With April quickly coming to an end, many are still asking “where is the Samsung Chromebook Pro?” The unexplained delay, for me at least, has stifled a lot of the hype around the much-anticipated device. We have had some hands-on time with the Pro and all-in-all it is a top-notch Chromebook that delivers very well in most areas but has left me feeling it could be more.
Don’t get me wrong, The Chromebook Pro will be a major contender to be one of the best devices of 2017 but then again, it’s only April and there are a lot more devices coming our way. My question is, will the Pro be good enough to wear the label, “Flagship” Chromebook? It has been referred to as such by many, even some inside Google. But does it meet the expectation of what one would expect when getting the “best of the best” in a given arena?
Let’s take a look at what a flagship Chromebook should or could look like and see if the Pro stands up. Then we’ll take a second look at the upcoming Kaby Lake device, ‘Eve’ and see if maybe this is the Chromebook of our hopes and dreams.
Samsung Chromebook Pro
I’m torn on this part. The Samsung Chromebook Pro’s design is, for all intents and purposes, identical to its little brother the Samsung Plus sans one thing. The build, dimensions and external features may all be the same but it’s BLACK.
Hear me out here. There’s nothing wrong with a black Chromebook. With the right accents of brushed aluminum a gun-metal chassis on a Chromebook could look striking. I’m not at liberty to share at this point, but there is another Chromebook coming from another OEM that has pulled this off beautifully. I will buy it just for its looks, I promise you that. Imagine Acer Chromebook 14 only in a sexy charcoal and not Acer.
The Samsung Pro, however, doesn’t look like a premium, metal-clad device. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised but all the photos we have seen up unto this point just make the Pro look cheap. This is nothing like the silver review unit we received. The Plus is gorgeous and I think Samsung has done themselves and consumers a disservice with this design choice.
There have also been some questions about the build quality of the Samsung devices. The chassis is beautiful, sleek and slender but we have seen multiple reports of the lid having a bit more flex that you would expect from a “high-end” Chromebook. Some might attribute this to the fact that it’s so thin. Maybe, but we have disproved that theory here in the office. The ASUS Chrombook C302 is 0.54 inches thick while the Samsung is 0.55″ and side-by-side the ASUS is built like a brick. No flex or bend in the chassis and it feels like you’re holding a Pixel or MacBook so Samsung missed the mark here. Sorry, not sorry.
This is another area where Samsung has done a “good” job but I can’t seem to bring myself to say it’s great. A Skylake Core m3 processor and 4GB RAM is not too shabby and, for most consumers, will handle just about anything you can throw at it. But, we’re pushing a high-res 3:2 display that is super bright with a ton of pixels. This is a situation where, for many power users, just-good-enough just isn’t good enough.
If I were to make this device my daily driver and work from it a good majority of time, the Core m3 would probably work but I would be happier with the m5.
4GB of RAM though? Forget about it. A flagship device should at least give me the option to upgrade. I want 8GB anytime I can get it. With the top-notch display, Android Apps and the fact that I almost always dual-boot Ubuntu on my Chromebooks, more RAM is a big selling point for me.
The much-discussed storable stylus is a big deal for a lot of people. I’ve used it. With some apps it’s ho-hum and with others it is actually very, very impressive. The problem? I don’t use a stylus. It’s a neat feature and if I had a use-case for it I would be completely on board. I type just about everything I can. I hate writing with a pen let alone a digital pen so, this option is meaningless to me.
On the other hand, if you are accustomed to a stylus and have a need or desire to have a Chromebook with this option, the Samsung is really the best bet out there. There are many more touchscreen devices on the way that will come with optional styli but this was produced by Samsung, the parents of the glorious S-pen and it’s likely it will remain the best option out there for some time.
