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Three Tempting Reasons To Buy The New Samsung Chromebook 2

Can the new Chrome OS notebook from Samsung repeat the success of its predecessor?

samsung-chromebook-2-open-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.

samsung chromebook 2 in white

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

exynoseThe Exynos Octa processor used in the Samsung Chromebook 2 has both barrels fully loaded.

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.

Clean lines and bright feel

Clean lines and bright feel…

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

...complete with mock-stitching.

…complete with mock-stitching.

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • Dustin Matlock

    I bought the 11.6-inch for my girlfriend and initially she liked it but later decided she could not stand how dim and lacking in vibrance the screen is compared to her MacBook. That’s maybe not a fair comparison but it was my first Chromebook purchase and this was something that mattered. I’m not sure if the 13.3-inch has a brighter more vibrant screen but maybe someone can elaborate on that. On a different note, she also could not handle that all so-called apps opened in Chrome, but I suppose that’s why they call it Chromebook. I have hopes for the Chrome OS in the future but for now it will have to be something else.

    • Boothy

      Suggestion for you. Go through her app launcher, right click on all the apps and set then to “Open in Window”.
      They will then look a lot more like the “traditional” user interface. I use that all the time, and if you turn on app launcher sync in Chrome://flags, your settings will be backed up at Google.

      • Dustin Matlock

        Great tip, thank you!

    • http://familyoffortune.com/ Caleb Lee

      The 11″ has a brightness of 200 nits and a 1366×768 resolution.

      The 13″ has a brightness of 250 nits and a full HD resolution.

      • Dustin Matlock

        Good to know. I had the 13″ on preorder but Amazon could not seem to fulfill the order. I’m guessing that it was sold out.

        • Marc

          The 13s screen is TN…whether a dim 1080 tn is better than a bright 768 IPS is debatable.

  • Sean Lumly

    I’m really on the fence with this one. I love the form factor of the Chromebook 2 over its competition, but both the performance specs, battery life, and price are being decisively beat by devices like the Asus C200/C300. I would have bought the Chromebook 2 without reservation, but I’m now waiting to get a hands-on test (and read plenty of reviews) before making a final choice.

    • Wesley Files

      I would wait to see if the Asus Chromebooks actually perform better. They’re dual-core, and that Bay Trail M processor is generally rated at 2.1 GHz with a 2.42 GHz “turbo,” which I honestly don’t know what that means. It could rev down when it gets hot, like the Pixel. Only having 2 GB RAM will make a difference for some people, as well.

      Have you seen UltrabookReview’s review? They got considerably lower Octane benchmarks than Promevo, but I do question their methods for benchmarking: http://www.ultrabookreview.com/4401-asus-chromebook-c200-review/comment-page-1/#comment-25459

      • Sean Lumly

        Great find! And thanks for the link!

        You’re likely spot on. Modern chips often throttle back the speed when the chip gets to a certain temperature. This is known as thermal throttling. And while the Bay Trail SoC may perform well from a cold-boot, after a period of sustained strain (ie. multiple runs of the benchmark in the review), the performance may be throttled down, thus the scores in the review may be a much more realistic depiction of real-world performance.

        The same may be true for the Exynos 5800 (modified 5422) in the Chromebook 2, and it will be interesting to see if ARMs big.LITTLE strategy leads to high sustained performance.

        Assuming that the Asus C200 is scoring in the low 6000’s for octane, this puts it in the same ballpark as the Chromebook 2 in terms of performance, if of course the Chromebooks scores were indicative of sustained perf. If that is the case, then the Chromebooks 2 11″ with 4GB ram is once again looking much more appealing to me personally despite the higher $349 price.

        The battery life of the C200 was also far less impressive than the original marketing led on! Don’t get me wrong, the claimed 6-8 hours is very good, but nowhere near the 10 hours promised. Again, this puts it neck-and-neck with the Chromebook 2.

        I’m now very interested to read more reviews, but for me the Chromebook 2 is back in the lead! If you take away the performance and battery life gains of the Asus C200, then I find the additional RAM in the Chromebook 2, and the ultra-compact form factor and matte screen far more appealing.

