Samsung Chromebook Review


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Samsung Chromebook Review

  1. 1. Samsung Chromebook ReviewSamsung Chromebook ReviewWhenever we review Chromebooks, we alwayscome to more or less the same conclusion:its a neat idea, a computer where everything is done online, but its not worth the money.That was back when Chrome OS devices were priced at $500, competing with netbooks thatcould run not just the Chrome browser, but all manner of Windows apps. Ditto for tablets,which can be tricked out with many thousands of apps on both iOS and Android.But what if we told you the price had been slashed to $249? Then could you see yourselfpulling the trigger? Thats the gamble Google and Samsung Chromebook are taking with thenew samsung Chromebook, which retails for $249 with an 11.6-inch display, 6.5-hour batteryand a more compact design. All told, its as good a piece of hardware as any netbook youllfind, only cheaper. And good luck finding a tablet-and-keyboard combo for less than $250.There is one major change this time around, though, and thats the Samsung Chromebooksdual-core ARM processor, instead of something from Intels Celeron family. The performanceisnt likely to be as good, but will that matter if all youre running is the Chrome browser? Willthe lowered price be enough to lure in parents, travelers and other folks looking for a cheapsecond laptop? Lets see.Until now, Samsung Chromebook have been priced in the $500 range with a build quality astep above what most netbooks have to offer. As you might expect, now that the price hasbeen slashed to $249, it feels slightly cheaper than the last-generation samsung chromebook Series 5 550 but only slightly. With the exception of the palm rest, which used to bemade of inlaid metal, this has the same look and feel as the Samsung Chromebook wereviewed earlier this year.Once again, youre looking at a lightweight machine built from matte gray plastic. The wholething feels compact, at 2.5 pounds, and because it has a smaller display (11.6 inches versus12.1) its significantly lighter than the last Samsung Chromebook, which weighed 3.3 pounds.The island-style keyboard is just as comfortable, and the trackpad is similarly large. It was anice package when it cost $500, but its reallynice now that the MSRP has been lowered to$249. You simply wont find a netbook this nice for that little money.The new Samsung Chromebook is thinner, too, at 0.8 inch thick, but that thinness meansSamsung Chromebook has gone back to not having an Ethernet port. (It was missing fromthe OG model, but was added in the one that went on sale earlier this year.) The inability touse a wired internet connection could be a problem in computer labs, where Chrome OSdevices have proven popular, though we suspect mainstream consumers wont care. Lookclosely at the edges and youll also find an SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 3.0and 2.0 ports, HDMI output and a 3G SIM slot. As ever, the bottom of the device is sealed,so that you cant easily mess with the battery, storage or RAM.KEYBOARDGiven what the Samsung Chromebook is an inexpensive, ultra-mobile device for people whoprefer physical keyboards Samsung really cant get away with offering a shoddy typing
  2. 2. experience. After all, back when Samsung Chromebook cost $500, they were priced in linewith both netbooks and tablets. If the keyboard were uncomfortable, thered be little reasonnot to get a cheap PC instead, or use a tablet with either a touchscreen or keyboard case.The typing experience mattered then, and it matters today, even now that the SamsungChromebook is priced less than most netbooks and tablets.Fortunately, the keyboard is as good here as it ever was, despite the fact that this smallermodel has a little less room to fit all those buttons. The individual keys have a pleasantly softfinish, and all of the major buttons (Enter, Backspace, et cetera) are amply sized. As on otherSamsung Pcs, the keyboard is a bit shallow, but the learning curve shouldnt be too steep:we were typing at a brisk clip minutes after setting it up. Additionally, we appreciate theshortcut keys in the top row, which allow you to refresh pages, switch tabs and page forwardor backward with the press of a button.As we said, the trackpad is nice and spacious, which makes it easy to pull off two-fingerscrolling. Single-finger navigation is also reliable, but with tap-to-clicking, we sometimes hadto apply a little extra pressure to make those taps register. Overall, though, its easy to use.Unfortunately, it doesnt support pinch-to-zoom, which would have been nice for magnifyingwebsites with fine print and sprawling maps.DISPLAY AND SOUNDThe best thing about the Samsung Chromebooks 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 display is the mattefinish, which means screen glare wont get in your way the next time youre watching a"Modern Family" marathon on Hulu. Still, a matte finish doesnt necessarily equate to wideviewing angles. Push the display forward and the screen will wash out, making it very difficultto read text or follow along with a movie. The brightness is also lower than it was on earlierSamsung Chromebook: 200 nits compared with 300. Neither of these things should be deal-breakers; youll just want to futz with the angle before settling in to work with the SamsungChromebook on your lap.TheSamsung Chromebooks dual 1.5-watt speakers are located on the bottom side of themachine, very close to the front edge. As you might imagine, the sound doesnt get very loud,but you still might want to avoid cranking it up unless you really cant hear: even movie dialogsounds a bit distorted at top volume. As weve often found with tinny speakers, instrumentslike electric guitar sound especially grating, but you could get away with listening to softer,more acoustic music especially if you keep the volume at a more moderate level.PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFEIf youre a Samsung Chromebook user, you sacrifice very little by buying this for $249 overthe other model for $450.With steep price cuts come trade-offs, and were not just talking about the build materials.Whereas Samsungs first two Samsung Chromebook ran dual-core Atom and Celeronprocessors, respectively, this third-gen model moves to a fanless design with an ARM chipspecifically, a dual-core A15-based Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (5250) SoC. Paired with it are2GB of RAM, 16GB of built-in flash storage, 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth. In the absence ofany quantitative benchmark scores, this is the best way we can describe the performance: itfalls somewhere between the original Atom-based Samsung Chromebook and the currentCeleron-equipped Series 5 model.The system didnt have any issues playing back 1080p content in YouTube and Hulu. Still,
