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Home » Reviews, Technology

Samsung Chromebook Review ($249 Version)

Last updated by on 14 Comments

Earlier this year, I picked up a Samsung Chromebook (wi-fi version).

There are a number of different and more expensive Chromebooks out there – all the way up to the premium Chromebook Pixel, touch-screen, which retails for $1,299. So what makes the Samsung Chromebook worth highlighting here?

The wi-fi enabled version retails for $249 (there is also a 3G version that retails for $80 more). That kind of unprecedented affordability has led this Chromebook to becoming the #1 selling laptop on Amazon (and one could reasonably assume nation-wide).

Here’s what it is, in a nutshell: a more than adequate, cheap, user-friendly, quick-loading device with a full keyboard, to connect to, use, & explore the web. And with everything in the cloud, it probably suits the needs of at least 90% of all laptop users (and 100% of those who have a high-powered laptop/desktop complement).

Samsung Chromebook Review

How we Use the Samsung Chromebook

For a little background on how we use the Chromebook, it’s important you know what other devices we have and our usage habits. I have a Macbook Air, courtesy of my employer, that I use as my primary laptop. My wife had been using an old giant Acer laptop that ran on Windows XP. It had slowed to a crawl (it was never fast to begin with), and we were looking for something that we could use to jump online without having to wait 15 minutes for the wheels to crank long enough to make is useable. The Chromebook serves as a primary laptop for my wife and primary “personal” laptop for me. So it is getting some fairly heavy usage. Beyond that, we’re not married to any one operating system. I’ve used Windows. I’ve used OS X. And now I’ve used Chrome OS. Also, I am not a tablet fan. I type a lot and call me an old-timer, but I still like having a REAL keyboard.

We also have a desktop that is a few years old, still fairly fast, and has adequate enough hardware to run Photoshop and software that can’t be run on Chrome OS. Neither of us are hard-core (or even light-core) gamers. We use our computers mostly to get online, I write and research a lot for this blog, and we listen to music (Spotify, Google Music) and watch videos. As a blogger, my web usage is very high, and if this machine meets my needs, it will likely meet the needs of most.

Samsung Chromebook Specs & Features:

Before I get in to my thoughts on the Samsung Chromebook and who it might be a good fit for, here’s a snapshot overview on its specs and features:

  • samsung chromebook specsdimensions: 11.40″ x 8.09″ x 0.69″
  • weight: 2.4 lbs.
  • screen: 11.6″ display, 1366 x 768 pixels
  • 1.7 GHz Exynos 5250 dual core processor
  • 2 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 2 USB Ports: 1 USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0
  • 16 GB hard drive
  • HDMI Port
  • SIM card slot
  • SD card slot
  • Full QWERTY keyboard, with Chrome OS design
  • Built-in mic and webcam
  • Built-in dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (there is also a 3G equipped version that comes with 2 years of 100 MB monthly 3G on Verizon for $80 more)
  • AC Adapter & lithium ion battery included

Samsung Chromebook Pros

Start time: I timed it at 7 seconds from “off” to the log-in screen. And 3 seconds from log-in to fully active browsing. Resume time is even quicker. It loads quicker than any Windows machine I’ve used, and is even quicker loading than my Macbook Air (newest version). The result? Hours and hours of my life back.

Ease of use: flip it on, sync your Google account, and you’re good to go. Chrome OS has built in security features, it auto-installs updates, and bookmarks and web history can be synced from another device. Once you’ve added a few new bookmarks and Chrome extensions, the machine is optimized for your experience. The main screen can be used to create shortcuts or expand to all of your apps/bookmarks.

samsung chromebook screen resolution

Build Quality: this Chromebook is definitely not as solid feeling as a Macbook from a body, mouse, or keyboard standpoint, but that was to be expected. There is a tiny bit of flex in the outer and inner casing. I’ve tried out other $200-$300 “netbooks”, and this one has a superior build and much more solid keyboard in comparison. The pixelation is actually identical to that of the same screen sized Macbook (1366 x 768), believe it or not.

The keyboard keys are solid and quiet (although not as quiet and solid feeling as a Macbook). They are not back-lit, which is a waste of batter anyways, in my opinion. The touchpad is very responsive, although there is no right-click button like you have in a Macbook (you must use a two-finger tap to elicit right-click functionality).

samsung chromebook keyboard

For $250, the Samsung Chromebook exceeds expectations in build and component quality. There are, however, a few design flaws that I will highlight later on.

