If you’ve had the time to watch or read our review of the fantastic Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, one of the things you’ll likely note is the fact that this next-gen Chromebook gets nearly everything right. From build quality to screen to keyboard and trackpad, this device is the closest we’ve had to a perfectly put together Chromebook. Though no device is perfect, it really felt like Samsung tried.
Under all that beautiful red aluminum and behind that crazy-fast processor lies a pretty big failure, however, and that is the battery. While the battery size at 49.2Wh isn’t exactly small, it is tasked with pushing out a resolution of 3840×2160 at all times, dealing with the AMOLED screen’s intense propensity for brightness, and powering the 10th-gen Core i5 U-series and its 15W TDP. With all those factors at work against it, the Galaxy Chromebook’s battery is simply not able to keep up.
I’ve said this before, but you can’t have thin/light dimensions, break-neck speed, and a pixel-dense/bright display along with fantastic battery. Either the screen has to give, the performance has to come down a bit, or the battery has to be bigger. Any of those changes would undermine the things that make the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook what it is, so I think when tasked with making the choice, Samsung likely chose to swing for the fences on performance, build, aesthetic and screen while hoping something could be done to help the battery along.
Help is coming
Samsung has reached out and confirmed to us that they are fully aware of the battery life issues on the Galaxy Chromebook and are not sitting idly by. Mitigations are being worked on between Samsung and Google to try and get battery life improvements to happen, but nothing has been fully confirmed yet concerning how they will accomplish this or when the fix will be coming. From our conversation, however, this effort looks to be of high priority and I’m hopeful some fixes could come sooner rather than later.
We outlined the battery woes in an article before the review went out and even looked at some work being done in the Chromium Repositories that could be pointing at some performance governing as a way to preserve some battery life. Additionally, I think Chrome OS could truly benefit from being able to operate with fewer pixels on the screen when needed.
Sure, you can adjust the effective resolution scaling on your Chromebook, but that only changes the size of objects on your screen. The actual resolution – the number of pixels being lit up – isn’t changing when you adjust your screen resolution in Chrome OS. For many Android phones, however, resolution can actually be adjusted to actually use less pixels on the screen for a more battery-efficient setup. While this would be a completely new thing for Chromebooks, 4K units like the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook could greatly benefit from this addition.
In the end, Samsung will basically need to find ways to reign in this Chromebook if we want longer battery life out of it. Giving users a choice between battery-saving mode when off charge and full-steam mode when plugged in would be the best possible outcome. This way, users could leave things pared back a bit when battery life is a concern and crank it up when it isn’t. Again, the commits we’re seeing for this device point to that possibility coming soon, but we can’t know for sure just yet that this is what will transpire.
What I do know is Samsung is officially aware of the problem and officially at work on a fix. Where we can sometimes see big, glaring issues go untouched for the life of a Chromebook, it is encouraging to see Samsung stepping up to own this issue and making moves to get the problem rectified. As we learn more about the fix, we’ll share, and we’ll definitely be testing to see what effect – if any – the changes actually make in real world use once Samsung gets it out to the public.