We never had much doubt about what Samsung would be showcasing at tonight's finale event at Google I/O 2011, but now it's official -- the outfit's first-ever Chrome OS ultraportable is making its debut in San Francisco, and we've been fortunate enough to grab a bit of hands-on time. Slated to ship to consumers, businesses and educational institutions on June 15th, the 12.1-inch Series 5 is a strikingly svelte machine, and there's no doubt that holding a 0.79-inch rig gives us all kinds of chills. The company took a bit of time to play up its "Power Plus" battery technology, lasting up to 8.5 hours with "active use," or 5 hours of straight video. There's also a new hitch in the Verizon Wireless data deal -- 100MB will be tossed in each month on the 3G model, but contrary to what we'd heard earlier, that ends after two years (rather than lasting for the life of the product).

The hardware feels tremendous -- stiff, solid and well appointed, much like Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 Limited Edition. It outclasses the other sub-$450 netbooks we've seen in both style and rigidity, and while we'll always have a special place in our heart for the CR-48, it's pretty clear that this particular unit was in the oven for some while. We've hoping to spend some serious time with this guy in the middle of next month, but for now, here's what we can tell you -- the 1280 x 800 display is both crisp and sharp, with shockingly great viewing angles for a machine of this price. The keyboard's far from cramped, and if you've had your doubts on the 12.1-inch form factor, we're guessing one touch of this would have those running for cover. Oh, and the trackpad? One of the best we've felt in the PC universe, and one that we hope crops up elsewhere in the near future. It's right about on par with the one found on the CR-48 (post update), which is also stellar compared to most netbooks.

Obviously, we aren't here long enough to test the ultra-longevous battery (said to be good for over 1,000 cycles -- perfect for education and business users who are apt to adopt it), but we'll be sure to do our best once we settle down with a production unit. We're told that it'll be available in Titan Silver or Arctic White, provide a chiclet style keyboard, a multi-gesture trackpad (which supports two-finger scrolling) and "instant" wake from sleep.

Update: More impressions and video are after the break, and a head-to-head with a current-gen 11-inch MacBook Air is below!
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Samsung Series 5 Chrome OS laptop hands-on


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Samsung Series 5 Chrome OS laptop vs. 11-inch MacBook Air... fight!



We just went back for round two, and came away with a few other details. There's a 3.5mm headphone / mic combo jack, two USB 2.0 ports, a front-mounted SD card slot, a video out socket that requires a proprietary dongle to convert to anything useful, a dev mode switch (for jailbreaking, naturally), a full-size SIM card slot and a non-removable battery. That's apt to sadden CR-48 loyalists, but for whatever it's worth, sealed batteries are the new norm. There's a dedicated row of browser keys in place of the F-key lineup (Page Back, Page Forward, Refresh, New Window, Volume, Screen Brightness), and we're told that the hardware we're seeing here is "final." The only major knock is the LCD hinge -- the panel itself is on the heavy side, and tilting it too far forward resulted in an automatic closing of the lid. We doubt that'll cause too much heartache in practice, but at this point, we're scrambling to nitpick.

In use, the machine felt decidedly zippy, and it managed to handle three simultaneous windows filled with around ten panes apiece without any noticeable lag. We'll definitely need a more suitable test bed to tell for sure, but at least it's not lagging in the most ideal of circumstances.