        Thank you so much for the link! It was greatly appreciated!

        • Wesley Files

          For what it’s worth, I just let my Samsung Series 3 run the WebGL Aquarium at 4000 fish for 10 minutes, so it would get hot. I ran benchmarks right before letting it get hot, and right after, and the change wasn’t notable; the scores were actually slightly higher when it was hot.

          I wouldn’t discount the Bay Trail M’s battery life. All the recent estimates being given as bullet points by the manufactures are calculated using a benchmarking program Google has made that runs a series of task in a loop. I’ve seen the breakdown (I wish I could find it now for you), and I think it’s weighted too low concerning how much an average user would watch video content. I think most users will find lower battery runtime than the box quote.

          That said, I also hear that Chrome OS can’t utilize the Heterogeneous Multi-Processing ability of the Exynos 5 Octa in the Samsung 2 (info about HMP: http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/minisite/Exynos/blog_Exynos_5_Octa_Heterogeneous_Multi_Processing_Capability.html), meaning it can’t mix high-power and low-power cores to run as efficiently as possible. If true, then it means it’s currently either running tasks on two configurations; either all 4 low-power cores, or all 4 high-power cores. If there’s room to adapt Chrome OS to this, it could mean really substantial battery life gains for the Samsung 2’s or Chrome OS on any processor that supports HMP.

          I’m not sure if you live somewhere besides the United States, but the 11″ Samsung 2 should only cost you $319! :)

          • Sean Lumly

            Absolutely! I will have to wait for reviews to get a good idea of battery life on both units as well as performance.

            I wouldn’t be surprised to see support for HMP, though maybe in a later build if it’s not there already (eg. beta/dev channel). In any case, the “big” cores are for peak situations (eg. rendering a web page), and the “LITTLE” cores are designed for sustained performance, so I would expect that the “LITTLE” cores would be running most of the time in either scenario (save for sites with unnecessarily heavy JS). But hey, even a little boost would be welcome!

            I’m in Canada, so I’m still waiting/searching for a local option. But I will be making a move soon enough! The irony is that I am aware that 20nm process (possibly 14nm/14nm FinFET) will likely be hitting en-mass next year, and we’ll see chips with significant performance boosts and far better power characteristics. Chromebooks tend to be behind the curve with SoCs, so I expect that I will get around 2 years out of a 2014 Chromebook, before a device with significantly better performance shows up.

            How do you find the experience with your Series 3 Chromebook?

          • Wesley Files

            Quite nice, honestly. I don’t keep around any extensions other than Google Cast for my Chromecast, I have flash auto-disabled (can be permanently re-enabled on a domain-by-domain basis, or temporarily with a click), I finish up tasks on extra tabs or bookmark them into folders if I need them for later so I don’t keep around lots of tabs. I help it to only carry a light-load and it carries it well.

            Full-disclosure; I’ve preordered the Samsung 2, white 11″ version. Not really out of a desire for better performance, but I think it looks incredibly attractive, in addition to the performance gains. I sold off another gadget to help pay for it, and I am meaning to sell off my Samsung Series 3 to cover the rest after the Samsung 2 arrives. Not sure I want let it go though. :(

          • Sean Lumly

            The look of the 11″ Chromebook 2 is also a primary reason for my interest in the device. I think that it looks incredibly sleek, and distinct. It has few extraneous lines, and if you note the size of the screen/keyboard to other 11″ devices, the chassis very compact. I also have a soft spot for the anti-reflective characteristics of matte screens, though this can be emulated using screen covers. Lastly, I really love the faux leather cover, it makes the device much more regal and distinct, and is quite welcome.

            I’m also not really put-off by the standard resolution. Truth be told, my main laptop is quite old at this point, and uses a 1366×768 screen at 15″! I also have a Nexus 10 at 2560×1600 (and very good vision, by the by), and simply I do not miss the higher ppi when on my laptop. I would, however, have adored a higher quality panel on the Chromebook 2.

