Samsung's New Chromebook Is Dirt Cheap, But Doesn't Feel Like It

Chromebooks have been getting a lot of attention from PC makers in the past few years, and for good reason.

Chromebooks run on Chrome, which is Google’s desktop operating system. It’s also Google’s web browser. The Chrome operating system is all web-based, which means its has some drawbacks compared to the Mac operating system, or the Windows operating system. We’ll get into that a bit later.

Chromebooks are much cheaper, lighter, and more portable than most Windows or Mac laptops you’ll find on the market. And, if you solely use your laptop for browsing the internet, Chromebooks are extremely simple to use. Not to mention, they require much less maintenance than your average computer.

Samsung hopes to stand out from the dozens of other PC companies putting out Chromebooks with its aggressively priced Chromebook 2, which starts at $US249. It’s up for pre-order today and officially goes on sale Oct. 20.

The Basics

The main difference between Samsung’s new Chromebook and its predecessor is the fact that it has an Intel chip inside. Samsung’s other Chromebooks come with its own Exynos processors instead.

This essentially means that Samsung’s newer Chromebook runs on a processor that’s meant to power laptops, while the previous models are powered by a chip that’s meant for smartphones and tablets. So, this Chromebook should theoretically be able to handle more tasks without getting overwhelmed.

It’s worth noting that most other competing Chromebooks run on a similar Intel Celeron processor, such as Acer’s 11-inch Chromebook CB3-111-C8UB and Toshiba’s new Chromebook 2.

Other key specs in Samsung’s new Chromebook include an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 resolution display, 16GB of storage space, and 2GB of RAM. Since it’s a Chromebook, you also get 100GB of Google Drive storage for free.

How It Looks And Feels

Since many Chromebooks are extremely affordable ($US200-$US400 unless you’re talking about the Chromebook Pixel), manufacturers sometimes compromise on build quality. Even a Chromebook that works well may feel somewhat cheap or susceptible to damage. Samsung’s new Chromebook doesn’t fall into that category.

The Chromebook 2 is reinforced with metal frame, which means you can even grab it by its screen with one hand without worrying about breaking it. I felt completely comfortable throwing this thing in my bag during my commute, and it’s certainly light enough to carry around with ease. Even the keyboard deck feels sturdy, which can be hard to find in low-priced laptops.

A less-desired physical characteristic, however, is the leather stitching on the notebook’s lid. It’s a matter of personal taste, but I much prefer the smooth, clean look of a standard aluminium or polycarbonate lid than faux leather.

Using It

Samsung’s new Chromebook 2 is generally pleasant to use, but there are a few setbacks. The screen is a little dim, which can prove difficult if you’re working in a low-light environment or bright outdoor conditions. However, this also means the display won’t suck the life out of your battery too quickly.

The keyboard also felt a bit shallow — don’t expect the deep, comfortable typing experience you’d get with your standard laptop or desktop. Still, considering the price, it’s more than sufficient for casual web browsing and light work. For what it’s worth, Samsung’s $US250 device offers a more comfortable typing experience than the Surface Pro 3 and its Type Cover, which when purchased together could cost nearly $US1,000 depending on which model you choose.

Granted, the Surface Pro 3 does a lot more than a tiny Chromebook — it’s meant to compete with high end ultrabooks like the MacBook Air — so it’s not really a fair comparison. Still, in my experience Microsoft’s Type Cover wasn’t sturdy enough to replace a traditional laptop, and I’d much rather use a Chromebook like Samsung’s if I’m trying to get work done quickly on the go.

The Chromebook 2 offered pretty strong battery life, too. With mixed usage, I was able to get between eight and nine hours on a single charge, and in most cases I had the screen brightness turned up to its highest setting.

Samsung is also testing a feature similar to Amazon’s MayDay, which allows you to connect with a Samsung support team member with the press of a button. It’s not available yet, but will be sometime following the Chromebook’s official launch on Monday.

The most important thing to remember when buying any Chromebook, however, is that they’re much different than your average laptop. Chromebooks are designed to be used with an internet connection, which means you can’t run any desktop software on it. This means no iTunes, no Microsoft Word, no Skype, no Spotify (although you can use the web player). Instead, you’ll be able to use anything you can access in Google’s Chrome browser, and any app from Google’s Chrome app store.

The good news is that Google offers a bunch of apps that work offline too, and you can enable apps like Gmail and Google Drive to work without an internet connection.

Is This The Chromebook To Buy?

Samsung’s new Chromebook is definitely one of the cheapest out there. However, if you’re on a tight budget, there are a few other options to consider. Acer also has an 11-inch Chromebook with specifications that are nearly identical to Samsung’s for $US200, which is $US50 cheaper. Toshiba’s new Chromebook 2 sells for the same price as Samsung’s and comes with a larger 13-inch display, and it comes in a high-res option for an extra $US100.

Overall, Samsung’s Chromebook 2 is a lightweight, durable Chromebook with plenty of battery life to offer, but it still may be worth shopping around.

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