Display and Audio Quality, Cooling, Portability
Display And Audio Quality
Though the hardware inside the Samsung and Acer versions of the Chromebook is identical, the displays are not the same size. The Acer display measures in at 11.6 inches, while the Samsung is 12.1 inches. Both are screens are matte and both have a resolution of 1366×768.
Though far from the best display I’ve laid eyes on, it’s better than average. The backlight is bright which, in combination with the matte coating, makes the Samsung Series 5 easy to use in any lighting condition. Yet even games and high-resolution images look crisp and vibrant. Issues only appear in particularly dark scenes. In that respect, black levels are not great and there is some backlight bleed along the bottom edge of the display.
Viewing angles are another sore spot. They are very limited on the vertical axis, so you have to adjust the display frequently to make sure the screen is at its optimal angle. Like the display’s other problems, this one is not particularly bad by laptop standards – it’s merely average.
Audio quality, on the other hand, is bad by any measure. Even at maximum volume the speakers are barely louder than those on my smartphone and only slightly more pleasing. You can use the Series 5 for media if you’re in a small, quiet room, but in any other situation the laptop’s audio can easily be lost in ambient noise. You will want to carry a pair of earbuds or headphones with you on your travels.
Cooling And Portability
Given the hardware, most readers will be unsurprised to hear the Series 5 is cool, quiet and easy to carry. In most situations the interior of the laptop was never more than a few degrees above room temperature. The bottom of the laptop can warm to 96 degrees Fahrenheit, but only in a limited area. Most of it remains in the high 80s, at most.
Weighing in at 3.3 pounds, the laptop is hardly a burden. It’s the kind of laptop that is sometimes easier to carry without a bag than with one because the bag itself may be nearly as heavy as the laptop. If you need to carry the power adapter you’ll be happy to find that it is small and light as well.
Will you need the adapter often? Let’s take a look. Our Battery Eater test won’t run on this laptop, but we can still use Peacekeeper.
These results were achieved with power management off. Chrome OS does not have user-adjustable power management features built in, so it will always sleep after a predetermined period of inactivity. The only way around this is to enter developer mode and turn off power management with a shell command.
Despite the potential handicap of not having power management, this Chromebook managed to last almost eight hours in the Peacekeeper test, demolishing the run times achieved by more conventional Windows laptops with Intel Core processors.
In typical use the Series 5 can last even longer. I only had to charge it once over a three-day weekend even though I used it for about four hours each day.
This result is not surprising. Samsung packs a large battery into this laptop (relative to its power and display size) so I would be a bit puzzled if endurance was poor. Still, this sort of life is commendable in a laptop with this price tag. Windows netbooks can achieve similar figures, but only if they too come with 6-cell batteries, which is sometimes an extra-cost option.