Besides serving as the first physical example of Google’s new vision for computing that puts less emphasis on PC hardware in favor of the cloud, the Series 5 Chromebook from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. sports attributes commonly found in a full-featured notebook, according to a preliminary physical dissection of the product conducted by the IHS iSuppli (NYSE: IHS) Teardown Analysis Service.
Including a high-quality 12.1-inch display, a full day (8.5 hours) of battery life, a new dual-core Atom processor, 2 gigabytes (GB) of memory and a 16GB solid state drive, the new Chromebook carries a bill of materials (BOM) of $322.12. When the $12.20 manufacturing cost of the Samsung Chromebook is added in, the total cost to produce the device rises to $334.32.
The attached table presents the preliminary BOM estimate of the Samsung Chromebook by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Service. Note that the BOM assessment accounts only for hardware costs, and does not take into consideration other expenses such as manufacturing software, licensing, royalties or other costs.
If it Looks like a Notebook, but it’s not…
Priced at around $500, the Chromebook very much resembles a value notebook or 3G netbook in terms of features and connectivity.
“The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is every bit a full-sized notebook PC—just don’t call it that,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, competitive analysis, at IHS. “Featuring Google’s Chrome operating software, the Chromebook represents the search giant’s first commercial implementation of its web-centric vision designed to entice users to move away from standalone computers to the network storage medium known as the cloud. But as much as Google would like to de-emphasize the role of user hardware, it is the hardware, in fact, that defines the Chromebook and will determine the success of the platform.”
Computing in the Clouds
As part of its bold new take on mobile computing distinct from the smart phones and tablet space, Google has placed its formidable weight behind the Chromebook initiative in hopes of providing an always-connected user experience. The Chromebook is a mobile computing platform that boots up within eight seconds, connects effortlessly to the web via Wi-Fi or 3G, and stores all its data in the cloud.
All this should make the physical hardware less crucial and more disposable. However, the Chromebook’s focus on providing a compelling user experience has resulted in the inclusion of some advanced hardware features not typically found in low-cost notebooks.
User Experience is Key
While emphasizing the Internet connectivity aspect of the Chromebook, Samsung chose to trim spending on certain items while increasing its outlay on other items, such as the display, battery pack and enclosure.
Key to this effort was Samsung’s vertical integration, which allows it to source components like the memory, battery and display in-house. This enabled Samsung to reduce costs in some areas and also to differentiate the product from devices from competing manufacturers.
Motherboard Leads the Price Parade
The motherboard is the most expensive subsystem of the Chromebook, at $86.37, or 26.0 percent of the device’s total BOM. The major cost driver for the motherboard is the main memory supplied by Samsung Semiconductor, consisting of a 2 GB Double Data Rate 3 (DDR) SDRAM.
The motherboard also features a dual-core Atom N570 processor from Intel Corp. and a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) for computing security from Infineon Technologies—a component seen more often in enterprise-level computers, but not so much on value computing devices.
A Bright Display Entices
The Samsung Chromebook features a high-quality 12.1-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) with improved light-emitting diode (LED) backlight technology that achieves 300nit brightness. Made in-house by Samsung, the display has a pixel format of 1280 by 800 pixels and a 16 by 10 aspect ratio. At $58.00, the display is the second most expensive subsystem after the motherboard, accounting for 17.5 percent of the total BOM.
As part of enhancing the user experiencing, Samsung also chose to invest on an all-day, 6-prismatic cell battery pack—a component that takes up nearly two-thirds of the total volume of the Chromebook. The 7.4-volt lithium ion polymer battery is sourced from Samsung SDI and carries a cost of $48.20, or 14.5 percent of the overall BOM.
Parsing Out the 3G Module
Coming in fourth in terms of cost is the global 3G wireless wide area network (WWAN) module from Hon Hai Precision Technology of Taiwan, consisting of a quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM, a quad-band HSPA/UTMS and a dual-band CDMA. To keep its costs down, Samsung elected to use an older Gobi 2000 baseband platform from Qualcomm, the IHS iSuppli Teardown reveals. All told, the 3G WWAN module comes to a cost of $42.85, or 12.9 percent of the total BOM.
Figuring in Other Components
At $40.45 or 12.2 percent of the BOM, the other mechanicals and enclosures, including the keyboard assembly and touchpad assembly, take up another sizable share of cost, in line with Samsung’s vision of making the tactile user experience of its Chromebook an enjoyable one.
The other costs in the BOM include:
- A 16GB solid state disk (SSD) for storage, at $28.00, or 8.4 percent of the total cost. Ironically, the drive was sourced from SanDisk and not from Samsung’s own internal line of flash memory and SSDs. Most likely, Samsung did not have an SSD of equivalent capacity, and the company wanted to keep overall BOM costs low by supplying an acceptable, but not overly large, storage capacity.
- The peripheral printed circuit board, which contains the Wi-Fi and PC camera modules, coming in at a cost of $17.85, or 5.4 percent of the BOM.
- The box contents, which include an AC power adapter and other accessories, costing $10.40, or 3.1 percent of the total.
Slated for release on June 15, the 3G version of the Samsung Chromebook will be available at retail for $499, with a Wi-Fi version costing $70 less. Acer Inc. is the other company that will be making a Chromebook, and Google will offer the devices on a subscription model for the education and enterprise segments. In the United States, Verizon will be a partner on the Chromebook initiative, offering free 100 megabytes of 3G service each month for two years.
Samsung Chromebook Teardown Photo Analysis
The following represents a sample of the photographs of the Samsung Chromebook teardown analysis. These images are annotated to include suppliers and functional areas.