Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 hands-on: promisingly boring

“Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2” is a somewhat misleading title. Yes, this $549.99 laptop is technically the second device to bear the name “Samsung Galaxy Chromebook.” But it’s not a sequel in the sense that it’s an upgrade: Samsung didn’t add a ton of new features or bump up many of the specs.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2, coming in the first quarter of 2021, is actually a step down from its predecessor when it comes to most of the hardware. Some of the features that made the Galaxy Chromebook stand out have been removed — there’s no AMOLED screen or included stylus. It retains the original’s unique color, but on paper the Chromebook 2 is a world away. It’s not fancy or flashy; it’s not pushing the boundaries of the category. It’s a regular-ass Chromebook.

And I’m totally fine with that.

From the outside, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 doesn’t look too different from the Galaxy Chromebook. That’s largely because of the color. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 comes in a bold “fiesta red” that looks either bright red or bright orange depending on the lighting. Either way, it’ll turn heads. (There’s also a “mercury gray” option, if you’re boring.)

Pick the Chromebook 2 up, though, and you’ll feel the first corner that Samsung has cut. The Chromebook 2 is noticeably thicker and heavier than its predecessor: 2.71 pounds and .55 inches thick, to the Galaxy Chromebook’s 2.29 pounds and 0.38 inches thick.

Of course, that’s still plenty portable as Chromebooks go — Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713 is thicker and heavier. The one thing I’ll note is that while I had no trouble using the Galaxy Chromebook as a tablet, holding the Chromebook 2 in one hand for long periods of time is more of a chore. I wouldn’t have wanted to use it for a long presentation. (Your mileage will vary, of course — I’m not particularly swole.)

The second big change: the screen. The Galaxy Chromebook’s display was its highlight feature. It was the first 4K AMOLED panel ever to appear on a Chromebook, and it was one of the most drop-dead gorgeous screens I’ve ever seen on a laptop.

That’s gone here. The Chromebook 2 has an FHD (that is, 1920 x 1080) QLED screen. QLED panels, despite the name similarity, are not OLED panels — they’re LED-backlit LCD screens that use Samsung’s quantum-dot technology. You won’t see the same natural contrast and impeccable blacks that you would on an OLED.

That doesn’t mean the screen is bad, though. The Chromebook 2 is the first Chromebook to feature a QLED display, and QLEDs are still very good. Samsung says this one can produce over a billion colors. I watched a few videos on the device, and they all looked just fine. On top of that, the audio sounded great, easily filling up the large testing area far below its maximum level. All in all, a good multimedia experience.

There were a few other nifty features of the Galaxy Chromebook’s chassis that are absent here. There’s no built-in stylus (though you can purchase one separately), no keyboard deck camera, and no fingerprint sensor. I understand why Samsung removed these things — they’re all cool to have, but I can’t imagine I’d miss them too much.

Regarding what’s inside, you have two options. The $549.99 base model includes an Intel Celeron 5205U, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The $699.99 configuration has an Intel Core i3-10110U, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. Both models get two USB-C ports, a microSD slot, and a headphone / microphone combo jack, as well as a 720p webcam.

The Chromebook 2’s Core i3 processor is another downgrade from its predecessor (which had a Core i5-10210U), but I’m hesitant to call that a big compromise. I reviewed an Asus Chromebook Flip C436 with that same Core i3 last year and the chip absolutely got the job done — I didn’t notice much of a performance difference between that system and the Core i5-powered Galaxy Chromebook.

(The Celeron, on the other hand, is fairly entry-level. I generally don’t recommend it for tasks beyond general browsing or light office work — the $699 model will likely be the best choice for most people.)

But there’s one question I’m waiting on that might make or break my recommendation for this device, and that’s battery life. The Galaxy Chromebook had a number of great features, but it could only last around four hours and 20 minutes to a charge. I don’t think anyone should buy a $999 Chromebook that can’t even last five hours, no matter how nice it looks. Heck, I don’t think anyone should buy a $700 Chromebook that can’t even last five hours. There are just way better options.

So when Samsung sends the Galaxy Chromebook 2 out for review, all eyes will be on the battery life. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chromebook 2 outlasts its predecessor, given its lower-resolution screen and the lower-powered processor. On the other hand, the Chromebook 2 also has a slightly smaller battery — and the Chromebook Flip C436 (with the same processor and screen resolution) only lasted a bit longer than the Galaxy Chromebook, giving me around five hours in testing. So, we’ll have to see.

