflective, anti-glare SuperBright display with 300nit brightness. SuperBright is Samsung's name for its glossy screen.
A "nit" is a measure of luminance, meaning the amount of light that passes through or is emitted from a particular area falling within a given solid angle. It's used to characterize the brightness of displays. A typical computer display is rated at between 50 nits and 300 nits.
The Series 5 Chromebook weighs 3.3 pounds. It has a battery life of up to 8.5 hours and has an Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) Dual-core Atom N570 processor.
It has 2GB of memory and a 16GB solid state drive.
The device comes with a full-sized Chrome keyboard and an oversized multi-touch trackpad. It starts up in less than 10 seconds, and resumes instantly from standby. It has two USB ports.
Connectivity is provided through 3G, WLAN, and a four-in-one card reader.
The Samsung Chromebook comes bundled with up to 100 MB per month of mobile broadband service from Verizon for two years.
IHS iSuppli's Teardown
The total hardware cost of the Chromebook Series 5 is just over $334, iSuppli said.
In terms of features and connectivity, the device mostly resembles a value notebook or 3G netbook, iSuppli stated.
However, the Samsung Chromebook includes some advanced hardware features not typically found in low-cost notebooks, iSuppli said.
The motherboard is the device's single most expensive subsystem, coming in at over $86, or 26 percent, of the total bill of materials cost.
The Chromebook Series 5 has an Infineon Technologies Trusted Platform Module, something more usually seen in enterprise-level computers than in value-priced computing devices, iSuppli pointed out.
Bright Lights, Big Touchpad
LCD display with an aspect ratio of 16:10, iSuppli found. This costs $58, and is the second most expensive subsystem in the device.
The Chromebook "to some extent follows the MacBook Air's design, with its large 300nit display, oversized touchpad and large keyboard," iSuppli's Lam said.
The Chromebook Series 5 Experience
Though many comparisons to netbooks may be made, the Chromebook should not be compared with a tablet, iSuppli's Lam said.
"First of all, it's not touch-based; also, it allows you to do more conventional things like content creation, whereas with tablets you're basically consuming content," Lam explained.
"Think of this as ideal for folks who like the idea of a tablet for in-home use but want an integrated keyboard rather than a touchscreen," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.
"This device anticipates a world that doesn't yet exist," Enderle said. "Think of it as the equivalent to DOS in the 1980s -- it will be known more for what it will become than what it is," he added.
However, the need for connectivity and access to the Web may count against Chromebooks in general.
"Chromebooks are going to seriously struggle regardless of who makes them," Bob O'Donnell, a program vice president at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.
"The price points are high, people don't necessarily have connectivity, 3G data plans are very expensive, and with 3G, people get a limited amount of bandwidth per month, and they will probably go through it in a couple of days," O'Donnell elaborated.