Five years ago I bought the second-generation Samsung Chromebook 2 for business travel. Versus my primary machine — at the time, a conventional Windows laptop — the Chromebook was:
- Half the size and weight,
- Quieter and cooler,
- Faster at startup (8 seconds!), and
- Less expensive to replace if it was damaged or stolen.
It proved to be a fantastic purchase.
In fact, I’ve since bought two third-generation Samsung Chromebook 3’s — one last year for Amanda for $195, and a renewed model last week for $138 after water was sadly spilled on my Chromebook 2, frying the right-half of the keyboard. Otherwise, it was still running perfectly.
Long-term review: Samsung Chromebook
For someone like Amanda, who has a normal 9-5 job, the Samsung Chromebook 3 ($220) is probably the only computer they need at home. It’s ideal for email, basic documents and spreadsheets, social media, and web browsing (including videos). It’d be ideal for my retired parents and school-age nieces and nephews, too.
For someone like me, who runs a small business and works from home, the Chromebook is an inexpensive and travel-friendly supplement to a Windows or Apple desktop or laptop computer. While it addresses 90 percent of my needs, it can’t run vital programs like Quickbooks or Lightroom, due to incompatible software or inadequate computing power, or both. Moreover, it’s an inefficient workstation relative to a dedicated setup: its performance is sluggish; its screen is small; and it’s missing a numerical keypad.
On average, I use my Chromebook for an hour or two each day, mostly while working on the couch, at the dining table, or from the local library or coffee shop. It also goes with me to meetings, and I take it for both business and personal travel.
At just 2.5 pounds and 0.7 inches thin, it’s extremely lap-friendly and portable. (Last summer I actually carried it into the backcountry so that I could work on a guidebook at night.) It sips on the battery, getting up to 11 hours of life. It doesn’t overheat or have a fan like my old Windows laptop. And the HDMI, Bluetooth, and headphone jack give me enough connectivity options to make a slideshow presentation.
The Chromebook presents an excellent value. The base model Chromebook 3 retails for $220, though it’s now available for much less (about $150) since Samsung released the next-generation Chromebook 4 last month.
- 2 lbs 8.8 oz (1.16 kg) + 5.7 oz (161 g) for the charger
- 0.7 inches thick
- 11.6-inch screen (1366 x 768 pixels)
- Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron
- RAM: 4 GB DDR3 RAM
- Hard drive: 16 GB to 64 GB Flash Memory Solid State
- Up to 11 hours battery life
For a $200-ish device, the Samsung Chromebook is simply awesome. But it’s still true that you get what you pay for.
A Chromebook is optimized for the Google ecosystem, and most operations need to be doable in the Chrome browser. If you aren’t willing to give your data to Google or to adopt its platforms (e.g. Gmail, Drive/Docs), maybe it’s not the device for you.
The Samsung Chromebook also doesn’t look, feel, or perform like a premium product.
- It’s made mostly of plastic, and is boring black.
- The 11.6-inch screen is acceptable, but has less brightness and resolution than modern smartphone screens.
- It’s slow while running multiple browser tabs or loading memory-heavy pages like an involved CalTopo map or lengthy document. And,
- The built-in camera is very lackluster, especially in low light.
Some might disagree, but I like the keyboard and trackpad. In fact, 1.5 years ago when I bought an accessory keyboard for my desktop computer, I looked for one with a similar feel.
Higher performance Chromebooks are available. The flagship Google Pixelbook, for example, has a nicer construction, laptop/tablet conversion, touchscreen, and more computing power, RAM, and hard drive storage.
Chromebook 3 versus Chromebook 4
The Samsung Chromebook 4 was released in early-October 2019, and currently is available only from Samsung and Best Buy. Read the press release.
Changes appear to be evolutionary. The fourth-generation devices are similarly sized and priced, but come with a sleeker aesthetic, military-grade construction, and some improved hardware.
At $230 retail, the base Chromebook 4 is a great buy. And now at about $150, the base Chromebook 3 is even more attractive. Personally, I went for the latter, knowing that it’s perfectly sufficient for how I use it.
Leave a comment!
- What questions do you have about the Samsung Chromebook?
- If you own one, please share your experience with it.
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