Since CES 2021 earlier this year, we’ve been anticipating Samsung’s latest flagship, consumer Chromebook in the Galaxy Chromebook 2. With the same Fiesta Red color, pared-back stats and a scaled down pricing structure, Samsung definitely went in a bit of a different direction with this latest Galaxy Chromebook, and we’ll obviously need time to decide whether those cost saving measures ruin the experience or combine with the other notable benefits of this new Chromebook to create a great overall experience.
What’s in the box?
As unboxings go, Chromebooks are generally a housed in the most rudimentary packaging you can expect. While I was the butt of a handful of jokes on YouTube last year as I fawned a bit over the niceness of the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook box, I don’t apologize for that. We simply don’t see thoughtful packaging for Chromebooks very often from companies outside of Google and it was nice to see Samsung taking the Galaxy Chromebook seriously in that way.
In what would look to communicate Samsung’s shift to a more cost-effective strategy with the Galaxy Chromebook 2, the box and its internals are bare-bones this time around and, honestly, that’s fine. If it shaves a bit off the price and ships this new Chromebook in a package that is a bit easier on the environment, I’m all for that. With all that said, the brown box contains a USB Type C charger cord, a charging brick, and the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Apart from the styrofoam holding things in place, it is a very simplified unboxing experience.
With there only being a handful of videos out there of anyone getting hands on this device so far, I was very excited to simply handle this Chromebook. Sure, I love new hardware like anyone else, but that wasn’t the real reason. Instead, what made this unboxing a bit more anticipation-fueled was the fact that we’ve talked so much about this Chromebook and the move that Samsung made to reduce the price, go with older processors, and scale back on the screen quality in order to knock $300 off the price.
With those decisions and a $699 price tag, it has become clear that Samsung can’t show up with a mediocre Chromebook and sell this thing. Sure, it’s cheaper, but the competition in this price range is fierce with devices like the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5, HP x360 14c, and Acer Spin 713 all coming in for less and offering very similar internal specs. For Samsung, asking $699 only makes sense if this new device is a cut above in the look, feel, and experience of using it.
And I must say, right out of the box, this thing feels great. The aluminum exterior feels well made and smooth while the seams where things come together are refined. The beautiful Fiesta Red doesn’t hurt here, either, giving off a unique, bold and frankly gorgeous vibe that very few Chromebooks out there can match. Just like its predecessor, this thing is built to turn heads for sure.
Once inside, you are immediately met by the new QLED 1080p screen, and it is beautiful. Though I’m not surprised by this, I am definitely a bit relieved. The move to reduce the resolution and move away from OLED in this iteration could likely turn off many, but Samsung is the king of display tech, and having QLED in their back pocket looks to be paying off. The colors are great, the brightness is fantastic, and 1080p is just about perfect on a 13.3-inch 16×9 screen. The combo of this screen’s reduced resolution and move away from OLED should also provide some serious help to the terrible battery that was in the original Galaxy Chromebook.
Down below that screen is what feels like a similar keyframe and trackpad from the original. I like the move to black keys as there won’t be a lighting situation they can’t handle and thought the trackpad is a bit tinier than I’d like, the surface is smooth, the click is very satisfying, and the combo feels good so far. The keyboard is backlit without much light bleed and the keys have shallow travel but a reassuring click. It reminds me a bit of the Pixelbook Go or original Galaxy Chromebook so far and I’m eager to see what it is like to transition from the longer travel of the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga to this very different take on a keyboard.
While we’re talking about the keyboard and trackpad, it needs to be mentioned that the interior of this Chromebook is plastic, not aluminum. I really wish that wasn’t the case at $699, but it is. Samsung did a great job of matching the feel and color between the different materials, but you can tell pretty quickly that it isn’t metal under your palms. The device is quite rigid when closed up and has a bit of flex when opened, but it isn’t concerning at all and picking it up from a corner feels reassuring. We’ll see how this plays out a bit more long term for the review.
While we can’t yet comment on battery life or general performance, one of Samsung’s other bold claims for this Chromebook was in the speaker department, and we did test that out quickly. Yes, the speakers are loud and yes, they sound better than most Chromebooks, but I can already tell you that they still won’t stand up to the Pixel Slate or Pixelbook Go. That being said, they are full and have good stereo separation and compared with what you generally expect in a Chromebook, they are superlative for sure.
Also not surprising is the snappiness already on display, here. Intel’s 10th-gen Comet Lake processors are proven in Chromebooks and this i3 will be no exception. I’d imaging the 13 hours of battery will be realistic and this i3 paired to 8GB of RAM will have no issue churning through anything I throw at it. And yes, there are fans and fan ports, but they are tastefully done, minimalist and will take care of one of the other big issues from the original Galaxy Chromebook. Again, all these claims will need time to actually test out, but the initial impressions are favorable for sure.
Review on the way
More than just about any Chromebook I’ve reviewed, my final verdict on this device will take a bit of time to come to. Samsung made some cuts, here, and I need time to decide if they were the right ones. Google did the same with the Pixelbook Go and after a bit of time using that Chromebook, I realized that latest-gen specs weren’t the end-all be-all with the Chrome OS experience. The Pixelbook Go shipped with 8th-gen processors as 10th-gen Intel Chromebooks were right on the horizon, yet I still love that Chromebook. Why?
We’re simply to the point where the way a device is thoughtfully crafted makes more of a difference to the overall experience than simply shoving in the latest specs and calling it a day. If the build quality, input methods, screen and speakers are all well thought out and last year’s processors are still great and save money, a Chromebook can still be amazing to use. We’ve seen it before, and I think we need to see it again in this Galaxy Chromebook 2 if Samsung is to have any success with this device. But those conclusions need time that an unboxing can’t afford.
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 feels great, looks great, and feels snappy. So far, color me impressed. I still think $599 would have been the absolute sweet spot for the price on this one, but again, I need a bit of time with it to really make that classification. Samsung has put in the stuff this Chromebook needs to be great, but that greatness isn’t decided on a spec sheet: it will be decided on the couch or on the desk or while answering some email. It will be decided in the actual experience of carrying it around every day and using it, and for that I need some time. So get subscribed below and be on the lookout for the review coming shortly.