With the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 recently showing up in a Best Buy listing, it seems the time is nearing for us to finally get our hands on the latest Chrome OS laptop from Samsung. We’ve talked about it before, but it is worth noting again, here: the follow up to last year’s top-end Chromebook isn’t actually a true successor. Instead, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is more of a shift towards the middle; a move to the consensus; a paring down of sorts.
Instead of a 4K AMOLED screen, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 calms things down to a QLED display at a more-reasonable 1080p. Instead of the ultra-thin chassis, this time around we have a fan to keep things cooler while making room for a bigger battery. Instead of opting for the latest, greatest from Intel, Samsung chose to stay with the solid, proven solution from last year’s best Chromebooks in the 10th-gen Core i3.
Trade-offs? Sure. A better overall experience? Likely. Here’s the thing, if you look at the trade-offs and compare them with another amazing Chromebook experience – the Pixelbook Go – I think the two line up quite similarly. I hit on this a bit in a previous post about Samsung’s seemingly–questionable choices this year for their flagship Chromebook, but the more I’ve been thinking on it, the more I’m convinced it just might work for them.
When the Pixelbook Go debuted, I remember being a bit dubious about multiple parts of Google’s equation. I recall being upset that they were sticking with the frustrating 8th-gen Intel silicon. I recall being saddened by the pedestrian 16:9 1080p screen, and I couldn’t believe the entry-level model was a Y-series Core i3 with only 64GB of storage. And then I got one and used it for a while. Turns out, when all the right things are done well, the stat sheet doesn’t mean quite as much. You can watch my review of that Chromebook or see my later posts about loving it still, but one thing is clear: Google made the right decisions on what to include and what to leave out and it made for a fantastic Chromebook experience that I still thoroughly enjoy nearly a year and a half later.
Galaxy Chromebook 2 Pixelbook Go Vibes
In much the same way, I feel like Samsung is setting itself up to make a splash with a device that – on the surface – isn’t the most impressive thing ever made. Starting with the screen, I think the move away from 4K is not just economical, but also logical. Take a look at a 1080p 13.3-inch screen. Can you see pixels at normal viewing distances? Me either, so all you are doing by slapping 4K into a small display is killing battery and making waves on a spec sheet. And while AMOLED is fantastic and I love it, it is harsh on the battery and again, not necessary. There are plenty of great LCD panels out there and with Samsung’s lineup of QLED panels, I’d wager this display will still rank in the top 5 of all Chromebooks. Solid visuals with a massive battery and performance boost? Solid trade-off.
Next up, we have a less-sleek chassis. At 14mm, this is still one of the thinner Chromebooks on the market and its fire red color makes a bold statement if you are after that. While it won’t feel as utterly premium as the original, my bet is the Galaxy Chromebook 2 will still feel firm, solid and well-constructed all around. With this slightly larger body will come room for a fan and a larger batter that will hopefully solve the original device’s biggest issues: heat and battery life. Another solid trade-off.
From the hands-on footage we’ve seen, it looks like the keyboard and trackpad may end up being similar to the original, so that’s great to see. The original Galaxy Chromebook has a stellar keyframe, so we’re hoping Samsung kept that in place. But Samsung has clearly put some work into the speakers, and that part of Google’s equation for the Pixelbook Go can’t go understated. I love those speakers and great speakers on a mobile laptop are more gratifying than they sound at first. If Samsung’s new Chromebook can match the Pixelbook Go in this respect, it will be a big selling point for them.
Finally, the choice to go with the proven 10th-gen processors feels odd at first, but makes a lot of sense. It helps Samsung cut the costs a bit and should alleviate any potential bugs and issues they might have with the upcoming Tiger Lake processors we’ll see later in 2021. The Core i3 in the 10th-gen line of Intel’s processors isn’t just OK: it’s quite fast in a Chromebook. For reference, the Core i3 Lenovo Flex 5 we have in the office scores nearly 40,000 on Octane and that’s with only 4GB of RAM. Have no fear: this will still be a lightning-fast Chromebook experience. Good trade-off, again.
A recipe for a great Chromebook
So why all the hate on this Chromebook so far? It really comes down to expectations. Those of us who are tech enthusiasts want the latest, greatest hardware on offer, but we also don’t want to compromise on things like battery life or solid, daily performance. Samsung tried last year and in many ways accomplished this. They put nearly everything in to a $999 Chromebook and it was constantly derided for being too expensive. Even if it didn’t have a short battery, overheating issues, and some display bugs out of the gate, I still think Samsung would have struggled to make it a best-seller.
This year, just like Google did with their Pixlebook line in 2019, Samsung is pulling things back a bit and focusing in on the things general consumers – not necessarily tech enthusiasts – seem to care about. If this Chromebook looks great, sounds great, has a beautiful screen, great keyboard, solid trackpad, and fast performance all in a chassis that feels well-made and solid, I think Samsung has put together a device that could make us all rethink what matters in a Chromebook.
Just like many of you, I still drool at the cutting-edge stuff (hello ASUS Chromebook CX9) and want all those advancements to work together perfectly at reasonable prices, but that never seems to be the reality. Instead, it always seems to be the less-flashy, more-focused devices that stick around in the end because they pare down the unnecessary and focus on the core essentials. I don’t know if Samsung has pulled that off with the Galaxy Chromebook 2, but I can’t wait to find out soon.