Google's CR-48 Chrome laptop was a rough draft of the kind of computer people will be using eventually—lean, fast, utterly and completely connected—but it had its problems. (Oh lord, the trackpad.) Samsung's Series 5 Chromebook is like version 1.0.
It's not a netbook, Google will tell you. (Vocally.) But your hands will tell you differently. It's squishy in the middle, when you press on the upper section of the trackpad. Almost like it's hollow. The rest of the plastic body bends like stale bread. It's at that weird intersection between meh plastic and good plastic. And it's thin, notably but not remarkably so.
The trackpad is better than the last Chromebook. It clicks distinctly, forcefully—but also cheaply. Like they were trying to overcompensate for Google's last trackpad while using lower quality parts. (The action isn't as seamless, as say, a MacBook Pro's.) It's still better than the CR-48's by a wide margin, with two-finger scrolling and general tracking working just fine. The keyboard? Great. Soft, in that good way, like some of my favorite Logitech chiclet keyboards, and spacey.
The 12.1-inch, 300-nit screen is nice enough. It plays YouTube videos in 1080p okay, not amazingly. Thor's trailer was watchable, but the motion was not what you'd call lovely, the odd bundle of frames dropped here and there. Hulu's interface chugged. But that's Flash for you, even with hardware acceleration. Normal tasks—tons of tabs loaded with web apps—totally fine. The 2GB of RAM and dual-core Atom chip are clearly capable, though not Olympic in strength.
All in all, it's about exactly what you'd expect for $429 of computer in the shape of a laptop. No more, and not much less. (To be less ambiguous: An iPad and Samsung's own Galaxy Tab feel like higher quality devices, by a sizable margin.) But hey, I hear these things print now, too.