Samsung Chromebook 2 evaluation: A $four hundred laptop computer by no means appeared so good

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

Chromebooks appear to be having a second. Which is odd, as a result of for some time there, no one appeared to be giving them an opportunity. Because the first Chromebook got here out, about three years in the past, Chrome OS units have gotten flak for not with the ability to do as a lot as Home windows machines. And to be truthful, they could not, particularly at first. Producers responded by slashing costs, however that led to an entire different drawback: infinite netbook comparisons. Certainly, many Chromebooks till now have been small, filth-low cost and woefully low-finish. To be prevented, principally.

Recently, although, the tides have been altering. Almost each PC maker is making a Chromebook, if not a number of, and lots of will quickly be upgrading their fashions with heavier-obligation Intel Core i3 CPUs — processors so highly effective you may truly think about a Chromebook on your subsequent laptop computer. Samsung, in the meantime, is taking a special strategy: It is decked out its new eleven- and thirteen-inch Chromebook 2 laptops with a trendy fake-leather-based lid, just like what it did on the excessive-finish Galaxy Observe three and Galaxy Notice Professional. Samsung additionally went with a full HD display on the thirteen-inch mannequin, making it the one pocket book I do know that is this low cost with this good a show. With a beginning worth of $320 ($four hundred for the thirteen-incher), the Chromebook 2 is on the expensive aspect, however then once more, you are paying for higher high quality. So is it value it?

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Samsung

Chromebook 2 (thirteen-inch)

Execs

  • Trendy design, comparatively skinny and lightweight
  • Sharp show, particularly for this worth
  • Snug keyboard and trackpad
  • Lengthy battery life 

Cons

  • Pricier than different Chromebooks
  • Efficiency doubtless weaker than quickly-to-be-launched Core i3 Chromebooks
  • Lack of a full-sized SD card reader shall be a disappointment to some consumers
  • Viewing angles aren’t excellent 

Abstract

Chromebooks won’t ever be for everybody, however assuming you are recreation, the thirteen-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 is the one we advocate. Its sharp show, trendy design, lengthy battery life and cozy keyboard make it well worth the premium over competing fashions.

Hardware

It is easy to make enjoyable of Samsung for its obvious leather-based fetish. I imply, if I wore pleather with every thing, you’d giggle at me, too. However, as they are saying, do not knock it until you attempt it. Apart from the corny “stitches” lining the perimeter of the lid, the pretend leather-based (obtainable in grey solely on the thirteen-inch mannequin) truly provides the gadget a premium really feel. That is partly due to the resemblance to actual leather-based, however there’s one thing else at work, too: The textured materials does a great job masking fingerprints. Scratches, too. Even now that I have been utilizing it every week, the machine nonetheless seems recent. Not dangerous for a laptop computer that solely prices $320.

In fact, your opinion may change when you flip the machine over. Whereas the lid has been finished as much as appear to be a automotive seat, the underside is product of plain grey plastic. Not that there is something mistaken with that; loads of pricier PCs are made of these items. It is simply that the pleather and plastic look mismatched, particularly because the underside is extra vulnerable to choosing up finger grease. Oh properly. Not an enormous deal — it isn’t like you need to take a look at the underside that always, proper?

Raise the lid and the Chromebook 2 seems to be like different current Samsung laptops — save for the Chrome OS hotkeys, in fact. That very same grey plastic garments the palm relaxation, keyboard deck and bezels, with few elaborations, apart from some delicate chrome trim across the trackpad. It isn’t fancy, nevertheless it does not look low cost, both. That is probably the most you possibly can ask for at this worth, actually.

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

In-hand, the Chromebook 2 is about as heavy as a thirteen-inch Ultrabook, which is to say it weighs round three kilos (three.06, to be exact). As a bonus, it is noticeably thinner and lighter than the Toshiba CB30 Chromebook, one of many solely different thirteen-inch Chrome OS units obtainable proper now. That man is available in at three.three kilos and zero.eight inch thick, in contrast with zero.sixty five inch for Samsung’s mannequin.

