Samsung Chromebook 2 review
Samsung has long been a champion of the Chromebook. Since releasing the very first commercially available model back in 2011, it’s been steadily trickling out new models, despite a lukewarm reception from consumers. The Samsung Chromebook 2 is the latest to roll off the production line. Read on for our in-depth Samsung Chromebook 2 review
In fact, there are two models of Chromebook 2: the one we have here, which has an 11.6in screen with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, and a 13.3in version with a 1080p screen, which we’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks.
Samsung Chromebook 2 review: design
Whichever you choose, you’ll get a very similar-looking device. As with many Samsung products, the build is unapologetically plastic, but it isn’t an eyesore. The lid is finished with a grippy soft-touch compound, patterned to look like leather, and there’s faux stitching around the edge to top things off. On the inside, a shinier, semi-matte plastic surrounds the Scrabble-tile keyboard, and a tasteful chrome-effect trim surrounds the touchpad.
It doesn’t feel flimsy, and it’s extremely light. Tipping the scales at just over a kilogram, the 11.6in Chromebook 2 is a laptop you can carry around all day and hardly know it’s in your bag. It’s certainly a more elegant device than the Dell Chromebook 11, which is more brutish than beautiful.
And despite the slim profile, Samsung has still found room to include one USB 2 and one USB 3 port so you can connect hard disks and thumbdrives, plus a full-sized HDMI output for connecting a second monitor or TV. It’s a little disappointing that there’s no full-sized SD card slot, but you do at least get a microSD slot, allowing you to add to the existing 16GB of internal storage.
However, this is a machine that’s happiest away from the encumbrance of wires and cables, and in such an environment it performs admirably. We’re encouraged to see 2×2 stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi on board, and ergonomically it’s spot on. The keyboard doesn’t feel particularly positive, but we got up to speed on it quickly, and we can’t fault the layout.
The touchpad is large enough to ensure Chrome OS’s two- and three-finger multitouch gestures are easy to perform. It’s a buttonless touchpad, which isn’t ideal, but it is reliable, and clicking doesn’t cause the cursor to jump around the screen.
Samsung Chromebook 2 review: display and performance
The Samsung Chromebook 2’s 11.6in screen isn’t a high point, unfortunately. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with the resolution, and we like the anti-glare, semi-gloss finish, which keeps reflections to a minimum, but it isn’t very bright. We measured it at 200cd/m[sup]2[/sup].
To make matters worse, contrast is low, and vertical viewing angles are narrow. It’s no better than the far cheaper Dell Chromebook 11, and is outdone by the HP Chromebook 11, which has a brighter, much punchier IPS screen.
Performance is disappointing as well. We’ve become used to the snappy performance of Intel’s Haswell-class Celerons in recent Chromebooks, but inside the Chromebook 2 is an ARM-designed, Samsung-manufactured Exynos 5420 SoC.
This is one of Samsung’s octa-core processors: it has four 1.9GHz Cortex-A15 cores for heavy duty jobs, and another four 1.3GHz Cortex A7 cores for light duties. Alas, it just doesn’t feel as zippy in use as the Intel-based Chromebooks do. It doesn’t wake up quite as quickly from sleep, taking two or three seconds each time you open the lid before the screen comes alive.
Still, you may well be willing to put up with the occasional pause or stutter, given how good the battery life is. When looping a cached 720p YouTube video with Wi-Fi turned off and the screen set to 120cd/m2, the Chromebook 2 lasted a significant 7hrs 39mins, almost two hours longer than the lifespan of the Dell Chromebook 11. That’s enough to bump up the Samsung’s Performance rating a notch.
Samsung Chromebook 2 review: verdict
The Samsung Chromebook 2 does an awful lot of things right. It’s well designed, if a little plasticky, light and well equipped, and battery life is excellent.
Yet, with that lacklustre screen, slightly sluggish performance and a price tag that makes it one of the more expensive 11.6in Chromebooks on the market, it doesn’t do quite enough to gain our wholehearted recommendation.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||289 x 203 x 17mm (WDH)|
|Weight with extended battery||N/A|
Processor and memory
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||Mali-T628 MP6|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||no|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||1|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Hardware volume control?||yes|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.9mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||8hr 20min|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Chrome OS|
|OS family||Chrome OS|