Performance and battery life
I mentioned that Chrome OS was fast on the Samsung Chromebook. How fast? Well, we can't run our regular laptop suite on this thing to find out, but we can use the browser benchmarks from our tablet suite. That makes for a fitting comparison, since the Samsung Chromebook's ARM-based processor is similar to what's found in the tablets we've tested already.
Well, well, no wonder the Samsung Chromebook feels snappy. This $249 laptop completely trounces Apple's $499 iPad and Asus' $599 VivoTab RT. Part of that must be the Chrome web browser, but the new Exynos 5 chip no doubt deserves its fair share of the credit. I should also note that the Chromebook completes six of Peacekeeper's seven HTML5 tests, while none of the tablets finish more than three (and the iPad and Nexus 7 each complete only one).
We can also measure how long the system takes to start up after a complete shutdown:
The Samsung Chromebook boots up in 10 seconds and wakes from sleep in about three. That's roughly in the same league as a high-end Windows 8 ultrabook with a fast solid-state drive, and it's much quicker than tablets. Those aren't fair comparisons, of course. Chrome OS is a much more lightweight operating system than Windows 8, and tablets have low enough standby power consumption that shutting them down usually isn't necessary.
Speaking of which, how does the Samsung Chromebook fare in our battery tests?
We measured web browsing battery life using TR Browserbench 1.0, which serves a static version of TR's old home page rigged to refresh every 45 seconds. Browserbench cycles through various permutations of text content, images, and Flash ads, with some cache-busting code to keep things realistic. Flash was set to "on demand" on the Android tablets and left enabled, per the default, on the Chromebook. (The iPad lacks Flash support altogether.)
We also tested video playback battery life by looping a 720p Game of Thrones episode. Since Chrome OS's built-in video player lacks looping functionality, we had to stand by and rewind the video whenever it neared the end. All systems were tested with their display brightness set as close as possible to 100 cd/m².
Samsung quotes a run time of 6.3 hours for this Chromebook, and Google claims 6.5 hours, so the fact that we reached 7.1 hours in our web browsing test is a nice surprise. This is the kind of battery life you'd expect from an ultrabook. Tablets do better still, but the cheapest one of those to feature a keyboard costs over twice as much as the Chromebook.
The Samsung system's battery life during video playback is a little less impressive. Nevertheless, it should suffice for watching a couple of movies back-to-back (provided you skip the credits).