            Anyway, considering that my main laptop gets around 9000 in octane, and also has 4GB memory, (and a far weaker GPU than what is found in the Chromebook 2), I’m quite certain that the Chromebook 2 performance will be very good. My laptop has zero problems with the web and is quite comfortable to use, even with heavy sites. This is especially true in that I am running a relatively heavy Ubuntu with many servers (SSH/SFTP/HTTP/DB/UPnP/etc) sucking down RAM and often many excruciatingly heavy apps open including chrome. I expect an optimized Chromebook would make far better use of the 4GB compared to my machine.

            The last unknown is the speaker loudness. I love headphones, but I also like the convenience of quickly playing something via the loud-speakers. I have heard that they are loud (a lot of content tends to be recorded at low volume), but this is not enough to determine this characteristic. Having something that can beat ambient noise would be useful.

            I have a question for you: I know that you can disable flash via chrome://plugins, but how do you do this per url, and on-demand? You mention that you don’t have any extensions (excepting cast), so I am very curious!

          • Wesley Files

            chrome://settings/content#plug-ins

            That will direct you to the Plug-Ins menu with the yellow highlighted text. I use the “click to play” setting, and you can allow exceptions either from the menu just below this setting, or when you arrive at the site you’ll see a little puzzle-piece icon letting you know a plug-in was blocked, and you can click it for the option to allow the plug-ins from then on.

            I think I’ve at least heard that no-one has noted any distortion on the Samsung 2 speakers, which the Series 3 can suffer from for some types of sound, regardless of volume. They’re nice and loud for me, and more often-then-not clear, so I hope the Samsung 2 is just as loud.

          • Sean Lumly

            Awesome! Thanks for the tip (re: plugins) as it will be very, very useful.

            And congrats on your Chromebook 2 pre-order. At least one Canadian is excited for you! :) And don’t be a stranger when you get it. Let us know how it has worked out!

          • Wesley Files

            I worry about seeming off-topic and boastful if there’s not a related story to fit my impressions into. I’ll definitely post some thought over on Google+, though. The Chromebooks community is really great over there!
            https://plus.google.com/communities/105678482604512626671?utm_source=chrome_ntp_icon&utm_medium=chrome_app&utm_campaign=chrome

            You can even follow OMG!Chrome :)
            https://plus.google.com/+Omgchrome/posts?utm_source=chrome_ntp_icon&utm_medium=chrome_app&utm_campaign=chrome

          • Sean Lumly

            Consider it done! I will certainly look forward to reading more about it via the community.

            And I’ve quite enjoyed the conversation. :)

      • Sean Lumly

        I’ve just noticed that there are a slew of new user reviews online, and it seems as though the Samsung Chromebook 2 13 is scoring a whopping 7000 in Octane for the Beta Channel of Chrome OS builds. This is just one benchmark, but it seems that software optimizations of later builds of the OS have boosted the performance of the Chromebook 2 substantially! The 11″ is clocked slightly lower, but it should still score much higher as well.

        I’m a Chrome dev-channel user, so these are the speeds that I can expect.

  • D. Sharer

    My 13″ Chromebook 2 got here last week from Amazon and I couldn’t be happier making the switch to Chrome. I absolutely love this things.

  • view2share

    Isn’t 1920x res. sort of high for a 13.3″ screen, as in toolbars and tabs fonts shrinking to impossible to read levels?

  • Scott Welsh

    I bought the 13″ one, it is my first Chromebook, and I love it. I use Windows all day at work, at home I use a mix of Ubuntu, Windows, and an Android tablet. I haven’t touched the tablet since I first fired this up. While I do wish this had an IPS screen, The text is a bit tight on my old eyes, but I prefer it to the lower res.

  • Dan

    If it still can’t upload to play music, its pretty much useless to me…

    • calden74

      You know there are other apps, for instance DriveTunes will do what you want. Why not try looking at the Chromestore to see whats available before complaining about a single app.

    • Gary Graf

      Google play music uploads just fine.

    • https://www.facebook.com/fauxjacob Jacob Schweitzer

      Like Gary Graf said, Chromebooks, actually any Chrome OS device can now upload to Play Music. A few months back they added the option to upload through the browser rather than through the Music Manager app. I’ve already uploaded 12 different full albums that I got free mp3’s for from the download cards that come with vinyl records. Had a little problem with the first one, but it was on my end.

