Ready for another round of new Chromebooks? Samsung is launching two new models as its Chromebook 2 series. There’s an updated 11.6-inch version and now a shiny new 13.3-inch version.

Both cost less than $400 and both have consumer-ready looks even though Samsung thinks they’re more likely to be used by students than by the average Joe. That’s just fine! Kids need nice-looking laptops for school, too. And the classroom is the perfect environment for Chrome OS to flourish.

Samsung Chromebook 2 11.6 inch

The Chromebook 2 series borrows design elements from other higher-end Samsung laptops as well as Samsung smartphones and tablets. From the Series 9/ATIV Book 9 we get the distinctive swoop and curve at the edge that keeps the Chromebooks looking slim.

From the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Tabs we get the leather-esqe cover texture complete with faux stitching on the edges. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of this particular design choice, but I know others don’t think it looks so hot (Editor’s note: count Brad in the latter group). There are practical reasons to appreciate it: the texture makes it harder for the Chromebook to slip from your hands and it’s semi-fingerprint resistant.

Both the 11.6-inch and the 13.3-inch Chromebook 2s come with the usual assortment of ports–full HDMI, USB 2, USB 3, headphone/mic. The only drawback is that the SC card slot only takes microSD. This was done to save space, according to Samsung reps, but I still think it’s not a great choice. There are quite a few full-size SD cards in use.

Samsung Chromebook 2 11.6 inch

The slim, lightweight design of both is thanks in part to the Exynos 5 octa-core processor inside (1/9GHz for the smaller one, 2.1-GHz for the larger) which is fanless, thus requiring less girth. Just as with octa-core smartphone and tablet CPUs, this one has a littleBIG architecture, so every task won’t active all 8 cores, cutting down on power consumption.

Samsung claims the Chromebook 2s will last 8 and 8.5 hours (respectively) on battery and possibly longer if your tasks aren’t processor-intensive.

The light weight and a slim profile are appreciated — but not at the expense of full-sized ports. While the USB ports and HDMI port are full-sized, the new Chromebooks have microSD card slots rather than the larger SD card slots you’d normally use for camera storage cards.

Samsung has finally caved in and started producing keyboards with slightly concave keys. The first time they made a big deal out of it was when introducing the new ATIV Book 9 at CES. Those keys are on the new Chromebooks as well.

The new shape helps with accuracy and the overall feel is good. The keys have just enough spring to them, though they aren’t as comfortable to type on as the ones you’ll find on a ThinkPad. I also found the key size and spacing just right.

Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3 inch

The touchpads didn’t betray any problems during my short hands-on time. Responsive, accurate, and wide enough for proper use.

The 13.3-inch Chromebook 2 may end up being more popular overall since that size is more popular. Plus, it has all the bells and whistles: 1080p display, 250 nit brightness, and a more powerful octa-core processor with better graphics than the 11.6-inch version. This model also features a 720p webcam with a dual-array mic (for enhanced noise-canceling), features which make it the first Google Hangout certified Chromebook.

Samsung Chromebook 2 Series

Of course, I’m sure many of you are like me and prefer the 11.6-inch size in general. This model weighs 2.5 pounds, which is less than the average netbook of old, and feels lighter than the size would indicate.

The 1366 x 728 resolution is par for the course with this size display in this price range and the brightness is nothing to complain about. I would just personally like to see the fancier specs in the smaller size for those of us who prefer the nice balance 11.6-inch models offer between compactness and screen real estate.

Speaking of the screens, both are glossy. They have anti-glare coatings that work all right under fluorescent office/class lighting. The viewing angles are wide enough that you’re not confined to a narrow sweet spot while still not being quite as wide as I would like or as wide as you’d get with a matte display.

For $319 (11.6-inch) and $399 (13.3-inch), my first impression is that the Samsung Chromebook 2 look like fine machines for reasonable prices. Especially if the performance and battery life live up to Samsung’s claims. The few drawbacks in design aren’t dealbreakers, and the improvements over the last generation are quite welcome. I just hope that the matte display will make a comeback next time around.

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9 replies on “Hands-on with the Samsung Chromebook 2 Series”

  1. Finally a decent display resolution! I have the previous generation Samsung Chromebook, and like everything about it except that *@$# 1366×768 display. It’s great for web browsing, google docs, and other simple tasks, but for doing development work in the cloud, it’s a little too small and text is not quite sharp enough. I’m looking forward to seeing the 13.3″ version in person.

  2. Is the 13incher some kind of IPS?
    250nits does not sound enough for out of office use in case of glossy screens.

  3. Looking forward to buy the 13 incher.
    Will they release it somewhere in europe?

  4. I just don’t get how Chromebooks can sell well priced at over $299 when you can find Windows 8 laptops for $299 or less. Heck, you can get an Asus transformer 10 inch Win 8 tablet with keyboard dock and no fans for less than $399 – $349 I think.

    I would love a Chromebook just to throw Linux on it, but $199 is my sweet spot. Can’t see getting an ARM chromebook at these prices.

    1. Some people just don’t want Windows 8. I have 2 Windows laptops (8.1, 7) and a Windows desktop (Vista [yuch]).

      And I am sure there are people that never have any problems with Windows. But I was always dealing with some sort of issue. I just got tired of it. I got a Chromebook to try out and I love the simplicity.

      No I can’t “use photoshop or cad”. But I never did. So who cares? If a Chromebook will work for you it is great. If it won’t – then stick with Windows.

      They have worked great for me and I would much rather have the Samsung 2 over a similarly priced Windows machine.

      1. Good to hear you like yours. The people that own one seem to really like them. I’ve noticed the people that usually don’t like them, never tried or owned one.

        I’m really waiting for a smaller one as a tablet replacement (not a main computer replacement). Would love a 10 inch, fanless, intel/AMD based CPU chromebook. My main reason would be to install Linux on it and use the Chrome side for quick web surfing sessions and the Linux side for everything else.

    2. I have family and I don’t like playing tech support all the time. That’s why I’m looking at Chromebooks.

  5. Do 2GB more RAM and 1080p display make this worth the extra $120 or so over the Toshiba Chromebook 13.3? How does the octa core Samsung CPU compare with Intel 2955U?

    1. Maybe it will kick Toshiba into releasing a version with 4GB RAM and a 1080p display? We can only hope

Comments are closed.