Samsung Chromebook, model XE303C12-A01US
Dimensions: 11.4” x 8.09” x 0.7”
Weight: 2.43 lbs.
Operating System: Google Chrome OS
CPU Type: Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Core 1.75GHz, 1MB Cache
Screen Size: 11.6”
Widescreen Support: Yes
Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768
LCD Features: 200-nit Brightness Anti-reflective LED HD display
Memory Specs: 2GB DDR3 On Board
Hard Disk: 16GB SSD
GPU/VPU: Integrated Graphics
Video Memory: Shared system memory
Graphic Type: Integrated Card
WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 3.0 for keyboard and mouse
Ports: 1 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
Video Port: Yes (Available only with dongle sold separately)
1 x HDMI
1 x Headphone/MIC combo Audio Port
Speakers: 3W Stereo Speaker (1.5W x 2)
Touchpad: Scroll Scope, Flat Type
Keyboard: 74 keys
Card Reader: 3-in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
AC Adapter: 40-watt
Battery: 2 cell/ LI-PO 4080mAh 30Wh
Battery Life: Up to 6.3 hours
After purchasing this model of Chromebook a couple of weeks ago, I was mildly surprised to find that there were several “routine” questions I had about the device, the answers for which were very difficult, if not impossible, to find by searching around on the internet. So, for what it’s worth, here are some things I’ve learned about the Samsung Chromebook, either by conducting my own experiments or by finding the info in the nether regions of the internet…
1. Bluetooth: Yes, just as advertised, you CAN pair the Chromebook up to a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse. You CANNOT at this time, however, pair it up to a Bluetooth audio device. This fact is not very well publicized and, the first day I was goofing around with the Chromebook, I couldn’t understand why it would pair up to my iHome iDM8 Bluetooth speaker for about two seconds, and then just as quickly unpair again.
This issue (#204431) has been fixed, and when the Chromebook automatically updates to stable Chrome OS milestone/release 28, Bluetooth audio should be enabled. Stable release/milestone 27 came out on 23 May 2013. This means that, since stable versions of Chrome OS are released roughly every three months, stable milestone/release 28 should be available by about 23 August 2013.
In the meantime, if you want to switch to the beta or unstable developer release/milestone of Chrome OS to see if Bluetooth audio works on your Chromebook, you can do this by doing the following:
a) click on the bottom right hand side of the screen where the time, wifi signal, etc. are shown.
b) click on “settings”
c) click on “help”
d) click on “more info”. (Fyi: this screen also shows you the release/milestone of Chrome OS you are currently running…)
e) under “channel”, click on the release of Chrome OS you want to use (Stable, Beta, or Dev-Unstable)
2. Which formats are the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports on the Chromebook capable of reading? I could find absolutely no information anywhere on the internet about this topic, so I had to do my own testing to find the answer. Using an ADATA 16GB USB 3.0 flash drive for the test, I formatted the flash drive to FAT32, NTFS, and Ext3/Ext4. The Samsung Chromebook was able to read the flash drive formatted to each of these formats with no problem. I also plugged an RCA MP3 player formatted to FAT16 into the Chromebook’s USB 2.0 port, and it was able to read the format and all of the mp3 files on the device flawlessly.
3. Use of External Hard Drives: Tried out three different Western Digital portable hard drives and a Seagate 3TB desktop hard drive. The Chromebook was able to read and write to all of them with no problem.
3. Video Playback: According to the manual, the Chromebook can only play MP4 video files. However, as unlikely as it would seem, quite a few people on the internet have mentioned that they were able to take MKV video files, simply change the file extension to MP4, and then play the files on their Chromebook.
Here’s what I found to be true, at least as far as my particular Chromebook goes:
I used the movie “Branded” and transcoded it to MKV, codec H.264, 1690Kbps variable Bitrate, AAC/165Kbps audio, 852 x 480 resolution. I then formatted the ADATA 16GB USB 3.0 flash drive to NTFS and copied the transcoded movie onto it. The Chromebook was unable to play the file. I then changed the file extension to MP4 and tried to play it again. Once again, the Chromebook was unable to play the file. I then transcoded the movie to MP4 and tried to play it. The Chromebook was able to play that file with no problem.