Samsung made a bold, bright bet with the Galaxy Chromebook. It put out a Chrome OS device unlike anything the market had ever seen, full of bells and whistles that made me go “wow.”

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 isn’t that. It’s not out to target a brand-new segment of users or to push the boundaries of what a Chromebook can be. And I’m glad to see that, because what I really want at the $549 and $699 price point is a Chromebook that’s nicely built, nails the basics, and doesn’t have any major flaws. It doesn’t need extra fancy stuff; it just needs to deliver in the areas that matter most.

I’m excited that Samsung is trying to do that. As for whether it’s succeeded, that remains to be seen. But I have my fingers crossed.

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Comments

What’s up with these 16:9 displays Samsung. A 16:10 or even 3:2 display would be so much better. Personally I wouldn’t buy it for that reason alone.

The older Chromebook Pro is 3:2 & 16:10 in the Chromebook Plus 2.

No offense but your video was more boring than the samsung chromebook

I love how Samsung gives zero fks here, "review it, don’t review it, whatever, just finish your film and get out of the store, we ain’t unlocking it".

Man, the lack of a fingerprint reader is a real bummer.

It should have been ARM powered.

I have nothing of interest to say about this Chromebook, but those pictures really make me wish Apple would release a (PRODUCT)RED MacBook Air

I bought a Lenovo X1 Carbon (4th Gen) off eBay for $290. Why would anyone spend more on a chromebook? Why would anyone want a chromebook, when you can get excellent laptops for less? I’ve never understood this.

if everybody started buying used/refurb laptops then there wouldn’t be any used/refurb laptops to begin with.

Corporates aren’t going to stop buying decent machines by the thousand, so there isn’t much risk of that.

I think the point they’re trying to make is if you can get something decent new, but something decent used. Totally with Big E here, something like his X1 is a much better buy than this.

This is kinda why you don’t see Chromebooks outside of the US K-12 educational space with something like 0.4% market share world wide. Chromebooks are great for their very specific niche so I don’t suspect they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon, or that OEMs will stop pumping them out, but in the consumer space Chromebooks just don’t seem like particularly compelling propositions.

If you want a laptop there’s always going to be a more capable Windows laptop within reach, and while the cheap PC experience may not always be great it’s something people have lived with forever, they’re use to it. If they don’t care about the capability of Windows they’re way more likely to get themselves an iPad or some other tablet which will run all the apps they love on their phone (and run them well) with comfortable and familiar user interfaces, and in the case of iPads it’ll come in the form of a nicer looking device. That’s all if they don’t just stick to their phone with no real desire for a bigger screen.

I have pretty basic computing needs and my samsung chromebook has been a great device for work, school and entertainment. Definitely looking at replacing it with this.

A Celeron with 4GB of RAM? Ouch. Granted it’s only $549, but that’s not exactly super cheap. I expect those sort of specs in a sub-$500 laptop. Also, and I know this is getting into nit-picky territory, but 16:9 displays on laptops are dead to me. They should all be 16:10 or higher.

I am still using a 4gb Celeron chromebook at work. If I wasnt such a open tabs junkie it would be fine, even the simple photoediting I do for web/ecommerce. Not saying it is perfect, but it has worked well and not impacted my effeciency in a big way. I did this as an experiment, replaced my $1500 16GB maxed out Windows laptop with a $150 4GB chromebook. Not something I would recomend to everyone, but for me it worked out really well.

Wish this had tiger lake, a 16GB ram option, and 16:10 or even squarer screen… small bezels too.

basically i want a modern high end pixelbook

No built-in stylus? That was like one of the best features on the older Chromebook. Too many compromises.

I also don’t like that there isn’t a magnet to hold the device in tablet mode.

75% of the review before the reviewer deigned to inform the readers that the price was significantly cut down from the original model. Why wouldn’t this be the first thing to mention, so we have the spec reduction in context?

Every time I read about another feature that was downgraded, I expected to see a pricing comparison to give it perspective. Took far too long, and even then you had to infer the mentioned $999 referred to the original.

Would have made things much clearer if it was included in the intro.

Yes tech stonks eventually rise again

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