Samsung Chromebook review

7 Dec 2012

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

Price when reviewed 
229
5

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £191
Price inc VAT £229
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 289 x 204 x 22mm (WDH)
Weight 1.090kg
Travelling weight 1.4kg

Processor and memory

RAM capacity 2.00GB

Screen and video

Screen size 11.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 16GB
Optical drive N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed N/A
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 1
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel 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
Pointing device type touchpad
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Overall application benchmark score N/A
Office application benchmark score N/A
2D graphics application benchmark score N/A
Encoding application benchmark score N/A
Multitasking application benchmark score N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Chrome OS
OS family Chrome OS
Software supplied none