The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is what you get when a company takes a swing at doing everything right, landing all the punches, and delivering on all fronts. When we talk about Chromebooks and what makes them great, the pillars are pretty simple: build quality, screen, keyboard, trackpad, internals/speed, and battery. Most of the other stuff can be forgiven. We can live with sub-par speakers or a different port selection than we’d like, but if the pillars listed above don’t deliver, there’s simply a feeling of incompletion.
With Chromebooks, this is unfortunately the norm. Devices large and small tend to get some or most of the main pillars right, but fail in a few areas. We’re left saying things like, “If the screen was just a bit better – passable, even – then this would feel like the perfect Chromebook.” To be fair, this is true of phones, tablets, Macbooks, iPads and Windows laptops alike, but the feeling is always the same. A few tweaks here and there feel like they could have been made along the way and some of these good devices would go from OK to extraordinary.
Largely, however, this reality just isn’t the case with the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. Instead, I’m left with a very short list of things I could ask for to be changed (preferences, really) and a single flaw that may make this otherwise-brilliant Chromebook a non-starter for some of you. Other than that one flaw, however, Samsung has delivered a package that undoes what I routinely expect when reviewing a Chromebook.
Most of these sections will be short because the truth is, this device is an A+ in nearly every single way, starting with the build quality. At 9.9mm thick and only 2.2 pounds, the Galaxy Chromebook is one of the most attractive laptops I’ve ever seen or used. The lines are stunning, the fiesta red color is striking, and fit/finish is second to none. With the convertible form factor, you expect the clamshell mode to suffer, but it doesn’t. A one-finger lift of the lid works as expected, the chassis has little to no flex, and feeling of this device simply exudes quality. There are few laptops I’ve handled that feel so good, and it is a short list: Macbooks, the Surface Laptop, the Pixelbook, and the Pixelbook Go.
If you know anything about this Chromebook coming in, it is likely something about the screen. At 13.3-inches, this 16:9 4K AMOLED display is, in a word, delightful. With this many pixels, everything on the screen is as sharp as anything you’ve ever feasted your eyes upon and the AMOLED technology creates insane contrast and colors, making this far and away the best Chromebook screen ever made. I’d put it up against any other laptop screen in any other device: it’s clearly the standout feature of this Chromebook.
With 100% Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 coverage, it is ready for not only watching films, but editing them too. We’re still waiting on a proper video editor for Chrome OS, but when it does arrive, the Galaxy Chromebook will make a beautiful, color-accurate canvas to edit on. Surrounding the display on three sides are very narrow bezels, giving the device a very modern, sophisticated look.
Oh, it gets very bright as well. We were getting near 500 nits on our measure, but I’ve come across a few YouTube reviews that showed it even higher. Put simply, you don’t have to worry about having enough brightness to spare in any lighting situation.
Let’s continue the wins, shall we? The keyboard on the Galaxy Chromebook is arguably the best yet on a Chromebook. While a slight bit different than the vaunted Pixelbook Go, it is no less fantastic to type on. Travel is light, but the click and feel of the keys made for an instantly-great typing experience that I had no issue whatsoever adapting to. The backlight on the keys is wonderful, too, only illuminating the symbols on the keys and not bleeding all over the place. Finally, the keyboard has a fingerprint scanner up top that works as you’d expect and allows for quick entry on your locked Chromebook.
The trackpad is a tad bit shallow in its height, but it never bothered me a bit. It is plenty wide, made of glass, possesses a solid click mechanism, and performed flawlessly for me. There’s little a trackpad in a Chromebook can do to be better than the units in the Pixelbook and Pixelbook Go, but as long as it is on par with those, I’m perfectly content with it.
The stylus is a stowed Samsung Pen that looks like the Galaxy Note’s S-Pen and performs better than any stylus I’ve used on a Chromebook. I’m not sure if that is due to the fact that EMR pens have been around on Chrome OS for longer than their AES or USI counterparts, but this pen was easily the most fluid and lag-free inking experience I’ve had on a Chromebook to date. I don’t sketch or draw, but I prefer a handwritten note from time to time, and the Galaxy Chromebook’s pen really delivers no matter what app I used it for. With 4096 levels of pressure and tilt detection, I’d imagine real artists could make some beautiful stuff with this Chromebook and a tool like Concepts or Chrome Canvas.
