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

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
Side open
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

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106 comments
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  • Just another Chromebook article

    We should make a compact :)
    AleMartin
    • "My emperor's new cloth is so beautiful."

      "250$ for a free browser - best deal I ever made. I'm just gonna keep on blogging it until you guys believe me."
      LBiege
      • beautiful, the best thing is not

        handicapped by Windows crap
        theo_durcan
    • Chromebook Review

      The bold idea of ​​a primarily web-based, compact, and affordable for every notebook is inconsistently implemented in the Samsung Chromebook. While the build quality and the previously measured time to go in order, the spoil at best satisfactory display, obviously too little power and many small obstacles the fun even for simple applications. So the Chromebook can at least inspire the young and very Internet-savvy target group, Google and Samsung need to properly rectify. You can check for best deal and read my full review at: Laptoppicking.blogspot.com/2013/07/samsung-chromebook-review.html
      Major-Manchester
  • STOP IT! JUST STOP IT!

    enough of this Chromebook nonsense, seriously every article from James is about his blasted Chromebook, how pathetic and boring.
    Xenon8
    • Then stop reading them!

      Problem solved?
      Zogg
      • how about comparing it with windows RT?

        how about comparing it with windows RT?
        Mac_Win
    • He Got a New Toy, Give Him a Break, Click Back

      A toy, appropriate. Gzzz? Hell in a Hand Basket.
      Patrickgood1
      • I bought the same one and I love it

        I have a Lenovo T-series laptop that I've used for everything for years, but I haven't used it since buying my Chromebook at Best Buy a few months back. It just can't compete with the 6+ hours of continuous use (or a week of occasional use on one charge) and it slides easily into my zip-up folio. I can be up and going in a meeting in about 8 seconds after powering it on; 3 if it was just in sleep mode. Is funny to watch the iPad users messing around with their Bluetooth keyboards and jabbing constantly at their touch screens when I have a built-in keyboard and glide pad.

        I can remote into Windows or Linux servers with the Chrome Remote Desktop and SecureShell native apps and do everything that I would normally do with a bloated overkill laptop computer that needs to be constantly patched and updated.

        I never would have guessed at how spoiled I would become, but I just can't see myself going back to a traditional laptop.
        Bit-Smacker
        • No patches or updates?

          Your Chromebook sounds like a security disaster waiting to happen. I'll stay with a vendor who doesn't rely on obscurity for defense.
          jvitous
          • Well...

            While I'm not convinced either, security of the system shouldn't be a concern. Firstly, you don't actually need to store anything on the unit (and in truth you can't actually store much anyway). Secondly there are a lot of security features in the system and it gets frequent updates (that the user doesn't need to manage). This isn't "security by obscurity".

            However, the bigger issue seems to be the security of the services you access (the websites you use to "get work done"). While that isn't different with this unit, you can't actually work locally - so you don't have the option to keep "sensitive" information local.
            jeremychappell
          • Working locally

            Well, it is true that this is primarily an "always on" Internet device and I typically have it USB tethered to my Android phone (so the Chromebook keeps the phone charged). But, they do have some native apps like Offline GMail and Google Drive that have offline synchronization.

            I did worry about that before I bought it, but my worrying was a complete waste of time. I realized that everything I do requires Internet access and if I don't have Internet access, I'm not going to use any portable computer -- even a full-blown laptop.

            Seriously, what do you do offline these days? If you want to compose documents, take notes, listen to music, etc., you can do that with a Chromebook and sync it up later when you do have an Internet connection. I can't think of any software you'd need to use off-line (that would be worth a crap on any laptop screen) that you can't do with a Chromebook. Maybe a resource-heavy single-person video game? Even then, native apps are becoming more commonplace and run off-line. I can play a lot of the Chrome-based games without an Internet connection since they are locally cached. HTML-5 is finally becoming mature.

            If you're talking about video editing or PhotoShop type stuff, you should be using a nice dual-monitor setup and a power-beast of a PC. Who does that with a laptop? Even then, YouTube has a minimal yet fully-functional video editor and I used it last night to edit and publish videos from my Android phone.

            I'm still trying to figure out what that little niche need is for a powerful, fat-OS laptop that makes it worth the cost, weight -- lugging one around, the limited battery life and needing to always be near power, and worrying about data backups or theft of the data if the laptop is stolen. Oh, yeah, and hard drive failure. Most of them don't come standard with SSDs yet.

            I don't worry about any of that with my Samsung ARM Chromebook. If I drop it off of a cliff, I'm only inconvenienced by the immediate loss of functionality and irritated at the lost investment. I'll just go buy another one, log in, and be right where I left off. With a laptop, you'll still be wondering what you lost with its hard drive.
            Bit-Smacker
          • What's Windows' excuse? Popularity? LOL.

            Maybe you should write and tell me how to get infected. Now, that would be interesting.
            Joe.Smetona
          • @Joe.Smetona

            You are infected.
            Raid60
          • LOL that may be true...

            but that was also funny.
            ScanBack
          • Security

            @jvitous : Chrome OS is secure by design, not by afterthought. The Chrome OS development team is obsessive about security, and Google has posted pi million dollars in reward money to anybody who can exploit Chrome OS. As far as I am aware, there has been one partial exploit, which earned $30,000.

            http://dev.chromium.org/Home/chromium-security
            S_Deemer
    • Some one needs his mommy!

      How about you stop reading his articles instead of whining?
      wolfn11
    • Yet

      You read the title, saw who the author was, opened the article, maybe even read it too, and took the time to moan like a baby.

      Who's pathetic and bored???
      Boothy_p
      • "Who's pathetic and bored???"

        Me.

        Doesn't change the change the fact that these articles are trash though.
        mrefuman
    • abd.... every article from ED or MJ is

      about Windows stuff. That's what bloggers do, get over it!
      DancesWithTrolls