Samsung’s first Chromebook was simply called Chromebook, and was the most interesting computer in the first wave of Chrome OS computers. In any case of those launched in Sweden, Google, for example, does not sell its own luxury Chromebook Pixel here. The Samsung Chromebook was a pretty small 11.6-inch computer with an Arm processor, i.e. the same one that is usually found in tablets and phones. It wasn’t quite as fast as competing Intel Chromebooks, but fast enough for most things, with a sleek, sleek design, and better battery life.
In the new Chromebook 2, Samsung continues with Arm technology under the hood, this time with its own Exynos 5 Octa system chip, which means it has two quad-core processors. A powerful Cortex A15 and a slightly more modest and power-efficient Cortex A9. They are used by the system to varying degrees depending on what the computer is doing.
Mouse and keyboard are very comfortable to work on. It’s just a shame that the screen isn’t as comfortable to look at.
Now, a Chromebook shouldn’t do too much, but if it can read a few web pages, play media and run one or two more advanced cloud apps at the same time, it can be counted as success. The Exynos 5 Octa does a generally good job, apart from a bit of stiffness in moving windows around when too many are on the screen at the same time, we don’t feel any crucial performance issues. You shouldn’t expect any extreme performance, after all, it is a computer in the slightly more than three thousand kroner class. And for such a person, it works well.
The battery life is also a step in the right direction. We tested it by playing high-definition streaming video, and were able to watch six hours of video before it stopped. And for mixed use during the day, it was enough from morning to night.
However, the Chromebook 2 still has a problem from its predecessor, and that is that not all apps in the Chrome OS app store work for the Arm architecture. This applies above all to games for Chrome OS, which most often require PC graphics.
Another problem is that many apps in the store are just web pages with embedded games or programs that require browser extensions that are only available for Windows and Mac OS. Why these are visible at all in Chrome’s app store when on a Chromebook feels incomprehensible, and something that should be fixed by Google immediately. Now that’s not Samsung’s or any other Chromebook manufacturer’s fault, but maybe something to be aware of.
Notebook or wallet? The Chromebook 2 has the same leather-patterned surface as Samsung’s later Galaxy tablets. Cool or silly? Opinions differ here in the editorial office.
Chromebook 2 is released in two versions, an 11.6-inch and a 13.3-inch. We’ve tested the smaller of the two, which also has the model designation XE503C12 (sometimes just written as just 503C12, but it’s the same computer). It has a chassis in nice metal-like plastic that gives it both a stable and slightly luxurious feel. To sit and work on. However, it is both thicker and heavier than its predecessor, which we think is a bit sad. But the computer is well built in to the smallest detail and has a high class keyboard and mouse pad.
The screen cover is a strange story, here Samsung has chosen the same style as on the newer Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note tablets, a kind of leather-like surface, complete with silly little fake stitches along the edge. It is apparently some design type at Samsung who has decided that this is what applies nowadays. However, we cannot really understand how that thought process went. It adds nothing and just feels like an odd gimmick that risks making a certain percentage of potential buyers hesitant.
What is unfortunately not in the same class is the display. The 13-inch variant of the Chromebook 2 should have full HD, 1920×1080 pixels, which makes it quite unique among Chromebooks in Sweden right now, but here the old standard 1366×768 pixels applies. It is in and of itself acceptable for an 11-incher in the budget class, but it would have been nice if some manufacturer stepped forward and did something extra. What is not approved, however, is the quality of the display panel.
It’s a tn screen with poor viewing angles and lousy contrast. It is almost difficult to find an angle that feels comfortable even when we are sitting directly in front of the computer. The brightness is in and of itself relatively high, but it is at the expense of blackness in dark areas. In combination with the fact that the speakers are of such a budget class, we cannot recommend the eleven-inch Chromebook 2 for those who want a media computer. Any tablet is then better. For the web and office, it works better.
The computer is available in two variants, both of which will be sold in Sweden, one black and one white. At the time of writing, however, only the black one is in stock.
Functionally, there are no surprises. On the sides we find one each of usb 2 and usb 3, an hdmi output for external screen and headphone socket. The computer does not have a mobile broadband modem, but the positive is that it supports the fast Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac. Whether it really is ac right now is a bit uncertain, on Samsung’s website it says that the hardware has ac support but that it requires an upcoming system update to activate.
In any case, it looks like it has pretty good range. It finds our router (which runs 802.11n) at a greater distance than another notebook and smartphone we had in the test lab. Other things to note are a micro sd reader and a mediocre one with a working web camera.
You get a couple of extra apps that don’t normally come with a Chromebook, but the question is whether they should be considered added value or unnecessary bloatware. In both cases, it is rather about extended trial versions of paid apps, of which you get the full version for a year.
With a price of around SEK 3,300, this is the most expensive Chromebook right now in its size class. Especially compared to, for example, the Acer C720P with its clearly better touchscreen and the HP Chromebook 11 with mobile broadband, for a lower cost. What Samsung has to compete with is high build quality and good battery life. Is it enough? We are doubtful.
Samsung Chromebook 2 503C12-K02SE
Manufacturer: Samsung, www.samsung.se
System circuit: Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5420
Processor: Cortex-A15 1.9 GHz quad core + Cortex-A7 1.3 GHz quad core
Graphics: Mali-T628 MP6
Memory: 4 GB ddr3
Storage: 16 GB ssd, space for micro sd
Screen: 11.6 inch matte tn, 1366×768 pixels
Brightness: 204 cd/m2
Webcam: 0.9 megapixels
Connections: Usb 3, usb 2, hdmi, headset
Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Battery life: 6h 15 min playback web video
Web performanceSunspider: 615 ms
Start-up time: approx. 6 sec
Operating system: Chrome OS
Size: 28.9 x 20.4 x 1.9 cm
Weight: 1.2 kg
Award: SEK 3,300
Plus: Well built. Pretty good performance. Good battery life.
Minus: Poor display. Few features. Somewhat expensive.