Anton D. Nagy contributed to this post.
This is the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, a very interesting sequel to one of the most opulent products of 2020. I mean, it was hard not to award the first Galaxy Chromebook as best of CES for its sleek design, powerful internals, S Pen support, and a 4K OLED display, but it wasn’t perfect. It obviously didn’t come cheap, and battery life was sort of a problem, which made the choice for ChromeOS be kind of a deal-breaker. It’s always been this topic of debate if buying an expensive Chromebook is worth the money, and the reason why I drifted more to the Galaxy Book Flex, which was almost the same machine, but running Windows.
To use an analogy, an Expensive Chromebook is like trying to sell a variant of the MacBook Pro running iPadOS, but at the same price as one running macOS. And fine, before you cringe, I agree that ChromeOS is superior to what Apple launches in its tablets, but have you ever wondered just how much more superior? I mean guys, even Google decided to tone this approach down. It’s been almost four years since the Pixelbook. Three years since the Pixel Slate disaster and the PixelBook Go from two years ago became far less expensive.
I seriously don’t blame Samsung for switching its approach for 2021, all while keeping some of the elements that made generation one so hot. This is our Galaxy Chromebook 2 review.
Galaxy Chromebook 2 review video
The ChromeOS debate
Alright, so why the whole *But runs ChromeOS,* or the analogy I used earlier? I think the best way to understand why the Chromebook 2 is NOT better than the first, starts with understanding who a Chromebook is really for. Since Google is a web company, and our lives have pretty much evolved to be always connected, it makes a lot of sense for the needs of many to be centered on just a few things that can all be done on the browser. That allows for a more nimble operating system that does not carry any baggage, which in turn allows lower specs and a more affordable price tag.
Now, let’s be honest, the reason why Chromebooks are more popular in schools and with the average consumer is NOT that they’re better than a Windows PC or a MacBook. It’s because they’re dramatically cheaper. For as much as Google tried to go premium, the software just didn’t match the hardware as it does on competing operating systems.
That’s exactly the best way to describe what the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is all about. The price and the offering now adapt more to reality, but it solves another major pain point in the process… I mean, I know Chromebooks are cheap, but if we’re honest, most of them are also ugly or really skimp down on essentials that some might be willing to pay a bit more for, which is the niche I feel this laptop tries to fill.
Unless you compare it to its predecessor, the Chromebook 2 is probably one of the most premium-feeling and looking Chromebooks on the market today. In this price range, the sexy Fiesta Red in this chassis is a lot more eye-catchy than say, a Pixel Book Go. It borrows from my favorite laptop design from last year, which was actually its predecessor, but it’s not exactly the same body. It is the same Aluminum finish, but this one is slightly thicker and heavier. Still, it keeps one of my favorite design elements, which is to have back-lit keyboard lowered a bit more to provide just enough palm rest, but not too much, and also in offering a fairly large trackpad, along with a decent amount of with USB-C on each side, and even microSD expansion up to 2 terabytes.
You might need to actually use that more often than you think, though. If this is going to be your only computer, specs won’t drive you crazy. The more affordable model starts at an Intel Celeron with 4 gigs of RAM and 64 gigs of storage, which I’m hoping is somehow better than how those numbers made the Pixel Slate cough with anything. My review is based on the Core i3 with double the storage and RAM numbers, which might be a better investment in the long run. Other standard specs include Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 4.
Now, aside from the outer shell, another thing that separates this Chromebook is the display. Samsung’s QLED technology makes a return on this 13.3-inch panel, with a lot of punch in color and contrast. I do wish it went above 1080p, but you and I know that anything with that has an extra digit in the price. Push the hinge further and another reason this is better than the Pixelbook Go, is that the panel is touch-sensitive, so you can set it as a tent to consume content or even a tablet if that’s your jam. Doing this automatically switches the software to gesture-based, which is welcomed. Sadly there’s no S Pen included in the box, but pretty much any USI Stylus works with it, though I wouldn’t recommend you cheap out too much on that, as the experience will vary. Samsung makes a lot of high claims for the speakers, which are beyond Ok to almost what I’d call good, but nothing amazing given the placement.
The not so good
But alright, after typing half this script on it with the things I like, let me switch over to the things that aren’t necessarily bad. Or as I like to say, where I’m mixed.
The first is the keyboard. It is a joy to type on. Probably the best one Samsung has ever put on a laptop, but make sure you watch Michael Fisher’s review. His unit actually got replaced due to keyboard repetitions. I can’t say my computer has the same aggressive problems that his unit has, but yeah, it’s happened a couple of times, and mostly on Android apps.
And yes, that actually leads me to the second reason why I’m mixed. I think ChromeOS has matured a lot from the last time I used it. I love the ability to switch to more than one desktop for multi-tasking, plus the tablet gestures, and let’s be real, Chrome as a browser is pretty powerful and convenient. If you can live with Chrome alone, you’ll be fine, but my problem continues to stand on the shoulders of Android Apps. The UI elements and the navigation is not always consistent, the size of text or the presentation of features is not consistent, and I think they do affect essentials like battery life. I mean it does charge pretty fast with the bundled 45-watt charger, but the battery drop depends on what you do, so don’t expect the 13 hours promised.
Michael had a better experience with his unit, but I couldn’t get past 5 to 6 hours of use, which I think might have to do with how much I use Android apps for Slack, Microsoft OneNote, and others… I think it’s probably the reason why the fans on my unit kick in pretty often, but that actually leads me to my other problem. Guys, this is the same version of Microsoft Excel and Word on your Android Phone, so don’t be fooled to think it competes with a Windows machine, or heck, even the version on iPadOS. And see, this is my biggest problem, that if you want the full PC experience, you depend on a browser version of the service to exist because, in everything else, you’re using a phone’s app, with phone limitations.
Last but not least, I’m not gonna call this a problem, but I was already pretty excited with how Samsung has evolved its ecosystem to talk to each other, like how the Galaxy Book Flex can charge your devices on the trackpad, or support features like Samsung Notes to sync with your phone. As it stands, since Samsung’s Galaxy Store is not available on this computer, you’re limited to Samsung Smart Things on Google Play and that’s it. It almost feels like a step back when compared to everything Samsung offers to its Windows computers.
Galaxy Chromebook 2 review conclusion
To conclude, what can I say? The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is probably the best Chromebook you can buy for its price range. It’s got an amazing build, a really good display, and I do have to say that even with the basic specs, this Core i3 performs really well. We recommend the Galaxy Chromebook 2 as the Best Value.
My problem with this computer is really ChromeOS, and it might have to do with the fact that I’m biased towards getting a more powerful operating system for this kind of money, cause yeah at this price, you can find some fairly decent Windows machines that’ll be able to do more. Heck, even last year’s Galaxy Chromebook is available with better everything for $100 bucks more than the high-end variant that I just reviewed of version 2.
If you’re on the market for a Chromebook, meaning you know your usage fits into the mold, then sure, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a pretty neat little package. It’s what I’d call a more logical high-end Chromebook if there is such a thing.