May 29, 2012 at 5:45 PM ET
Hot on the heels of the new version of Chrome OS come two new pieces of hardware from Samsung: an updated Series 5 Chromebook and a "Chromebox," which Google is hoping will sell as a low-cost desktop or media device. The new gear won't be toppling any empires, but it is handsome and possibly practical.
The new Series 5 550 laptop isn't any bigger, but adds much-needed horsepower in the form of a new Intel Core processor and 4GB of RAM. It also has an improved webcam and a much more modern video-out port: the new one will work with HDMI, DVI or VGA, which means it should be easy as pie to connect to a monitor or TV.
There's been a significant but not drastic redesign: more squared-off corners, a handsome slate finish,and an aluminum palm rest. The trackpad has been "built from the ground up" for the new laptop.
Unfortunately the improved processor results in a slightly lower running time: 6 hours versus 8.5 on the old Series 5. And the build changes have added a third of a pound to the weight; it's now 3.3 pounds. But the trade-off is almost certainly worth it. It's available now for $449.
The Chromebox is a "compact, powerful and versatile desktop perfect for the home or office." It's a bit underpowered compared to most tower desktops, but the price is right at $349. It too has a new Intel Core processor and 4GB of RAM, but it also has three display ports (good for multiple monitors or connecting to a TV) and a ton of USB ports.
Shipping with the new hardware is the new version of Chrome OS, which features a more desktop-like interface complete with task bar and desktop. They're adding deep support for Google Drive as well, including offline access, so your files will be available whether you're online or not.
Google is constantly updating the software, and new features are already on the way. But the addition of more up-to-date hardware makes the Chrome OS device family a bit more realistic for budget-minded buyers. More information can be found at Google's blog post.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.