Samsung Chromebook review

Price when reviewed

There was quite a fuss surrounding the first Chromebook, but after a big launch and plenty of marketing, it all went rather quiet. Google’s first attempt at producing a proper operating system – Chrome OS – was intriguing, but far too limited in what it could do. A year on, we have the next installment, and Google has clearly been hard at work.

The hardware

There are, in fact, two new Chromebooks, both from Samsung: one with a 12.1in screen; and the one we have on review here – the smaller, cheaper 11.6in model. And when we say cheaper, we mean it. The 11.6in Chromebook is a full £121 cheaper than the original – a staggering 35% saving – and also comes with a very generous two-year 100GB helping of Google Drive online storage thrown in.

Samsung Chromebook

Despite the lower price the hardware hasn’t taken a hit. In fact, in many ways it’s superior. At 1.09kg, it’s over 200g lighter than the previous model, and the ergonomics haven’t suffered at all. There’s still a sizeable keyboard with a well-designed layout, and the keys have enough travel for longer typing sessions.

The multitouch touchpad is broad and sensitive and supports two-fingered scrolling. We don’t like the lack of discrete buttons, but didn’t experience any problems with the cursor jumping around as we clicked and dragged our way around.

Connectivity has improved. One of the two USB sockets on the Chromebook’s rear edge has become a USB 3 socket, and there’s now a full-sized HDMI output in addition to the SD card slot and 3.5mm headphone jack it had before. The 3G model also has a SIM card slot under a flap at the rear.

The practical, matte-finish screen has a few more pixels, replacing the original’s 16:10, 1,280 x 800 panel with a 16:9, 1,366 x 768 unit. Image quality is underwhelming, though. With maximum brightness of only 219cd/m2, it doesn’t blaze with life, and while the contrast ratio of 296:1 is good by budget laptop standards, pictures and video lack the vivid punch of glossy screened models.

Samsung Chromebook

With that screen set to just below mid-brightness you can expect between nine and ten hours of continuous use from the battery. That’s with Wi-Fi off and no more than a little word processing, mind you. You can expect that figure to fall closer to Google’s quoted 6hrs 30mins once you boost the brightness and start browsing the web.

There are changes inside as well, with a dual-core 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos 5 ARM processor providing all the grunt. In the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, the Chromebook returned a score of 892ms – on a par with the fastest ARM devices we’ve seen, including the recently reviewed iPad 4.


Warranty1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions289 x 204 x 22mm (WDH)
Travelling weight1.4kg

Processor and memory

RAM capacity2.00GB

Screen and video

Screen size11.6in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Optical driveN/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speedN/A
802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapteryes
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)1
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readerno
Pointing device typetouchpad
Hardware volume control?yes
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating0.3mp
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Overall application benchmark scoreN/A
Office application benchmark scoreN/A
2D graphics application benchmark scoreN/A
Encoding application benchmark scoreN/A
Multitasking application benchmark scoreN/A

Operating system and software

Operating systemChrome OS
OS familyChrome OS
Software suppliednone

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