Samsung Chromebook Review ($249 Version)
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).
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:
- dimensions: 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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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?