Chromebooks — laptops running on Google’s browser-based Chrome OS — are generally designed for affordability, making the term “premium Chromebook” something of an oxymoron. In fact, market research firm NPD Group defines any Chromebook that’s $400 or more as premium, which is a starting price considered “budget” for Windows laptops and, well, nonexistent for Macs.
Samsung is the leader in the premium Chromebook market, according to NPD, and looking at its updated Chromebook Plus it’s easy to see why. Though some might balk at paying $500 for a Chromebook, Samsung makes it worth your while with better design, build quality and features than you’d find in cheaper options. (There’s no official UK or Australian pricing yet, but that price converts to roughly £375 or AU$660.)
The Chromebook Plus V2 is a two-in-one, which means you can use it as a laptop or flip the screen 360 degrees and use it as a tablet. Or you can use it in tent mode, which is nice for video chats, or set it up like a kiosk for watching movies or giving presentations. Basically, this gives you the flexibility to do more with a Chromebook than the typical clamshell design.
The two-in-one design makes even more sense when you consider the Plus’ support for Android apps through Google Play in addition to apps from Chrome‘s Web Store. Because of this, it’s all the more important that Samsung dropped the slower ARM-based processor found in the 2017 model for a better Intel Celeron 3965Y CPU. This Celeron is still low-end, but it keeps the system feeling snappy with both Android and web apps. Bear in mind, though, that with 4GB of memory, running multiple apps or browser windows with lots of tabs will slow it down.
The new processor didn’t hurt battery life at all, however. It actually ended up outperforming the, running for 9 hours, 33 minutes on our streaming video test. That’s with the 12.2-inch, full HD display set to 50 percent of its full 300-nit brightness.
Samsung Chromebook Plus V2
|Price as reviewed||$500|
|Display size/resolution||12.2-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel touchscreen|
|Processor||1.5GHz Intel Celeron 3965Y|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 615|
|Networking||Dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating System||Chrome OS|
Aside from the updated processor, Samsung put an f1.9, 13-megapixel camera with autofocus above the keyboard in addition to the 1-megapixel front-facing camera at the top of the display. Maybe it’s not a feature everyone needs, but professionals or students who frequently need to take photos or quick videos will appreciate it.
Combine the camera with the Plus V2’s small digital pen stashed in the side of the body and you can quickly mark up photos for work, school or sharing on social. You can use the pen for writing or drawing on the screen, signing documents or easily capturing specific regions of the screen just by drawing a box around it.
Along with the pen on the sides you’ll find a microSD card slot, so you have more storage space when you need it, plus two USB-C ports for power, data and driving a 4K-resolution display, a USB-A port, so you don’t need dongles for everything, and a 3.5mm headphone and mic jack. Volume controls and the power button are also on the side, so they’re accessible in tablet mode.
About the only things that feel a little less than premium are the keyboard and trackpad. They’re not bad, but they feel small, especially the keyboard, which isn’t backlit. The keyboard can survive minor liquid spills, however, and the metal-and-plastic body doesn’t feel flimsy like cheaper models.
I’ve got a bit more testing to do with this to see just how it’ll perform day-to-day as an Android tablet replacement, as well as a Chromebook. But based on what I’ve experienced so far, if you’re looking for a better Chromebook experience, this is it.
: From sleek shoulder bags to campus-friendly backpacks, check out these top picks.
: From a cheap mouse to a budget gaming keyboard, everything you need, for less.