Samsung Chromebook: Best $249 you can spend (review)

Summary:I tested one months ago and just bought my own Samsung Chromebook. This cheap laptop is a great value for such a low cost.

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Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The recent article explaining why I ordered a Samsung Chromebook resulted in a flooded inbox with a lot of readers wanting to know more about the inexpensive laptop. I've been using it heavily for all of my work since it arrived, and it works just as well as I remembered from the test unit I tried months ago.

I purchased the model with wi-fi, choosing to pass on the 3G-enabled Chromebook with its slightly higher price. I have become spoiled by LTE and have no desire to drop back to 3G speeds.

Hardware specs

  • Model Number: XE303C12
  • Display Size: 11.6-inches
  • Display: 1366x768 resolution; 200nit brightness
  • Weight: 2.43 lbs (1.1.kg)
  • Less than 0.8 inches thick (17.5 mm)
  • Battery Life: over 6.5 hours
  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 5250
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB SSD (Google is including 100GB free online storage)
  • Webcam
  • Ports: 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, combo headphone/mic jack, secure digital memory slot
  • HDMI Port
  • Bluetooth 3.0™ Compatible
  • Speaker: 1.5W speaker X 2
  • Keyboard: Full-size Chrome keyboard
  • Wireless: 802.11 abg/n 2x2
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Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

This hardware seems typical for a laptop with the exception of the ARM processor. The Samsung Exynos is used in high-end powerful Android tablets, and it powers the Samsung Chromebook with ease. Performance is on par with other Intel-based Chromebooks, although the Chromebook Pixel blows them all away. Of course, the Pixel costs a thousand dollars more than the Samsung Chromebook, so that's a reasonable trade-off.

The performance of the Samsung Chromebook is so good I forget it's not an Intel processor inside, which says a lot. Playing 1080p video shows lags at times, but all other video plays just fine. I have no complaints about the user experience offered by the ARM processor.

Keyboard
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The keyboard on this Chromebook is really good, an important attribute for this writer. Key travel is great and the chiclet keys are comfortable for fast typing.

The buttonless trackpad is also good and complements the keyboard nicely. Operating the Chromebook by trackpad is smooth and I find it almost as good as the standard, the Apple MacBook. 

SD slot side
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

What sets this Chromebook apart from the others on the market is the highly portable form. The weight of 2.4 pounds is great for lugging around all day and the ultra-thin form feels as good as the MacBook Air it resembles. It's all plastic but feels solid and handles the bumps of the road as proven by my earlier evaluation.

The display is not the brightest out there (200 nits); I admit I am totally spoiled by Retina Displays and the Chromebook Pixel screen. This one is just fine, however, and I can use it all day with no issues. 

Battery life is a decent 7+ hours due to the ARM processor. That's impressive for the thin, light casing which limits how big the sealed battery can be. The Samsung Chromebook can easily handle a full day of work for me.

Conclusion

Closed

The Samsung Chromebook is a nice laptop for such a low price. It runs Chrome OS nicely on the ARM processor which yields a decent battery life of over 7 hours. The Chromebook runs silently as the ARM processor requires no fans for cooling.

This is one of the most portable laptops with an 11.6-inch display, weighing only 2.4lbs and as thin as the MacBook Air. Samsung has created a very nice Chromebook for just $249. This could easily be the best $249 you spend this year. 

Chromebook coverage:

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops, Reviews

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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