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Samsung Chromebook 2 review: Compelling -- but not without compromise

JR Raphael | May 16, 2014
Samsung's newest Chromebook has a distinctive design and a roomy 1080p screen, along with a few drawbacks.

Boy, oh boy — Chromebooks have come a long way.

Just a few short years ago, Google's Chrome OS was a rough-around-the-edges platform with a small selection of nearly indistinguishable devices. Fast-forward to today and the operating system has evolved into a polished ecosystem with a rapidly expanding array of hardware choices.

The latest entrant to the field is Samsung's Chromebook 2, the company's follow-up to its popular 2012 Chromebook. With the Chromebook 2, Samsung is attempting to step up its game with a distinctive design and the option for a large display with better-than-average resolution.

Samsung Chromebook 2

You can get the Chromebook 2 in a 13.3-in. model for $400 or in a more typical 11.6-in model for $320. I tested the larger iteration, but keep in mind that size and display are the only significant things that set these two apart.

The products were originally set to launch in April, but Samsung tells me both devices are now expected to start shipping on May 26.

So what's the new Chromebook 2 like to use, and is it the right laptop for you? Let's find out.

Body and design

Chrome OS is basically constant from one device to the next, so there's not much new to say about the software side of the experience here. (Samsung has preloaded a couple of apps on these devices, which is a tad unusual — but it's really not a big deal.) If you aren't already familiar with Chrome OS, you may want to glance over my previous coverage for a quick primer.

With software out of the equation, hardware is what truly sets one Chromebook apart from another — and the first thing you notice about Samsung's Chromebook 2 is without a doubt its physical design. The lid of the laptop utilizes the faux-leather (but actually plastic) notebook-like look introduced with Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 phone, and it works surprisingly well in this context.

Samsung's Chromebook 2 sports a faux-leather look.

The fake stitching effect is still a little tacky, to be sure, but all in all, it's not a bad look for a laptop — especially relative to the entry-level Chromebook category, where most devices have generic and underwhelming plastic shells. I should note that the 13-in. model has a gray color scheme while the 11-in. version of the device comes in a less subdued black or white motif. Based on my time with Samsung's Note 3 products, I'm a bit skeptical as to how the design will look with those less gentle hues, but in gray, at least, I've been pleasantly surprised.

 

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