Google has redoubled its efforts behind Chrome OS, unveiling two new Samsung-built machines today. Launched last May, the company's first cloud-based systems were scarcely marketed and were largely dismissed as niche products. This time, Google says it wants to boost awareness of its devices and it plans to make that happen, especially toward the holiday season, which will bring even more Chrome OS models.

For now, you can purchase the 12.1-inch Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook for $449 ($549 for 3G) or the plainly-named Chromebox for $329. Both systems pack Intel Core processors (no models listed), a notable improvement from last year's Atom-based machines, which should address complaints about the systems being sluggish – precisely the opposite of what Google is aiming for. Here's a table of each unit's specifications:

  Samsung Series 5 550 Samsung Chromebox
Processor Intel Core Intel Core
Memory 4GB 4GB
Network Gigabit Ethernet/Wi-Fi/Opt. 3G Gigabit Ethernet/Wi-Fi
Video DisplayPort++ 2 x DisplayPort++, DVI
USB 2 x 2.0 6 x USB 2.0
Other 4-in-1 Card  Slot, HD Camera Bluetooth 3.0, Kensington Lock
Display 12.1" 1280x800 N/A
Battery Six Hours N/A
Weight 3.3lbs/1.48kg N/A
Price $449-$549 $329

Tons of reviews for both systems are available, with most authors agreeing that Google has managed to deliver a more polished package with noticeable improvements to speed, multitasking, UI scaling and plenty more. Despite its improvements, reviewers still suggest the Chromebook isn't without drawbacks – especially at $449-$549, which could get you a more capable Windows-based machine. Some quotes from around the Web:

Here's the biggest problem with the Chromebook: the hardware's fine, and the simplified Web-based OS is clever, and even versatile if you don't mind its limitations. Still, it's a radically reduced subset of what you can get on a Windows or Mac laptop...or even an iPad or Android tablet, for that matter. And yet, it costs more than a new iPad 2, a thinner, keyboard-enabled Android tablet like the Asus Transformer Pad, or a fully featured 11-inch ultraportable laptop like the AMD-powered HP dm1z....As it currently stands, it's merely an invitation to pay a lot of money to be part of a Google experiment. And you're the test subject...There's no good reason to buy a Chromebook at this price. If the Chromebook were $99, or even $199, its price would make it an instant consideration as a Netbook and tablet alternative. CNET

The Chromebook's hardware still feels a bit lackluster. The build quality and display are adequate without being anything special, and I prefer some of the design touches from the last-generation Chromebook. For the $449 price, though, you can get a pretty good Windows laptop, so you have to consider the tradeoffs. The Chromebook has great battery life, solid performance, and fantastic start-up time, but Windows still offers a world of apps and use cases that Chrome OS can't match. Google is closer than ever to convincing the world that we can live online, that we can do away with the old hard drives and local apps and spend our lives on the web. If you're shopping for a dead-simple computer to use as a secondary machine or to give to someone with only basic computer needs, the latest Chrome OS machines are worth a long look. The Verge

When we reviewed the first Chromebook a year ago, we concluded that Chrome OS isn't for everybody...The good news is that Google's taken a half-baked, experimental product and done an admirable job of fleshing it out...Version 19 marks a welcome update for existing Chrome OS users, and should suffice for the classrooms that are already issuing Chrome devices to students. Heck, it might even be time for curious early adopters to give Chrome OS a second look. But as Google starts selling more Chrome devices in retail, we have a harder time believing many consumers will be ready to put up with these limitations, especially as tablet apps grow more sophisticated, and as we start to see Transformer-like Win8 devices with touch-friendly apps and physical keyboards. Engadget

**Thumbnail via Wired