So, I’ve asked myself the question, “does the Samsung Pro deserve the title Flagship?” A quick proof of what I’ve written and I can say without a doubt, “NO.” It’s not that the Samsung isn’t a great device, it is. All around, I would recommend it to just about anyone but if I had to be honest, I’d take the ASUS C302 over the Plus/Pro any day. Even then, the ASUS may be my narrow favorite but unless ASUS finally releases other configurations, the C302 is still the bare minimum of what a flagship device should be. When I can order a Core m5 ASUS with 8GB RAM and 64/128 GB storage we’ll have this discussion again.
So, What’s A Flagship?
I’m not trying to knock Samsung. Again, I think it and the ASUS are both great and have done some pretty amazing things when it comes to advancing the Chromebook market. They’re just, I don’t know, not quite enough. When I think of flagship, the first devices that come to mind are the Chromebook Pixel LS or the HP 13 G1 and not just because of the price tag. These devices offered the best there was to offer for Chrome OS. Sure, Samsung and ASUS have given us a glimpse of the new and what we can expect from Chromebooks but they lack that over-the-top, all in quality.
Long story short, I want options and I want some of those options to be the biggest, gaudiest, most overkill options available. Of course, that comes with a price. I don’t expect to pay $500 for a top-of-the-line Chromebook. However, if I can get an ASUS C302 for $499, I bet manufacturers could go full throttle on a device and keep it under a grand. Storage gets cheaper everyday and most Chromebooks are using eMMC anyhow. It doesn’t get much cheaper.
Kaby Lake chips have yet to be seen in the wild powering a Chromebook but honestly the 7th generation Intel SoC has been on the market since last fall and will soon be pushed aside for whatever is next. The prices on these chips will continue to fall. So, where is the next flagship Chromebook?
This is ‘Eve’
I was reminded of ‘Eve’ by a fellow Chromie who frequently mentions the device as he is very anxious to see what it materializes as in the future. While we still are limited on details, the upcoming convertible has most of the makings of what my flagship Chromebook might look like.
Here’s what we know so far.
‘Eve’ is a 7th generation, Kaby Lake-powered convertible making it the first of its kind in the Chrome OS world. We aren’t positive as to how definitive this is but one commit does reference ‘Core i7″ and that would mean to top-tier Intel chip and a whole lot of horsepower. We also see support for keyboard backlighting. This may not seem like a huge deal but if you take five minutes and check out any forums, reviews or blogs about the Samsung Plus/Pro, you’ll find really quick this is a major hot button for consumers.
‘Eve’ is also equipped with the same 2400×1600 or 3:2 high-res display as the Samsung. Many will find this resolution a bit awkward, myself included, until you’ve used it for a few days. 16:9 has become somewhat of the norm for Chromebooks so this breaks the mold but believe me, it’s a very nice landscape once you’ve acclimated to it. The touch display also carries Wacom digitizer support and while we haven’t seen the addition of a stylus I wouldn’t rule it out. Either way, you know how I feel about a pen and a Chromebook. Meh.
Another first for ‘Eve’ is the use of a onbaord fingerprint scanner. We have seen the addition of biometric support to Chrome OS and this Chromebook looks to be the first to be making use of the security feature. We have yet to see how much RAM ‘Eve’ may support but you can bet if she is housing an i7 chip there will be at least an 8GB option.
If the manufacturer, who remains to be discovered, houses all of this in a nice, all-aluminum chassis and puts some better that average speakers in it (not B&O, yeah I’m looking at you HP) this is my idea of a flagship Chromebook. They can even leave out the 2400×1600 if it’s going to be under 13″. As long as the screen is 400+ nits in brightness, 1080P is plenty at that size and that’s less strain on your machine pushing less pixels. More power for other things. Keep all this under say $800, and I think we’ve found a winner. We’ll see.
There has been quite a bit of movement on ‘Eve’ in the repositories as of late and I hope to dig up some more details on this new device. It very well could be the one I have been waiting for.
What about you? What do you think a “Flagship” Chromebook should look like? What features are must haves and what options should be available? Sound off and let your voice be heard. You never know, a manufacturer might just be listening.