  3. 3. use it long enough and youll notice some slight delays in response time, even when youredoing things like opening new tabs. Another problem: Netflix streaming isnt yet supported forthis device. A Google spokesperson issued the following statement: "Were working closelywith Netflix and support will be coming soon. Once ready, your new Samsung Chromebookwill be auto-updated with Netflix support." While we dont have any reason to doubt Google isworking on it, this will nevertheless be a disappointment to many folks unboxing an early unit.All told, if youre a Samsung Chromebook user, you sacrifice very little by buying this for$249 over the other model for $450 in fact, you gain in terms of less weight, thinness andimproved portability. You lose the Ethernet and the 3G radio (its optional now) but you do getbuilt-in Bluetooth. But what if youre not already a Samsung Chromebook user? Should youget this or a tablet (or even a netbook)? It depends how much you live in the cloud. When itcomes to text input, the Samsung Chromebook is superior to any tablet (even theTransformers) because of its great keyboard and because its more practical than carryingaround a separate keyboard / dock. The browsing experience and performance also beatsany tablet it steamrolls them with a score of 677.3ms in the web browser benchmarkSunSpider, for instance. Then again, of course, there are no native apps.Netbooks, meanwhile, have come a long way in terms of keyboard comfort and overallperformance, but you wont find anything of this quality for $249. Additionally, of course, theyhave the advantage of being able to run lots of legacy Windows apps. If you think you needdesktop programs, though, you shouldnt even be considering a Samsung Chromebook. Dittoif you need more local storage beyond what your SD card is capable of. And thats alwaysbeen the argument for netbooks over Samsung Chromebook, frankly, except now SamsungChromebook is half the price. Given that there arent any similarly nice netbooks in this pricerange, its easier to forgive the Samsung Chromebooks shortcomings and recommend it as acheap, secondary computer.As for battery life, its rated for six and a half hours of runtime. Indeed we logged six hoursand 33 minutes in our usual rundown test, which involves looping a video off local storagewith WiFi on. Thats better than most Ultrabooks weve tested recently, though that isntsaying much. For years now, Atom-powered netbooks have been capable of 10-hour batterylife. The latest crop of Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets also claim about 10 hours of juice.Not to mention, many ARM-powered tablets last nine or 10 hours were talking products likethe latest iPad, the ASUS Transformer Pad TF700 and the Surface for Windows RT. So,while six and a half hours is nice, it doesnt compare that well to what youll get from otherlow-cost mobile devices.SOFTWARE$249 seems like an appropriate price for this sort of device.The laymans explanation for Chrome OS: its the Chrome browser youre used to using,except thats all you see when you boot up the computer. Thats the caveat wed make to ourlow-tech friends who noticed Best Buy is selling a Samsung laptopSamsung laptop for $249,and are wondering if its a good deal. For the rest of you, wed say this: Chrome OS hasevolved quite a bit over the last year and a half, and looks more like a traditional OS than itdid when we reviewed the first Samsung Chromebook. If you read our review of version 19from a few months back, you should be up to speed. As we described then, Chrome OS nowhas a "desktop," of sorts. We use quotes because the desktop isnt a space where you canpin shortcuts to websites or documents you might be working on. You can, however, changethe wallpaper and pin favorite apps to the bottom of the screen. Ultimately, though, its not a
  4. 4. desktop in the conventional sense of the word; its more of a visual flourish that should helpnewcomers feel more at home with their Samsung Chromebooks.Speaking of the sort, the first time you sign on youll see a welcome box containing thefollowing: a primer on apps, the touchpad, saving / accessing files, working offline,documents and working with photos. Everything happens in the browser, if that wasntalready clear. And while there havent been any major UI changes, Google has, at least,added more functionality to its web apps. With build 19, for instance, Chrome OS got a photoeditor with light editing tools. The media player supports more formats than it used to.Google+ is now integrated, Hangouts included. You can do more and more offline in theevent you lose your internet connection this includes working on documents and, as of build19, reading Google Books. Chrome Remote desktop lets you access other devices, and alsoshare your screen with others. Whats more, Chrome OS syncs open tabs from your mobiledevices, as well as any PCs you use that are running Chrome.There are some new features in build 23, however. With this version, the OS gets a new log-in screen; more wallpapers; a new apps list; a mosaic photo filter; and deeper integration withGoogles cloud storage service, Google Drive including 100GB of free storage for two years.The list of native apps has also expanded to include Calculator, Camera, Docs, Sheets,Slides and Google Play Movies.WRAP-UPNo matter how cheap Samsung Chromebook get, they will always be a polarizing class ofproduct: there are some people who couldnt be paid to use a laptop where everything isdone in the browser. That said, $249 seems like an appropriate price for this sort of devicemore so than $450, certainly, which is what the last-gen model sold for. At $249, this devicesfaults (a dimmer display, less processing power) are the sorts of shortcomings you can easilydeal with. Our biggest complaint is that it doesnt currently support Netflix streaming, but webelieve Google when it says its working on a fix. After all, its already brought streaming toother Samsung Chromebook, so we have no reason to believe this model will get left out inthe cold. Again, we might mind these things more if the device cost twice as much, but as is,its priced in impulse buy territory.So whos this for? For starters, weve always felt that Samsung Chromebooks could be usefulin computer labs and one-to-one laptop programs in schools, but now theyre pricedaggressively enough that mainstream consumers might want them, too. Were thinkingtravelers who need a lightweight machine for the road, or parents who cringe at the idea ofspending $600 on a laptop for their kids. And these were always the target customers, really,except now theyre unlikely to find a tablet or equally nice netbook for the same amount ofmoney. In that regard, a price cut goes a long way.source :Samsung Chromebook