Samsung Chromebook 2 (13.3in) review
Samsung injects the Chromebook with a touch of class, packing in a Full HD 13.3in display for only £329
Review Date: 19 Jun 2014
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £274 (£329 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Most Chromebooks we see at PC Pro are fairly similar devices, but the Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in is a product that bucks the trend. With a Full HD screen and a chassis inspired by Samsung’s Ultrabook range, it offers a touch of luxury in a sector all too often associated with no-frills, back-to-basics products. Read on for our in-depth Samsung Chromebook 2 review.
This wide expanse of LCD means it’s notably larger than the 11.6in version we reviewed recently, but Samsung has managed to keep both the weight and thickness down to manageable levels. The Chromebook 2 13.3in tips the scales at 1.4kg, a mere 200g heftier than its smaller sibling, and it’s exactly the same thickness: 20mm including the rubber feet.
The design of the 13.3in model is also much like that of its smaller cousin. It has a leather-effect texture covering the lid, replete with fake stitching around the edge, and a slick of shiny, semi-matte plastic surrounds the screen, keyboard and underside. Only the colour is different: where the 11.6in is black, the 13.3in version comes in what Samsung calls Luminous Titan; that’s grey, with a very slight brown tint, to anyone else.
On the edges are two USB sockets (one USB 2, one USB 3), an HDMI output, a Kensington Lock attachment, a 3.5mm headset jack and a single microSD slot, allowing you to expand on the 16GB of internal storage.
Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in review: screen and ergonomics
The screen is what this Chromebook is all about, though, and it’s a step up from what you’ll find on most Chromebooks. Brightness reaches a maximum of 247cd/m2 and contrast peaks at 476:1 – figures that translate to reasonably bright, punchy images. The 13.3in, Full HD screen is significantly better than the display on the 11.6in model, too, which only reached a brightness of 210cd/m2 and dropped behind with a contrast ratio of 334:1.
There’s only one Chromebook that gives the Samsung’s Full HD display a real run for its money: the HP Chromebook 11 (web ID: 384781), the 1,366 x 768 IPS panel of which sacrifices pixel density for wider viewing angles and richer colour reproduction.
It’s noticeable that the Samsung’s colour temperature is on the cold side, with grey tones taking on a bluish tint, but it’s the extra resolution of the Full HD panel that makes the biggest difference. Text, graphics, photos and videos all look extra-crisp, and there’s much more room to spread out, allowing you to view a Google Drive document and a website comfortably side by side, for example.
In fact, the screen on the Chromebook 2 has a higher pixel density than many significantly more expensive laptops. Whichever way you look at it, it's quite an achievement for a laptop that costs only £329.
Samsung hasn’t sacrificed the essentials to keep the price down, either. The spacious Scrabble-tile keyboard makes touch-typing very comfortable indeed, and the large touchpad beneath doesn’t throw a spanner in the works. There’s a reasonable specification elsewhere, too, with 2x2 stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4 and, as mentioned, 16GB of internal storage. The end result is a highly usable, affordable portable that’s ideal for carrying out basic office tasks and browsing the web.
Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in review: Performance and battery life
As with its smaller cousin, the Chromebook 2 13.3in’s main weakness lies in its performance. Under the hood, it’s powered by an ARM-based, eight-core Samsung Exynos Octa 5800 SoC with four cores running at 2.1GHz and four running at 1.3GHz. There’s 4GB of RAM to go with this, and a Mali-T628 MP6 GPU.
On paper, this is an impressive-looking piece of silicon, but, once again, the Samsung doesn’t feel as snappy in general use as Chromebooks we’ve used running Intel Celeron processors. Scrolling up and down hefty web pages and navigating around Google Docs and Google Sheets files is far from smooth, and we didn’t have to look hard in the Chrome Web Store to find games with which it struggled; even Angry Birds is juddery. In both the SunSpider and Peacekeeper benchmarks, the Chromebook 2's results were mediocre, with results of 1,052ms and 1,287 respectively.
On the plus side, it wakes up from sleep a touch quicker than its smaller sibling, and the light demands of Chrome OS means that it boots from cold in only eight seconds. Battery life, as with the 11.6in version, is solid, too. Looping a cached video at 720p, with Wi-Fi off and the screen set to a brightness of 120cd/m2, saw the Chromebook 2 13.3in last for 6hrs 56mins - longer than most rivals, although shorter than its stablemate.
Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in review: verdict
Performance isn’t brilliant, then, but there’s little doubt that the Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in represents a good deal. You’ll find it hard to match the combination of portability and battery life in any Windows laptop at this price, let alone the inclusion of high-end treats such as a Full HD display and 802.11ac wireless.
Also, bear in mind that Google’s OS has come on a lot in recent times: it allows documents and spreadsheets to be edited offline, for example, and some apps and games can be installed locally. At the same time, the amount you can get done online has increased. If you haven’t considered a Chromebook before, the Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in might make you think again.
Author: Jonathan Bray
Did you try putting an ARM version of Linux on it and how easy would it be to upgrade the storage.
By JamesD29 on 21 Jun 2014
It's already got an ARM version of 'Linux'...Oh, wait, you mean to run, like, emacs and stuff? (By the way I wouldn't imagine performance would be any better if you replaced Chrome, better to buy a laptop tbh.)
By c6ten on 24 Jun 2014
where can you buy one in the UK?
By desfib on 24 Jul 2014
Compare to XE303C12
I'm using Chromebook 1 - XE303C12 with Arch linux arm. Performance is enough. Do you think the XE503C32 has better performance or the same ?
By narcin on 14 Oct 2014
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