Samsung Galaxy Chromebook review: beautiful to a fault

Who is shopping for a $1,000 Chromebook? That’s the query individuals debated throughout the web when Google unveiled the Pixelbook in 2017, and it’s a debate that may proceed because the 2-in-1 Samsung Galaxy Chromebook makes its manner onto cabinets.

In a market full of laptops which can be getting thinner and sooner annually, a Chromebook’s comparative benefit is often in battery life and value. Sure, quite a lot of firms make Chromebooks that should compete with Windows machines on specs and efficiency, however these “premium” Chromebooks (except for the 2017 Pixelbook) don’t carry beginning costs above $650, and plenty of (such because the Asus Chromebook Flip C434) are underneath $500.

And then there’s the Galaxy Chromebook, which isn’t in any respect low-cost (it’s $999) and has battery life that leaves a lot to be desired. Samsung has taken a wrecking ball to what have historically been the 2 strongest arguments for getting a Chromebook. It’s clearly pushing a special imaginative and prescient for what a Chrome OS product may be: a premium gadget for energy customers.

Unfortunately, I feel these energy customers must wait a bit longer. I’ve to credit score Samsung for making this stunning and daring guess. But it’s a daring guess that’s not prepared for its $999 price ticket.

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I’ll begin with the nice issues. The Galaxy Chromebook has just a few standout options, however essentially the most notable is what Samsung and Google are referring to as “craftsmanship.” At simply 9.9mm thick and a pair of.29 kilos, that is the thinnest Chromebook on the planet. The chassis is aluminum and is available in “Mercury gray” or a daring “fiesta red” shade that appears orange in vivid mild. I had the crimson mannequin, and the silver panels on the perimeters add a contemporary, stylish contact. It’s a very stunning gadget. My one nitpick concerning the construct is that the 360 hinge isn’t terribly sturdy, so there’s a little bit of a bounce each time your finger or stylus faucets the touchscreen whereas it’s not in pill mode.

The keyboard, whereas clicky, is a bit flat — however the keys and palm rests really feel so good that I’m greater than prepared to forgive the shallow key journey. Similarly, the trackpad is considerably stiff in comparison with these on some premium Windows laptops, however the clean materials made utilizing it a great expertise total.

A singular design selection is that Samsung has positioned an 8MP digital camera on the highest proper nook of the keyboard deck. If you fold the Chromebook into pill mode, you should utilize it to shoot pictures with the display as a viewfinder. I’m undecided how many individuals truly wish to take pictures with an 8MP digital camera, however I can see it being a enjoyable trick throughout video chats.

The second dwelling run — and an enormous motive for the $999 price ticket — is the show. This is the primary Chromebook to sport a 4K OLED display. The show is beautiful, with vivid colours that make even these on the MacE book Pro look washed out compared. It is shiny, which suggests some glare, however the entire image regarded so good that I barely seen. (Of course, 4K screens are infamous for decimating battery life, and this one isn’t any exception. More on that in a bit.)

The Chromebook additionally makes use of Google’s Ambient Colors characteristic to regulate the show’s shade temperature to go well with the setting round you. It made the display simpler on my eyes, particularly at night time.

But my favourite characteristic of this Chromebook is the included stylus. It seems to be just like the S-Pen that comes with Galaxy Notes, and it’s fairly satisfying to pop out and in of its silo on the facet. More to the purpose, it glides very easily throughout the display. I discovered myself utilizing it as an alternative of the touchpad in all types of conditions, from Buzzfeed quizzes to scrolling by way of Slack to shifting sentences round in Docs. It was simply extra enjoyable.

It can do some cute tips as effectively and — not like with some S-Pen tips — all of them have apparent, sensible use circumstances. You can use it as a laser pointer throughout displays. You can use it to stipulate a area, screenshot that area, and instantly annotate the image. It can operate as a magnifying glass you can drag everywhere in the show. And the Google Play Store has an inventory of stylus-specific apps, together with numerous drawing, signing, and note-taking applications.

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Open this factor up and its specs measure as much as different revered Windows laptops. It’s acquired a 10th Gen Core i5 10210U, 8GB of RAM (LPDDR3), and 256GB of storage. I’m shocked to see Samsung utilizing DDR3 relatively than DDR4, however doubt most individuals will discover the distinction on a Chromebook.

Samsung initially mentioned there may be extra configurations as much as 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, however these appear to be on ice (for now, not less than).

The excellent news is that the i5 can deal with a heavy looking load. The machine by no means froze, and nothing randomly crashed. I loaded it up with 20 Chrome tabs and 7 Android apps (a mixture of Slack, Twitter, Gmail, Spotify, Facebook, Reddit, and the assorted Drive issues) and all the pieces ran easily. Google Assistant additionally labored effectively: it understood all of my voice instructions completely and was a nice conversational companion.