Performance: as long as you are using the device for what it is designed for – basic web applications, browsing, music, and video – the performance is more than adequate, (if you have a decent internet connection). I have as many as 20 or so tabs open at once (usually 5-10) and have not experienced any sluggishness.

Size/Weight: The Chromebook weighs in at just 2.4 lbs. (the 11.6″ Macbook Air weighs in at 2.38 lbs. comparatively). This thing is tiny and light, which usually demands a steep price in the laptop world. Below, you can see a photo of my Chromebook sitting on top of my 13.3″ Macbook. The screen obviously makes for a smaller device, but still a size that is sufficient enough for most uses outside of crazy dual-window business purposes. Very portable.

Samsung Chromebook Vs Macbook Air

It’s Quiet & Cool: The Chromebook uses smartphone hardware that does not over-heat – so there is no need for a fan. It’s a very quiet machine and does not get steaming hot in your lap. If you’re a guy, this means less sweating in your nether-regions.

Battery life: Samsung claims 6.5 hours of battery life, and my experience says that is fairly accurate. It usually requires a recharge between 5 and 6 hours of moderate use. If you’ve used just about any other laptop, you know that this is outstanding and highly desirable, particularly for a lightweight machine. It also re-charges very quickly.

Added Bonuses: each machine comes with 12 free Gogo in-air wifi passes that you can use over a 2-year period. At $14 a pop, that equates to a $168 value. You also get 100 GB of Google Drive storage (Google’s cloud storage) for two years, which you’ll probably need if this is your primary machine, as the Samsung Chromebook only has a 16 GB hard drive.

Downsides to the Samsung Chromebook

Bluetooth Audio not Yet Supported: The Samsung Chromebook is Bluetooth equipped. However, for whatever reason, Google has not yet written the scripts to enable Bluetooth Audio (HSP or A2DP). So if you want to use your laptop to control an audio device (i.e. play MP3’s on a Bluetooth speaker), you’ll have to wait. There are rumors that this functionality is coming soon, but no confirmed dates.

Software Compatability: I’ve listed this as a down-side, but the reality is for most people it might actually be an upside if you like minimalism and a machine that isn’t bogged down by a bunch of periphery software muck.

If most of your time is spent online, you should love this machine. It is built for that experience. Chromebooks are basically web browsers. If you are expecting a machine with advanced photo or video editing software capabilities (i.e. Photoshop, Final Cut Pro), you’re a hardcore gamer, or you’re living in 1995 Microsoft Office land, you’re probably going to be disappointed with this device as Chrome OS is not compatible with loading these types of programs on to your device. Heavy iTunes users might also have a hard time transitioning, but if you haven’t already switched to Spotify (which recently added a web-streaming version) and Google Music, you’re missing out anyways. Chromebook Netflix streaming support was added in the past few weeks.

If you live mostly in the cloud, through a web browser, you should be in good shape.

Chrome does have Adobe Reader (.pdf) compatibility to read, save, and print .pdf docs. And there are tons of add-ons in the Chrome web store to give software-like functionality to the Chrome browser.

chrome os adobe reader pdf compatibility

There is also cloud print functionality for those who still like to print things.

Speakers: for some unspeakable reason, the speakers are on the bottom of the machine. If you actually listen to your laptop without headphones, it means you’re going to get muffled sound.

AC Adaptor plug-in: this thing is so long and thin, it is bound to break at some point. A clear engineering design flaw, in my opinion. On the plus side, it stays in the device vs. being loose. Photo below:

Samsung Chromebook

Final Thoughts on the Samsung Chromebook: Who it can Work for

I think the bottom line is that as long as you know what you are getting in to (you know who you are) with the Samsung Chromebook, I think you will find it to be a more than adequate machine that provides a great online experience at a highly affordable price. As I am not a heavy gamer, photo, or video editor – this machine fully meets my needs (except for that Bluetooth Audio functionality, which I’m anxiously awaiting). I’m guessing it would do the same for 90% of you. If you have a desktop or high-powered laptop for those uses or are simply picking up or replacing another device for a family member, there is little reason to need anything more. At $249, you really can’t go wrong.

Samsung Cromebook Discussion:

  • Have you purchased or used the Samsung Chromebook or another Chromebook? What are your thoughts on it?
  • What hesitations do you have, if any, in moving to Chrome OS?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


14 Comments »
  • Sarah says:

    I’ve been thinking about buying one of these for a while. My Dell laptop crapped out a few months ago and I keep putting off replacing it.