  • Steve

    Is is possible to enlarge the fonts somewhat on the 13″ full HD? Or do you then get an ackward rendering and ugly looking fonts? FullHD on 13″ is a bit too much I’m afraid.

    • Dustin Matlock

      The 13-inch MacBook with retina has a resolution of 2560-by-1600.

      You can change the display settings on the Chromebook using this link:

      https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/96810?hl=en

      • Steve

        With the retina you have to option to just have lovely smooth fonts. 2560×1600 would make fonts about a quarter of the size of the same font at a 1280*768 screen which would be really small.

  • Wesley Files

    The lower powered cores are the A7 design. A15s and A9s are not yet designed to work together in the big.LITTLE configuration.

  • moe

    i think asus c300 is just as good for a cheaper price

  • Gary Graf

    My only two complaints so far is there is occasion lag, and the 13.3 screen is too small for that resolution. It makes it hard to read. Wish they had a 15 inch option.

  • EM4AN

    It’s nice to see Samsung update its Chromebook offerings. Chromebooks are a great choice for education, as a second home laptop, or for users that spend most of their time in a browser and want a device that starts up fast and is easy to use.

    If you’re considering Chromebooks but also need access to Windows applications you can look at solutions like Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP client that enables Chromebook users to securely connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run their applications and desktops in a browser.

    AccessNow does not require any client to be installed on the Chromebook, as you only need the HTML5-compatible browser.

    For an online, interactive demo, open your Chrome browser and visit:
    http://www.ericom.com/Demo-AccessNow-4-Chromebooks.asp?URL_ID=708

    Please note that I work for Ericom

  • eb

    Nah, I’d rather stick with my Acer C720 with ubuntu.

  • DigoriePiper

    ARM processor is a real plus – completely silent and no scorched lap like you get with inefficient Intel processors. I be prepared to put up with the occasional lag for those benefits.

    • Alois

      Intel offers Bay-Trail cpus which are also fanless :P

    • Mike

      My Acer C720P with Intel has been just luke warm with a barely hearable fan.

  • Emil Smochină

    It’s to expensive ! At $400 you can buy an i5 processor laptop not this laptop… ARM processor is only at phones and tablets not at laptops… if you install Ubuntu Linux on it you can’t do anything because has ARM processor … If you have slow internet connection you can’t do anything on that laptop and also google drive , it’s slow , and very slow when you stai more than 2 hours on it because it doesn’t have cooling fan and it gets hot , you can cook on it.

  • Rodolfo Duran

    Do not buy i!! its terrible, well speed wise anyway. The screen is nice, but that is about it. My acer c720 4gb of ram is wayyyyyy and i mean way fassster!! so returned the stupid chromebook 2 13 inch. Listen to me please, do not buy this chromebook!! it sucks!!!

    • Heimen Stoffels

      I don’t have any speed issues on CB2. It’s lightning fast.

  • http://www.live-craft.com/ Jonathan Alfonso

    One reason not to: Slowest current-generation device on the market.

  • Heimen Stoffels

    Too bad they cancelled the Chromebook 2. My CB2 broke is such a bad way that reparing would cost way more than buying a new one. But every store, even in neighbouring countries, has silently removed the CB2 from from their stores and web stores :( Only Amazon.com has a couple left for USA citizens.
    Apparently, Samsung didn’t think it was as great else they wouldn’t have cancelled it so fast…

  • Tania Velasquez

    I ordered Samsung chromebook 2, with some hesitation after reading mixed reviews- i am used to working on high resolution Macs, but needed something to use specifically for the classes I teach (everything i do for school is pretty much google drive based).
    First off, do not expect to get a Macs capability on this! it is a $400 machine, not $1400…. however, i am really happy with it. it works exactly for what i need and has made my life easier in many ways. the computer NEVER gets hot, even after working on it for 4 solid hours (and i often work with a laptop literally, on my lap)… the speakers are GREAT, it’s fast (then again, i don’t use this for games), the keyboard is super-smooth, the trackpad took a couple of days to get used to, but now its fine (i just set the track speed up to the highest). The battery life is more like 6 hrs, than 8 though. At the end of the day, i give it thumbs up.