Internals & Performance
Keeping with the positive theme of this review, let’s talk about the internals. Only one configuration is currently available and it comes with the 10th-gen Intel Core i5 10210U, 8GB of RAM, 256GB NVMe storage, WiFi 6, and Bluetooth 5.0. Put that all together and you have a machine that chews through anything. Even while pushing all those lovely AMOLED pixels around, this device hesitated at nothing and slowed down for nothing. Even the way things animate on the screen felt more fluid than most, giving this Chromebook the feeling of absolute speed.
Ports are simple and straightforward with a USB Type-C on both sides for your charging, display, and data transfer needs along with a microSD card slot that doubles as a UFS card reader. These UFS cards are still a bit rare, but their read/write speeds are insanely fast (500MB/s read and 200MB/s write) and will be helpful to those who have the equipment to take advantage of them.
Finally, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook handles all this speed without the use of a fan. In a chassis this small, it would have likely been nearly impossible to fit one in, but there are times where a fan would have helped. Nearly all Chromebooks get warm from time to time and the Galaxy was no exception. Once the update to Chrome OS 81 showed up, things leveled out quite a bit for me and I can say I didn’t have any real issues with overheating. Sure, it could get pretty warm here and there when pushing it to the limits, but the heat usually dissipated quickly and never hurt performance.
Battery Life & Closing Thoughts
Now we come to it, don’t we? The chink in the armor. The one place where we agonize about the fact that Samsung was so close to pulling off the perfect Chromebook that is basically without compromise. The big, fat ‘but’ that I unfortunately have to deliver. We talked about it previously here on the site and things never really changed during my review. At the end of the day, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook has poor battery life. Period.
Used in a way I find to be comfortable with 5-10 tabs open, music, WhatsApp, Messages, Gravit Designer, and Gmail open, screen brightness around 60-70% and off the charger, I routinely saw about 4 hours of use. Is that completely unusable? No, but it isn’t good, either. If situations were different, COVID-19 wasn’t a thing, and I could work at a coffee shop for a day, it wouldn’t be remotely possible to get through without a charger. Not even close, actually.
But the more I used the Galaxy Chromebook, the more I understood something a bit different about this device. With all this power, all these beautiful pixels, and all this thinness come a couple real consequences. For one, the device gets a bit warmer than I’d like. For two, the battery simply can’t keep up with it all. For me, it felt like owning a muscle car and being bummed out by the poor gas mileage. In that scenario, the only way to fully enjoy the car is to let the engine gulp gas from time to time. The same goes with the Galaxy Chromebook. You have to let it loose and enjoy it, but you need to do so while understanding the cost of those actions.
In a world where Chromebooks routinely use the more mobile-focused Y-series Intel chips and get 8-12 hours of use on a single charge, this feels like a step backwards. For some of you, it absolutely is. At the end of the day, many of you don’t need all those pixels and all that raw horsepower. You don’t need the thinnest Chromebook ever made or the absurdly light portability this device offers. If that’s you, then this isn’t the right device for you.
There are others of you that want all that stuff, though. If that’s you, you need to know that you’ll simply be delighted at every turn by the Galaxy Chromebook. You’ll be enamored with its screen, blown away by its aesthetics, slack-jawed at it’s thin/light chassis, and in love with the keyboard. If those things matter a great deal to you and you can get past the fact that the temptation to constantly use them to their fullest extent will exact a terrible toll on your battery, I think you’ll absolutely love this Chromebook.
For my real world use, I’m at my desk and plugged into a dock most of the day. I want battery life to be good as a safety net, not as a necessity. For my non-review life, battery isn’t my top priority, and I’d assume there are many of you out there in the same situation as myself. For you, the $999 asking price feels fair for everything on offer in this package, despite the lacking battery life of this device. With a bit of self control, I was able to get 6-7 hours of use, but I also wasn’t using it the way I truly wanted to. If you know this going in, I don’t think you’ll regret the purchase at all.
So, in the end, as it always does, the decision comes down to you. Sure, we could lament the fact that Samsung went with 4K when QHD would have done fine. They went with the powerful U-series processor when a Y-series would have been good enough. They chose thinness and lightness over a bigger battery and a decent aesthetic. All of these decisions work to make this device excel at so much while falling down in just one area, and it feels like Samsung made the deliberate choice to go in that direction. Where we are right now with processors, screens and batteries, you can’t have ultra sleek, ultra powerful, and long-lasting all in the same package. Samsung chose sleek and powerful. What will you choose?