    My biggest concerns with the Chromebook were the Netflix compatibility problems – which it sounds like have been (mostly) resolved – and the fact that I actually use some of the more advanced functions of MS Word not yet available on Google Docs.

    That said, we do have a desktop computer with MS Office in the event I need it… and we just bought a new wireless printer/scanner/copier which includes Google Cloud Print, so the Chromebook is looking better and better!

  • Corinne says:

    I used one for about 4 or 5 months. I liked it for what it was, but there were certain hardware issues that I could not look past. I tried replacements, but ultimately decided to send it back.

  • Brett says:

    I purchased this as a gift for my girlfriend and it has worked out very well. She needed something to do her schoolwork on and for basic web browsing. The only concern we had going in was how she would be able to write papers without the “normal” use of Microsoft Word. She was able to adapt to using Google Drive and Docs easily and has had no problem writing and saving research papers in the cloud. It has met all of our needs and for the low price is a great way to go if the basics are all you are looking for.

  • TC says:

    I tried one of these recently, but there were two sites (important for our house) that didn’t show up correctly unless using internet explorer. I think this is an all around good idea, and step in the right direction. With that being said, I think it will be at least another year or so until this is a tool that can replace the traditional laptop for many individuals.

  • This is a great addition to the laptop game, but it just isn’t powerful enough for me. I like my windows 7 laptop that gives me the power to do photo editing and office work when I need it. I think that this is a great alternative and an easy way to get people to use Google’s Drive system.

  • Jake Erickson says:

    Well thought out review. I’ve seen commercials, but I’ve never actually looked into buying one.

    If you didn’t care about not having a keyboard, would you rather have the Chromebook or an iPad?

  • Wes says:

    Primary concerns as with Apple products are privacy. Google’s droids have proven the company’s in every process/app/program we use; thus, I refrain from using Gmail for any business communications. In my opionion, MS has nothing to lose by keeping their customers safe, and I wish Apple and Google would do the same.

    As with the IPad, this device, as with the Google browser requests users “sign in,” which means every thing the user does is tracked, and the ‘preferences,’ selections, et al sold to most likely the DMA which in fact can pay me directly for my preferences; hence, they’ve got them now. That isn’t to say I enjoy the new Windows, in fact, XP Pro will always be what I seek, find, and use as long as possible, but we still have faith in MS, overall.

  • Carl says:

    I’m Chrome browser and Google Drive user, and I love it. I love signing into the browser and having all my stuff right there, instantly (as opposed to using the “sync key” feature that Firefox has, which is where I came from.)

    The one area I don’t know how to solve is how to manage my family’s photo and video collection. My documents folder lives in the free 5 GB world of Google Drive, but my photos and videos easily surpass this (and continue to grow at gigs per year…) I understand I get two years of 100 GB of Google Drive with the Chromebook purchase, but even that is not enough when you add in my music. Additionally, I don’t like the “free trial period to get you hooked but then we’ll charge you”. I know I know…. Someone has to make money, but it’s also nice to just have my main laptop at home with tons of storage for photos/video/music, plus a backup hard drive in the safe box at the bank, and not pay a monthly fee.

    Anyone else have this dilemma?

  • Sarah says:

    So we ended up getting the HP Pavilion Chromebook, which I believe is the newest model. It goes for $329 and seems to address a lot of the concerns you mentioned. Specifically, it has a larger 14″ screen, touch pad with left/right click buttons, and the speaker is on top (between the keyboard and monitor).

    The biggest down side is that its battery life pales in comparison to the Samsung. I believe the HP is rated at 4.5 hours, which is fine for me but could be less desirable for people who use their laptop when traveling.

    That said, it seems like a good compromise between a traditional laptop and a Chromebook.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    Our 2-person adult household has 4 computers (mostly older; all Windows 7) that we actively use. They all receive the same Windows updates at generally the same time. If they were all to receive a bad update from MS, then we would be down big time.

    I’ve been thinking about a machine that uses a different OS (Chrome or Linux) to prevent this kind of scenario from happening. Plus, other than the tablet (iPad Mini) we have, we have no way of quickly jumping on the web. Sounds like the Chromebook could be a good idea.

  • Ann says:

    Thanks for the detailed review. Would you recommend this laptop for students? It sounds as if the lack of MS office capability is a big downside for schoolwork functions (particularly Word and OneNote), but that there are some alternatives like Google Drive. How cumbersome is it try to use this laptop for schoolwork would you say?

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