The Chromebook fits between an iPad or Android tablet and a full-fledged laptop computer. While not quite as portable as a tablet, since it certainly can’t be used one handed, or with a table or at least a lap to rest it on, it does offer the potential for more functionality since it has a built in keyboard. One can argue, of course, that it’s easy enough to use a Bluetooth keyboard with a tablet, but the Chromebook still offers a larger, better screen, and better connectivity with USB and microSD ports. Whether or not its right for your needs will depend on careful consideration.
Just to provide a little context, I used to be a laptop-only kind of girl, relying heavily on a Fujitsu Lifebook and then on a Sony Vaio Z as well as a Macbook Air. As a manager by day and a writer by night, I mainly used a laptop to crunch numbers, write proposals, and edit photos for my web site. All of that changed when the iPad came around; I use one almost exclusively for my daily computing, except for when my job demands that I use the Dell Lattitude E5530 issued by my company in order to make presentations or show DVDs with customers.
Size: 12.72” x 8.80” x 0.65”
Weight: 3.06 pounds
Display: Anti-Reflective 13.3” LED TFT with full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
CPU: Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5800
RAM: 4GB (3.5GB usable)
Ports: 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0
Webcam: 720p HD
Battery: 4700 mAh, rated for up to 8.5 hours of battery life
WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n
This is my first Chromebook experience, and the Samsung Chromebook 2 is certainly attractive. The top cover looks like dark charcoal leather with a stitching detail all around the edges. The slight texture makes it feel good in the hand, and much less slippery than a smooth surface would be. There are sizeable Chrome and Samsung logos located on the upper right side when the top is open.
The bottom of the device is smooth, but I was very pleased to see four large rubberized feet, one in each corner. While they stick out just a bit, they’re a nice feature to have since they do a really good job or preventing the Chromebook 2 from sliding all over when you’re trying to type. That’s more important than it may actually sound, since the Chromebook 2 is so very light. It doesn’t have a lot of heft so it needs those feet to stay grounded and solid on a desk or table surface. You’ll also need two hands to open the Chromebook, because the hinge is rather tight and you’ll need that second hand to push down on the bottom while raising the screen.
On the left side you’ll find the power port, USB port, HDMI port, and a microSD card slot. The right side has a security slot, a second USB port, and the headphone jack. There is no power button on the outside; instead you’ll find it on the upper right corner of the keyboard.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard is large, with well-labeled, easy to read keys, and plenty of space between each one. It is slightly different than a standard laptop keyboard though, so it may require some adjustment for new users. It took several hours of use before I could type at anywhere near my usual speed (which is considerable) and with the same degree of accuracy to which I am accustomed.
There are no function keys on the top row, but rather a series of keys labeled with icons for things such as forward and back, reload, full screen mode, window, brightness up and down, and volume controls. The power button is in the top right corner, while the power indicator is on the top left corner. That placement is somewhat problematic, since there is no externally visible power or charge indicator on the Chromebook. 2. I’m highly mobile and usually in a big hurry, and it would be nice to see at a glance whether the device is still charging, fully charged, hibernating, etc.
The trackpad is very large and easy to use for basic functions, but again it takes some getting used to. One of my biggest concerns is just how noisy it is when you click the touchpad. This might not be a big deal if you typically do your computing in a crowded coffee shop, but if you’re hanging out at the library all the time, or even at home, it’s actually quite annoying.
It also takes a period of adjustment in order to learn that right clicking is not accomplished by clicking the right-hand portion of the trackpad, but rather by tapping with two fingers at once. That may not be an issue with old pros that have been using Chromebooks since they first came out, but it’s a departure for this renewer and one I’m still not entirely accustomed to.
The Samsung Chromebook 2 display is very, very nice. It starts out almost blindingly bright, which is great for outdoor readability, but since I do most of my computing inside, one of the first things I did was figure out how to turn down the brightness. I’m quite pleased with the display, which features bright, rich colors. When viewing video I didn’t see any ghosting or other odd effects, though I did have to carefully adjust the angle of the display for the best viewing experience.
Everything I viewed was very sharp, from photos to video–the full HD resolution really shines here in the level of detail no matter how closely you look at the display. The one disappointment is having to tilt the display back and forth for the best angle. Perhaps it’s just me, but there is a relatively small “sweet spot” where the Chromebook 2 looks truly great. It is possible for two or three people sitting close together to share a video; the concern is more vertical than horizontal. Of course for serious sharing you would probably want to connect an external display, but for everyday use I’m more than satisfied with the Samsung Chromebook 2.
This is one area in which the Chromebook 2 truly shines. It’s rated for more than eight hours of use on a single charge, and I got almost nine hours of use before the battery got low enough that I had to plug it in. Most of that time was spent surfing the web, reading/responding to email, writing this review, and playing just a bit of “playing hooky” by watching the first episode of Breaking Bad on Google Play.