Typically, although, the Chromebook 2 feels heavy for what it’s: a laptop computer with a browser for an OS. If it may well’t do as a lot as a correct Ultrabook, it in all probability should not weigh as a lot, proper? The factor is, that is not likely a good comparability. For one, thirteen-inch Ultrabooks value far more. The truth is, you will be exhausting-pressed to discover a Home windows laptop computer at this measurement and this worth that is this nicely-made (or has this good a display). And whereas a pill would weigh much less, you would be caught with an inferior typing expertise (as a result of let’s not fake keyboard instances are the actual factor). It is all about your priorities, I suppose. That stated, in case you’re bothered by the load right here, you must look into the eleven-inch Chromebook 2; that weighs 2.sixty five kilos.

Whichever model you get — the eleven- or thirteen-incher — the number of ports would be the similar. On board, there are two USB connections (one three.zero, the opposite 2.zero), a full-sized HDMI socket, a headphone jack, a normal lock slot and a microSD reader to enrich the business-normal 16GB of storage. Like all Chromebooks, this one comes with 100GB of Google Drive area, so maybe native storage shall be a moot level. That stated, the microSD slot factor is a little bit of a disgrace, as a result of it means you’ll be able to’t insert the complete-sized reminiscence card you is perhaps utilizing in your standalone digital camera. Should you’ve gotten used to taking photographs on a telephone or pill, although, with the ability to swap in a microSD card might truly be a handy setup.

Show

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

I’ve acquired some excellent news and dangerous information. On one hand, the Samsung Chromebook 2 has a full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 show, making it sharper than most different Chrome OS units (to not point out my ageing MacBook Air). And that is not simply me reciting the spec sheet: The display is noticeably sharper than different thirteen-inch laptops, particularly these you are more likely to discover on this worth vary. It is nice should you’re streaming films; it is nice if you wish to browse pictures; it is nice if you wish to see extra of your Gmail inbox on the display at one time. Principally, it is nice on a regular basis.

The issue is that whereas the pixel rely has improved, the high quality of the display nonetheless has a methods to go. The LED panel does not make use of any vast-angle viewing know-how, which suggests you will need to fiddle with the display place to get the white stability proper. Tilt the show ahead even slightly and the colours will begin to wash out, making on-display textual content more durable to learn. (This may be an particularly massive problem should you’re typing with the machine in your lap.) Fortunately, viewing angles are a bit higher from the edges, so you can, when you needed, have a Netflix-viewing celebration with a pair associates. In any case, the viewing angles aren’t a lot better on competing units, so maybe that is all a moot level.

On a constructive notice, the display is brighter than on the final-gen mannequin: 250 nits, up from 200. As it’s, the display has a close to-matte, anti-glare end that cuts down on reflections, however you will discover even fewer artifacts for those who bump up the brightness. For me, this got here in useful once I was working close to a window, with a lot of pure mild pouring in; in conditions like that, I wanted all of the backlight I might get. Similar goes if you end up working outdoors on a patio (fortunate you!). My solely warning — and this goes with out saying — is that the upper brightness setting drains the battery quicker. At max brightness, for example, the battery-life tray stated I had 88 %, or three and a half hours, left. With extra average brightness settings, an 88 % cost would truly imply I had almost seven hours remaining.

Keyboard and trackpad

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

Sure, thirteen-inch Chromebooks could be heavier than their smaller counterparts, however additionally they have the most effective keyboards: nicely-spaced and by no means too cramped. And of the bunch, Samsung’s may truly be greatest in school. The chiclet-type buttons listed here are properly-laid-out and amply sized — not one of the main keys (Shift, Ctrl, et cetera) have been minimize down. Additionally they have a shocking quantity of journey; they’re cushier than the Toshiba Chromebook’s, as an example. Beneath all of it is a sturdy panel that holds up nicely towards livid typing. All informed, then, it is simply nearly as good as any keyboard you’d discover on a costlier laptop computer. And, it goes towards the stereotype that Chromebooks are the brand new netbooks.

Like most Chromebooks, this one doesn’t have a touchscreen. That may be a disgrace at occasions, particularly should you’ve gotten used to swiping and tapping in Home windows eight. Luckily, although, what the Chromebook 2 lacks in contact enter, it makes up for with a unbelievable trackpad. It is giant, with loads of area on your fingers, and it responds easily to multi-contact gestures, like two-finger scrolling. Single-finger navigation can also be exact. Why cannot all touchpads be this high-quality-tuned?