Bottom line here: My Chromebook can only play video files which have been fully transcoded to MP4 format.
4. Video Playback from Google Drive: Uploaded the transcoded MP4 copy of “Branded” to Google Drive. The Chromebook was able to play the file via Google Drive Viewer with no problems.
5. Google Cloud Print: There are two ways to print from this Chromebook. The first is to buy a cloud-ready printer. I don’t know much about these printers, but it looks like the cheapest ones run about $60. The other way is to use another computer with Google Chrome Browser installed on it. I tried this method, and was (no joke) able to set up Google Cloud Print and print a test page from my Chromebook in under two minutes.
The details: My desktop computer dual-boots Windows 8 and Ubuntu 13.04 operating systems. It has two printers hooked up to it, an HP Deskjet 3521 and a Brother HL-2230. Although it specifies in the Chromebook instructions that you must use a Mac or Windows PC, I set up Google Cloud Print using Ubuntu with no difficulty, and was able to print on both printers.
Here are the steps for setting up Google Cloud Print:
a) Open the Google Chrome browser
b) Click on the little icon at the top right-hand side of the screen that has three little lines on it.
c) Click on “settings”
d) Scroll all the way down and click on “Show Advanced Settings”
e) Click on “Google Cloud Print”
f) Sign in to your Google account
g) Click on “Add Printers”
h) Click on “Add All Printers”
Remember, whenever you print using this method, your other computer needs to be on (not asleep or hibernating…).
6. Streaming video: Tried streaming the pilot episode of “Breaking Bad” via Netflix, Amazon Video and Google Play Movies. It looked great on Netflix and Amazon Video but, strangely, it stopped and buffered so often on Google Play Movies that it was not watchable. I tried this several times over the course of a couple of days and got the same results each time.
7. ODF documents (.ODT, .ODS, .ODP): Installed OpenDocument Reader from the Chrome Web Store and was able to view all my LibreOffice ODF documents, both the downloaded ones and the ones stored on Google Drive and Dropbox. This is a read-only feature, though. If you want to edit one of these documents, you’ll need to upload it to Google Drive and make sure that you have enabled “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs format” in Google Drive settings. Alternatively, you can use the “LibreOffice on rollApp” app from the Chrome Web Store. The app seems to work pretty well.
8. How to see the file size of a file on Google Drive after you’ve uploaded it:
On Google Drive, in the upper right-hand side of the screen, click on “sort”, then click on “quota used”.
9. Other observations:
a) Kindle Cloud Reader works great on the Chromebook; and, yes, you can download Kindle ebooks for offline reading.
b) You get 100GB of cloud storage for two years for free on Google Drive when you buy a Chromebook. The two years doesn’t necessarily start the day you buy the Chromebook. It starts the day you sign up for the 100GB. When the two years are up, you will not lose the stuff you uploaded to Google Drive. You’ll always be able to access your data even after the two years are up. You just won’t be able to add any more data to Google Drive unless you choose to buy more storage.
c) Downloading music from both Google Play and Amazon onto the Chromebook is very easy, and it’s almost instantaneous. (Seems to be much faster than downloading to Windows PC or Android tablet…)
d) How to turn on Caps Lock: Alt-Search
e) This Chromebook has a matte screen instead of a glossy screen. This means that there is almost no glare, but the picture might not look quite as vivid as it would on a glossy screen. Personally, I’d prefer the matte screen on this thing over the glossy screen on my Windows 8 Laptop any day…
f) The Chromebook has a pre-installed file manager that is just called “files”. It usually automatically opens when you insert a drive into one of the USB ports. You can also bring it up by selecting the “files” icon in the Chromebook’s app manager. “Files” works fine, but it would be nice if there were other file managers, such as Android’s ES File Explorer or XPlorer, available for the Chromebook. It would also be nice if there were media player apps available for it that could play MKV video files. We’re still in the early days of Chrome OS development, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all if apps such as these become available in the near future.
g) Yes, the battery is supposed to be easily replaceable if you’re willing to take the bottom cover off by removing a few screws.