Business, Hardware

Taking the Samsung Chromebook Apart, Dollar by Dollar


A Chromebook is a mobile device running Google Chrome OS. The devices comprise a distinct class of personal computer falling between a pure cloud client and traditional laptop. But how much does that Samsung Chromebook cost to build?

According to an iSuppli teardown, the device’s bill of materials comes to $322.12. When the $12.20 manufacturing cost of the Samsung Chromebook is added in, IHS iSuppli researchers found the total cost to produce the device rose to $334.32.

Samsung Chromebook taken apart to the last bit. You're looking at $334.32 worth of goods in mass quantities
Samsung Chromebook taken apart to the last bit. You’re looking at $334.32 worth of goods in mass quantities

Starting June 15, the 3G version of the Samsung Chromebook will be available at Best Buy and Amazon for $499, with a Wi-Fi version costing $70 less.

The Chromebook has more expensive hardware than an expensive netbook or entry-level notebook. Wayne Lam, a senior analyst at HIS iSuppli, said "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."

The motherboard is the most expensive part of Samsung’s Chromebook, at $86.37, or 26 percent of the total bill of materials. The motherboard includes a 2GB Double Data Rate 3 (DDR) SDRAM, as well as a dual-core Intel Atom N570 processor and a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) for computing security from Infineon Technologies, which is most commonly found on enterprise-level computers, iSuppli said.

The second most-expensive component is the 12.1-inch, 1,280-by-800 display from Samsung, which costs $58, or 17.5 percent of the total.

The Samsung battery pack, meanwhile, is $48.20. The Chromebook packs a 7.4-volt lithium-ion polymer, all-day, six-prismatic-cell battery pack from Samsung SDI, which takes up nearly two-thirds of the Chromebook volume ebook.

The 3G module from Hon Hai (Foxconn) in the same price range, costs $42.85. iSuppli said Samsung cut down on costs by using an older Gobi 2000 baseband platform from Qualcomm.

Samsung Chromebook Series 5

Google is making its Web store available in 41 languages to its 160 million users. There are more than 4,500 apps to choose from in Google’s Chrome Webstore, most of which are free. You can even get Angry Birds for the Chromebook.

So what are the advantages of a Chromebook? If you have a good 3G connection you can access applications located on the Google cloud. However, depending on a good 3G connection mostly means you are in an urban area or beside an interstate highway. Few rural locations offer reliable 3G speeds from any wireless carrier. So an advantage becomes a disadvantage depending on location. The few pre-production samples that have been the subject of early reviews always point to 3G wireless as a potential weak point in the design.

Priced at $500, the Samsung Chromebook costs more than an 11.6-inch Wi-Fi AMD E-350-powered ultraportable running Windows 7 for $375. So, other than having the latest techy toy, what does the Chromebook offer you? Everybody is waiting for a production unit to review. Maybe we?ll have a better answer to that question then.