One of the major advantages of what is essentially a browser-based OS is that none of the apps are particularly power hungry, and it seems that the Chromebook 2 sips daintily from the battery instead of gulping like a desperately thirsty shipwrecked sailor. Whether you’re a student or a road warrior, the Chromebook 2 can easily keep up with you all day long.
The Samsung Chromebook 2 performed admirably in every test I threw at it over the review period. Open up more browser tabs than you can count? No problem at all. Part of this is of course the browser-based Chrome OS; when everything you’re doing is inside the browser, rather than in separate power-hungry programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, of course things are going to be more efficient.
No matter what I did, the Chromebook was completely silent–no noisy ventilation fan–and it didn’t get hot at all either. Even better, there was no spinning hourglass, no “blue screen of death”–it just works–which is a most refreshing change from my old Windows-based laptop.
During the testing period, I didn’t encounter any error messages or crashes, and I was impressed by how “snappy” everything felt. When I opened an app, it opened immediately–no waiting.
So while the synthetic performance might not be the fastest on record, I found the Chromebook 2 to be perfectly responsive to all of my computing needs. I’m also glad to know that the Chrome OS is extremely secure and hard to tamper with–no virus or malware concerns here.
There is, however, one downside to consider–in order to take full advantage of the Chromebook 2 (or any other Chromebook, for that matter) you need to be connected to a WiFi network. While many of the apps are indeed offline enabled–you can view your calendar, edit documents, read and respond to email, etc.–those change aren’t synced back to your documents in cloud storage until you’re connected to the internet again. That’s not a problem if you’re constantly bathed in WiFi at home, at work, and on the go, but if you have a hard time finding free hotspots, that might be a problem.
Aside from the few quirks previously mentioned, the Samsung Chromebook 2 is eminently usable for almost any of your regular computing tasks (email/web browsing, social media, watching videos, listening to music, and documents/spreadsheets). It goes without saying that the Internet experience is truly top-notch, but that’s to be expected. Document creation and editing is a dream with Google Docs, and all of the other included apps also performed flawlessly. If the only thing I can find to quibble with is the fact that there is no externally visible power indicator, then you know that the Samsung Chromebook 2 is remarkably simple to use.
One of the highest barriers to entry when it comes to choosing a device like the Chromebook 2 instead of a traditional laptop or desktop computer is the fear that it won’t be able to do everything that you need it to do. But unless you have highly specialized computing needs (and you probably already know who you are if you do) then this likely isn’t a valid concern.
If you’re a grandparent, you may only be concerned about email, videoconferencing, and maybe Facebook if you simply want to keep up with distant relatives and of course all of those precious little grandchildren.
If you’re a student, especially if you’re in the liberal arts and not in engineering, you need email, the web for research, Hangouts for collaborating with your classmates, excellent word processing and spreadsheet capabilities, and maybe even a few games to keep you occupied.
In other words, if you really think about what you need a computer for, you may realize that you don’t even need a computer at all–at least not in the traditional sense. There are a few special considerations, such as iTunes, which doesn’t run on the Chromebook–you’ll have to switch over to Google Music in order to listen to all of your tunes. But generally speaking, a Chromebook can do everything that a light or general laptop user would need.
The Samsung Chromebook 2 is an excellent product, with overall nice design, excellent performance, and only a couple of very minor quirks that prevent me from giving it a perfect rating. The harder question to answer is whether or not it will meet your mobile computing needs. Though some of the apps are offline-enabled, the vast majority of the time you’ll need to be connected to a WiFi network in order to get any real work done.
The other issue is its “middle child” status. Though very small and light, it isn’t as small as a tablet computer, and aside from the large keyboard and very nice display, it doesn’t really offer anything extra.
At $399 It is of course less expensive than anything but the most bargain basement of laptops, but without a DVD drive you can’t watch any of the disc-based movies you’ve collected over the years or rip music to iTunes (which won’t run on Chrome OS). That isn’t a big deal if you get all of your music and media from the Google Play Store, or are willing to use the Google Music app to transfer your digital music to Google’s platform. Alternatively, you can rip DVDs and upload them to a cloud service for streaming.
In summary, the Samsung Chromebook 2 does what it does extremely well, but that may not be enough. Now that the review period is over, I will gladly go back to using my iPad and then my laptop if necessary. because that combination suits my needs.
The Chromebook 2 performs very well, and would be ideally suited for students, parents, and grandparents — anyone who primarily needs to surf the web and watch videos, and is generally always connected to WiFi. Its greatest strength may very well be the amazing battery life. No matter what you need to do, the Samsung Chromebook 2 will keep up with you all day long.