The unhealthy information is that to take care of this person expertise, the Galaxy Chromebook has to warmth up. There’s no fan on this factor, and its passive cooling system was inconsistent throughout my testing. The chassis’s temperature gave the impression to be, at finest, loosely correlated with the stress the CPU was underneath. There had been occasions when it was fairly cool working 17 tabs, or three apps and 15 tabs, and occasions when it sweltered working simply six tabs, or three tabs and Slack. When I say scorching, I imply that the keyboard was barely uncomfortable to sort on and the deck was starting to fry my legs. I may often cool all the pieces down by closing just a few issues, however that didn’t at all times final.

The warmth, whereas disagreeable, is probably not a deal-breaker for everybody. What is a deal-breaker, although, is the battery life.

Yeah, you didn’t assume that 4K screens’ eight million pixels powered themselves, did you? Samsung claimed eight hours of battery life; I acquired 4 hours and 20 minutes on a cost, swapping between a number of apps and several other Chrome tabs at 50 % brightness. It additionally doesn’t juice again up significantly quick. After an hour of charging through one in every of its USB-C ports, the Chromebook’s battery was solely at 50 %.

Four hours and 20 minutes is flatly horrible. For perspective, you’re getting about two hours of juice for each hour of cost; this factor will spend a 3rd of its life plugged in. To put it bluntly: that’s unacceptable on a $999 Chromebook. Four hours and 20 minutes isn’t simply low for that value; I’d be unimpressed with that on a $400 gadget. Samsung clearly thinks that battery life is a worthwhile trade-off for the flamboyant show, and possibly that’s true for you should you by no means intend to take this factor wherever. But then, why are you paying a premium for a product that’s small and lightweight?

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Finally, let’s discuss concerning the state of Chrome OS. If you persist with internet apps, you’ll discover you get a speedy, elegant expertise — even pill mode is improved as of late. Google hasn’t made enormous adjustments that may attraction to customers, however assist for Linux has improved fairly a bit.

Then there are the Android apps. When the Pixelbook launched in 2017, Android apps for Chromebook had been simply out of beta, and plenty of of them weren’t on fairly the identical web page because the working system.

Some of the worst kinks have been ironed out (flipping the display out and in of pill mode not scatters your apps to the wind and not turns applications like Spotify right into a phone-sized window floating in a black void), however Android remains to be a large number on Chrome OS three years later.

Some of the problems are small. Highlighting giant sections of textual content is tough within the Google Docs app, for instance. Slack for Android is sort of clunky in comparison with its Windows and Mac counterparts. Mobile gaming additionally wasn’t nice: Rest in Pieces was stutter-y (with nothing working within the background) and, in fact, blurry and pixelated because it was blown as much as match a Chromebook. Call of Duty: Mobile nonetheless couldn’t get previous the primary loading display with out crashing.

Facebook Messenger, specifically, is a catastrophe. Whenever I acquired a Messenger notification whereas working in Chrome, the browser would instantly freeze and cease loading all webpages. I’d must signal out and in of my Google account to get it working once more.

I feel these points are a disgrace as a result of there are clearly advantages to Google’s system. I favor the easier app interfaces of LastPass and Google Maps to their browser variations, and sure Android apps, equivalent to 1Weather, Podcast Addict, and Solid Explorer, work nice on the Galaxy Chromebook and don’t have browser equivalents in any respect.

But on the finish of the day, it’s Samsung’s and Google’s duty to place out a product that performs properly with the providers individuals use essentially the most, particularly in the event that they’re charging $999 for it. Yes, you possibly can simply do all these items in Chrome if you wish to, however a part of the attraction of Chrome OS is meant to be that you should utilize your favourite Android apps. (And sure, I do know you are able to do extra issues with Linux, however the common person doesn’t).

I doubt that my main criticisms of this gadget will come as a shock to Samsung and Google. I’m certain the businesses are conscious that they aren’t delivery a tool with spectacular cooling or a hefty battery. In releasing the product on this state, they’ve determined these are acceptable sacrifices to ask of Chrome OS customers in alternate for an AMOLED display and an attention-grabbing construct. I disagree. The 4K show seems to be nice. But laptops with a killer characteristic nonetheless have to be laptops all over the place else.

I’ve to present Samsung credit score the place it’s due: that is the nicest-looking Chromebook I’ve ever seen. It seems to be and feels beautiful. The pen and the keyboard digital camera present that Samsung has put numerous thought into designing a singular gadget.

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But if you value a Chromebook at $999, you’re placing it within the huge leagues — not simply amongst Chromebooks, however amongst all laptops. Microsoft’s Surface Pro X, Surface Laptop three, and Apple’s MacE book Air all begin at $999. I’m not saying the Galaxy Chromebook is immediately competing with these fashions — I’m conscious that Samsung and Microsoft are largely concentrating on completely different customers.

What I’m saying is that at that value level, we must always count on laptops to do all the pieces fairly effectively. Some have a standout characteristic or two, however all ought to have the fundamentals nailed; we count on a great display, dependable efficiency, and acceptable battery life. Samsung delivers on the primary and totally on the second, however on the full detriment of the third. That very effectively may be a mix some individuals are prepared to pay for — however they in all probability shouldn’t pay $1,000.

Photography by Monica Chin

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