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Samsung Chromebook review

Verdict

Samsung makes the most of Google’s Chrome OS and delivers an affordable and capable 11.6in laptop

Review Date: 7 Dec 2012

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £191 (£229 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £694
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

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User comments

surely too underpowered for a recommended award?

you can get a Thinkpad x200s on ebay for £120

By gavmeister on 10 Dec 2012

Refresh

One problem that Jeff Jarvis noted is that the tabs refresh automatically, when you activate them, even if there is no internet connection.

He also lost about 2 hours of work in Evernote, when it decided to randomly refreshed the page - but he thinks that might be an Evernote problem, not necesarrily a problem with Chrome OS.

He is doing an experiment of only using the Chromebook and, apart from the above problems, he is very happy with it.

He did say, that travelling on a plane means you have to plan what you are going to do in advance, to ensure everything you need is cached.

By big_D on 10 Dec 2012

How difficult would be it be to scrub Chrome OS and put something like ubuntu on?

By JamesD29 on 10 Dec 2012

This price point is where

they needed to be from the start! But it still baffles me why Google needs two operating systems. It would not take much to make Android work on more conventional devices such as this AND make the Chrome cloud available on all Android devices.

By JohnAHind on 10 Dec 2012

Recommended?

For what? Does Calculator and Notepad really mean this is serious for pro work? Let me know how it works out creating something. A website perhaps or a small app. £230 for a browser seems a lot, especially as they are free on my computer.

By stephen_d_morris on 10 Dec 2012

ChrUbuntu

@JamesD29: search for ChrUbuntu - dual boots, too, so can keep Chrome OS.

By wyndarra on 11 Dec 2012

Good review for Google Docs

This review seems to suggest that GDocs has come of age (with offline access etc) but that the Chromebook is still not an effective way of using them. I would agree about GDocs (our company uses them extensively for real time collaboration) but shame about the Chromebook's limitations. When will someone bring out a device that doesn't stutter regardless of the number of tabs opened?

By BigDon5 on 11 Dec 2012

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