Summary and Conclusion
It's tough to review the Series 5 as a standard laptop. Hardware wise, the design and build quality is excellent. The keyboard and trackpad put those found in similarly priced machines to shame. The 12.1" matte display is far easier on the eyes than most of those low-quality glossy panels that have become almost ubiquitous on the market. There's a video output, two USB 2.0 ports and even an SD slot, which are useful extras for an OS that doesn't even have a proper desktop. Unlike many netbooks, the Series 5 never gets too warm for comfort, and we never caught the fan noise being a distraction. It's as well-behaved as you could ever hope a machine to be.
But on the other hand, you're dealing with an operating system that doesn't allow program installations outside of the Chrome Web Store, and you're dealing with a system that is nearly useless while offline. Those are major, major caveats that potential buyers should think long and hard about before making a Chromebook of any kind their next laptop. While connected, the Series 5 is a great companion, and handles email, social networking, photo viewing and YouTube watching better than any cramped and keyboard-less tablet could ever hope to. But disconnected, we're left to rely on Google to hopefully update applications to fully and seamlessly support offline working conditions. Just how often you'll be connected plays a big part in how enjoyable Chrome OS is to use.
It's worth mentioning that in the U.S., Samsung offers a $499 version of the Series 5 with built-in WWAN. Users can pop in their own SIM card, or rely on an integrated Verizon Wireless module that provides 100MB of free 3G service per month for the first two years of ownership. This undoubtedly makes it "easier" to stay connected, but it still does users no good on flights without Gogo or in places where there's no good cellular data service.
In sum, the Series 5 Chromebook cannot be relied upon as a machine to get serious work done at this time, but we have to add strong emphasis to the word "serious." If your "work" consists of managing e-mails, managing documents within Google Docs and inputting text on the Web, there's enough here to keep you satisfied. Otherwise, you'll probably wonder why you didn't spend your $429-$499 on a Windows-based netbook with a full-scale desktop OS that's capable of real multi-tasking, real program installations and offline usability. If Google can enable more offline functionality and get more programs that people are accustomed to into their Web Store, the second generation of this machine could be much harder to resist.
The Series 5 won't be for everyone; we'd argue that it only serves a small niche, in fact. But for those looking for a quick, nimble, rigid computing companion that boots up quickly, lasts all day on a charge, is beautiful to look at and won't ever pester you with a McAfee anti-virus pop-up, this guy's worth considering. Just make sure you've got a reliable Internet connection, because you'll be needing it.