The Samsung Chromebook 2 is now available to buy in the US from Amazon, BestBuy and other select retailers — but with the updated devices costing as much as $100 more than the previous model, are they priced for success?
With a raft of newer, cheaper and more powerful Chrome OS devices on the way from Acer, ASUS and Lenovo, the eight-core Samsung Chromebook successor may not seem like it’s worth a punt.
The runaway success of the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook back in 2012 invigorated the declining Chrome OS device market. Hitting store shelves with the low price tag of $249 attached, it was the first Chromebook to come priced in line with people’s expectations from a cloud-centric notebook.
Earlier Chromebooks, like the company’s own Series 550, positioned the notion of a ‘secondary computer’ as a premium device – a luxury. With a move away from high-end prices towards affordability, what the Series 3 lacked in build quality and performance it more than made up for it in a killer combination of portability and price.
Second Album Syndrome
Like an artist who hit the big time with their major label debut, Samsung find themselves in the difficult second album phase. A great second album should do two key things: refine the success of the first, but also introduce new stuff in the mix. Fans don’t want a dramatic change but they also don’t want a clone of what they already own.
Samsung appears to be sticking to this brief. The Samsung Chromebook 2 comes in two sizes, with a larger 13.3″ model introduced as a counter to the success of HP’s 14-inch whopper and Toshiba’s 13-inch debutante.
Internally the Chromebook 2 sticks to the strengths that made the preceding model so successful.
Based on an eight-core ARM SoC to provide a decent balance between value and performance, it also comes loaded with all of the standard features you’d expect in a portable, including speedy wireless connectivity, a host of connectivity ports, HDMI out and a built-in webcam.
Samsung know that pairing unique touches with familiar flair will help the device stand out in an increasingly crowded market. This can be seen in the (divisive) choice of lid texture: a moulded leather effect. While more commonly associated with premium office goods of the late 80’s than mid-range consumer electronics, it’s something that gives the notebook a clear point of difference.
But are any of these flourishes enough to justify the $319 and $399 starting prices? To help you decide, here is a quick guide to some of the selling points on offer, and why they might be worth forking out for.
Eight Core Four
There’s a powerful quad-core ARM Cortex A15 clocked at 1.9GHz for handling demanding apps, multitasking and media, while a power-friendly quad-core A9 chip shoulders the less intensive tasks. There’s also 4GB RAM onboard to make multitasking more responsive.
Benchmarks will — indeed some already have — award their winners and losers in the CPU speed stakes, but what matters more than the millisecond faster page loading times is how performance feels under real, everyday tasks – the sort of work most of us use a Chromebook for is different from the suites benchmarking tests run.
With BIG.Little architecture on board the Exynos Octa is able to offload less intensive tasks to a quad of power-friendly cores. When you need more grunt it can transition back to the ‘big’ cores as needed. Early reviews back this up, reporting that the CPU delivers a speedy, but not outstanding, experience.
Why: It’s the only notebook with this processor on the market.
Impressive HD Screen
All right, so the display on the SC2 won’t wow Pixel owners, nor will it one-up the IPS display used in HP’s 11-inch entry.
But with the bigger models sporting full HD LED screens at a resolution of 1920×1080, it’s the best resolution you’ll find on a Chromebook without selling a body part to afford the Pixel.
Why: 13-inch version features a 1920×1080 resolution.
Luxurious Look & Build
The leather-look backing and mock moulded-plastic stitching that encases the Samsung Chromebook 2 won’t be to everyone’s tastes — heck, it’s certainly not to mine!
But the gaudy charm does help lend the notebook a unique identity.
Then there are the colour options, too. The 11.6-inch model can be bought in either white or black, while the 13.3-inch comes in one colour: ‘Titan Grey’.
The keyboard and trackpad are described by earlier reviewers as ‘fantastic’ and ‘high-end’, and the overall build quality praised.
Why: Choice of colours, plus a high-end look and feel.
Samsung had a lot of hype to deliver on. Do they achieve it? Almost.
Other Chromebooks tend to have one stand out feature, e.g., IPS display, biggest trackpad, fastest processor. The Samsung Chromebook 2 is more humble; the lure comes from its combination of features. It’s not the fastest Chromebook, but it is fast. It doesn’t have the very best screen, but it’s the second best available, and so on.
Had Samsung sought to price it more competitively I’ve every expectation that it would fly off the shelves. But at an entry point of $319 for the 11-inch and one cent shy of $400 for the 13-inch, it’s likely to remain a mid-range seller. Which, all told, is rather fitting for this mid-range Chromebook.