Samsung (SSNLF) had a bit of a hit last year with its Series 3 Chromebook. With momentum building for these inexpensive notebook PC competitors powered by Google’s (GOOG) Chrome operating system, Samsung decided it needed its next Chromebook laptop to stand out a bit more.
The Chromebook 2 was just released in 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch form factors. The naming might be a little confusing — Series 3 is last year (read our review here), Samsung Chromebook 2 is this year — but you won’t mix the two up visually. The new model ditches the appearance of being a cheap Apple (AAPL) MacBook Air knockoff in favor of the faux leather look currently being sported by Samsung’s tablets.
We look at the 11.6-inch version to see if the least expensive new Samsung Chromebook is a worthy upgrade to last year’s model and whether it can stand above an increasingly crowded field of Chromebook laptop competitors.
Samsung Chromebook 2 Review – Goodbye Silver Plastic, Hello Faux Leather
Other PC makers are getting serious about the Chromebook market. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) is offering multiple models and we recently reviewed an Acer C720P Chromebook laptop that packs an Intel (INTC) PC processor, touchscreen display and an SSD twice the size of that in the new Samsung Chromebook — at the same $299 price.
So far as I can tell, the primary new development with the Samsung Chromebook 2 is ditching the MacBook Air look (the silver painted plastic wasn’t fooling anyone) and instead going with the black or white fake stitched leather look the company is adopting with its tablets.
Samsung Chromebook 2 Review – Modest Improvements
Compared to last year’s Samsung Chromebook Series 3, the Samsung Chromebook 2 gets very modest spec bumps.
The CPU is once again a Samsung Exynos mobile unit, but it’s an octa-core version at a higher clock speed for a slight speed increase. The RAM has been doubled from 2 GB to 4 GB, which primarily means you can have more tabs open before things get sluggish. And the battery is good for 8 hours this time instead of just over 6.
The addition of 802.11ac Wi-Fi — also known as Gigabit Wi-Fi — should make for speedier Internet access. And with so much of the functionality of a Chromebook laptop tied to being online, that should make for speedier performance. Unfortunately, we were unable to confirm this because Samsung says the 802.11ac capability will be unlocked at a later date by means of a software update.
Ultimately, the Samsung Chromebook 2 might end up being significantly faster than the Series 3 (which lacks 802.11ac support), but we won’t know until that upgrade is available.
Samsung Chromebook 2 Review – Specs
- Samsung Exynos 5 Octa-core 5420 CPU at 1.9GHz
- 11.6-inch LED HD (1366 x 768) display with anti-glare coating
- 4GB RAM
- 16GB Flash drive storage
- 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, MicroSD card slot
- 720p HD web cam
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi (Gigabit Wi-Fi to be enabled at a later date via software update)
- Stereo speakers
- 30Wh battery rated at 8 hours
- 2.65 pounds
- Available in Jet Black or Classic White
- MSRP $299
Note: The 11.6-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 was the subject of this review. Samsung also released a 13-inch Chromebook Laptop in this series with a higher-resolution display (Full HD).
Samsung Chromebook 2 Review – Conclusion
Compared to last year’s Samsung Chromebook Series 3, the Samsung Chromebook 2 is an improved device. It’s a little faster, it looks more attractive and the battery lasts a bit longer.
However, the Chromebook laptop field has become a lot more crowded during the past year. And most of the competition has moved from mobile CPUs to Intel processors built for PCs. Even a low-end Haswell chip like the Celeron in that Acer Chromebook laptop will outperform Samsung’s Exynos mobile CPU. Put the two side by side, and the new Samsung Chromebook will consistently take a second or two longer to load tabs than the Acer.
In addition, Samsung is sticking to 16 GB of storage, while competitors are moving toward 32 GB. This shouldn’t matter much if you’re always working online — as many Chromebook laptop owners are — but doubling the storage means a lot more documents can be stored locally as well as more movies, music and photos.
The Samsung Chromebook 2 isn’t a bad choice, but at $299 it’s no longer at the top of the heap. If Samsung were to drop the price by $50 or so, it would make this Chromebook laptop a lot more compelling.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.