Efficiency, battery life and software program

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

Chrome OS hasn’t modified a lot since our final Chromebook assessment, late final yr. After three years of incremental enhancements, the working system is lastly in a spot the place you’ll be able to multitask, in addition to do an honest quantity of labor offline, with out assistance from an web connection. It helps to have the ability to resize, reduce and transfer home windows, in addition to pin apps to the desktop and swipe upward on the touchpad to see all open apps. Gmail and Google Drive help offline entry, as do many third-celebration apps obtainable within the Chrome App Retailer. Simply keep in mind to undergo the syncing course of when you nonetheless have a WiFi sign. Google’s G+ Pictures app works offline as properly, although the modifying instruments are crude in comparison with what you’d take pleasure in on a full modifying suite like Photoshop. You’ll be able to print, too, by way of Google Cloud Print; be mindful, although, that not all printers are suitable. Lastly, Chrome OS was lately up to date with improved folder group, together with help for voice instructions (as long as they’re in English).

As restricted as Chromebooks may nonetheless appear, they will nonetheless be sufficient for some individuals, whether or not it’s youngsters, younger’uns used to doing every little thing on-line or people who want a light-weight, secondary laptop computer to make use of on journeys. You may miss sure main apps, like Skype or iTunes, however if you cannot reside with out these, then a Chromebook in all probability is not for you; get a cheap Home windows laptop computer and name it a day.

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

What’s fascinating is that whereas Chrome OS hasn’t undergone any drastic modifications these previous few months, Chromebooks appear to be exploding with newfound energy. As it’s, most fashions use an Intel Celeron processor. Later this yr, we’ll see a handful that step as much as Intel Core i3 CPUs. Samsung has to date been the exception: The Chromebook 2 runs on a Samsung-made chip, as did the mannequin that got here earlier than it. This yr, the chip is an eight-core processor, just like the one inside sure variations of the Galaxy S5. As with the GS5, the Chromebook 2 solely makes use of 4 cores directly; it is simply that the system is sensible sufficient to select the 4 which might be greatest for the job at hand. As well as, this yr’s mannequin comes with extra RAM — 4GB, up from 2GB. (It is value noting that 4GB of reminiscence is uncommonly beneficiant for a Chromebook. Then once more, competing fashions have extra strong processors.)

I will not rule out the likelihood that Core i3 Chromebooks are extra highly effective than the Chromebook 2; actually, I am positive they’re. That stated, I’ve some questions on diminishing returns: How a lot better will the Core i3 fashions be, and what influence will they’ve on worth? Till I check my first Core i3 Chrome OS gadget, I sadly cannot examine efficiency. Suffice to say, although, the octa-core chip contained in the Chromebook 2 was just about all the time sufficient for me: I might open plenty of tabs and leap round between them. I might stream Netflix and not using a hiccup. There is perhaps a distinction between a Core i3 and a cellular chip, however for some individuals — many individuals, even — that distinction can be irrelevant.

It additionally appears that through the use of an ARM-based mostly cellular processor, Samsung was capable of extract some actual battery life positive factors. Underneath ideally suited circumstances, the corporate guarantees eight.5 hours for the thirteen-inch mannequin, and eight hours for the eleven-incher. Even with fixed video playback and the brightness set to a comparatively excessive 10 out of sixteen bars, I nonetheless managed eight hours and 22 minutes of runtime. Not dangerous — not dangerous for a Chromebook, and never dangerous for a equally priced Home windows laptop computer, both.

Configuration choices

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

With the addition of the brand new Chromebook 2 line, Samsung now has three Chromebooks on the market: the brand new eleven- and thirteen-inch fashions, together with the final-gen mannequin, which additionally has an eleven-inch display. All in all, the 2 Chromebook 2 fashions have extra in widespread than not. Each use the identical octa-core chip, 4GB of RAM, 16GB of constructed-in storage and the identical port choice. Each have a leather-based-like again, although the eleven-inch model is bought in black and white, whereas the thirteen-inch mannequin is simply out there in grey. The most important distinction — except for measurement — is display high quality: The eleven-inch model has 1,366 x 768 decision, whereas the larger one goes as much as 1,920 x 1,080. Accordingly, the eleven-inch one begins at $320, whereas the thirteen-inch model retails for $four hundred.

If you wish to get monetary savings, you possibly can nonetheless decide up the final-gen Samsung Chromebook for $250. Some caveats to notice: It is much less highly effective, with a twin-core Samsung chip and half the RAM. It gives barely much less battery life (seven hours vs. eight on the brand new eleven-inch mannequin), with a plainer design. The display decision continues to be 1,366 x 768, with a brightness score of 200 nits (solely the thirteen-inch model is 250-nit). Apparently, whereas the brand new mannequin is, usually talking, a modest enchancment, the previous version is definitely lighter: 2.forty three kilos, in contrast with 2.sixty five for the brand new one. So it has that going for it. All informed, the variations between the 2 eleven-inch fashions are pretty modest; for those who go for the thirteen-inch model, you are in for a much bigger leap in high quality (sharper display, et cetera).

The competitors

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

Fact be advised, you are unlikely to discover a higher Chromebook than the thirteen-inch Chromebook 2. That stated, it may possibly’t harm to weigh your choices earlier than you lay down the four hundred bucks, proper? As I’ve hinted all through this evaluate, the Chromebook 2’s most direct competitors comes from Toshiba, whose debut Chromebook additionally has a thirteen-inch display. In its favor, Toshiba’s mannequin is 100 dollars cheaper, and guarantees as much as 9 hours of battery life, however its display (additionally non-contact) has a decrease decision of 1,366 x 768. The machine itself is thicker and heavier, with a plain, if inoffensive design. I can inform you from my private expertise, too, that though the keyboard is respectable, it is flatter and barely extra cramped than Samsung’s. The touchpad is not as dependable, both. You may nonetheless contemplate this on account of the worth, however as they are saying, you get what you pay for.

Indulge me for a second, as a result of I need to slide even additional down the standard scale. Towards the underside is the Acer C720, which begins at simply $200, or $300 with a contact display. That is proper, contact is an choice right here — one thing I can not say about most of the different manufacturers I’ve listed. And even with contact, the worth is fairly truthful. Simply understand that Acer minimize many a nook to get the fee down. Particularly, the keyboard is about as cramped and flimsy as a netbook’s. And I ought to know: I have been dwelling with the C720P as my fundamental house pc for a number of weeks now.

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

Hewlett-Packard, in the meantime, has two Chromebooks on supply: an eleven-inch mannequin ($279) and a much bigger 14-inch one for $299. It is value noting that the 14-incher is an improved, extra highly effective model of the unique 14-inch Chromebook HP got here out with, so we encourage you to ignore the low rating we gave that earlier mannequin. Even so, the Chromebook 14 continues to be one of many largest Chromebooks, which means it is going to be bulkier and heavier than virtually something on the market. Additionally, although you get extra display actual property, you do not truly get extra pixels; the decision tops out at 1,366 x 768. In the meantime, Dell’s Chromebook eleven goes for $279 and up. Over in our product database, it has an aggregated rating of seventy eight, which suggests reviewers across the web usually prefer it, even when it isn’t their favourite.

Lastly, Lenovo and ASUS have each lately introduced some new Chromebooks, however none of them are out but. You possibly can all the time wait round, although it appears you have already got numerous choices, with Samsung’s Chromebook 2 arguably being the perfect.

Wrap-up

Samsung Chromebook 2 review: A $400 laptop never looked so good

Chromebooks nonetheless aren’t for everybody: There’ll all the time be individuals who want stronger efficiency. Who want full offline entry. Who want to put in Skype. If that is you, no Chromebook will do, even whether it is wrapped in pretend leather-based. For a sure type of buyer, although — faculties, college students on a price range, a traveler in want of a lighter laptop computer — Chrome OS might be compelling. These individuals want a sturdy keyboard for typing, however can get by doing virtually all the things on-line. If that is you, I might advocate the Samsung Chromebook 2 over all the things else in its class. Sure, it is pricier than its rivals, however for the cash you get a pointy display, a premium-wanting design, lengthy battery life and a keyboard-trackpad combo so good even “common” PC makers ought to take observe. At $four hundred, it does not really feel like a netbook; it seems like a correct laptop computer. And I dare say, it is nicer than any Home windows pocket book you will discover at this worth. Maintain that in thoughts the subsequent time you are perusing the finances shelf at Greatest Purchase.

Daniel Orren and Edgar Alvarez contributed to this evaluate.