Samsung Chromebook Pro


Chromebooks are rapidly evolving into more than just bare-bones alternatives to entry-level Windows laptops. On top of adding the full arsenal of Android apps via the Google Play store, the Samsung Chromebook Pro makes a compelling case for “premium” chromebooks with a 12-inch QHD touch display, a convertible design, a very capable stylus, and a beefy processor. But at the end of the day, chromebooks owe their appeal to their affordability and all-day processing power. The Chromebook Pro, which is slated to be priced at $549 when it’s released this spring, falls a bit short on both fronts, especially compared with our Editors’ Choice high-end chromebook, the Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4), which is less expensive with better battery life.


Editors’ Note: Because Google sent us a preproduction unit of the Samsung Chromebook Pro, we are unable to make full assessments about every aspect of its design or its functionality. We will update this preview with additional details and add a star rating once the final version is released in April.


Slick and Square


Thin, light, and sleek, the Samsung Chromebook Pro ticks off a lot of design boxes. For starters, it measures 0.55 by 11.06 by 8.72 inches (HWD) and weighs a mere 2.3 pounds. That’s compact enough to fit into most backpacks and light enough that your back won’t kill you if you have to stand for your entire commute. It’s similar in size to the Asus Chromebook Flip (0.53 by 11.96 by 8.26 inches) and the HP Chromebook 13 G1 (0.5 by 12.59 by 8.64 inches). Like any convertible laptop, the Pro can be used in four different modes: Laptop, Stand, Tent, and Tablet.



Samsung keeps things simple in terms of design, but the Chromebook Pro lives up to its premium pricing. The lid features a reflective Samsung logo and an understated Chrome logo. We received an early silver review unit, but this won’t exactly be what you see in stores once the laptop is officially available. To better differentiate between the Pro and its less-powerful sibling, the Samsung Chromebook Plus, the Pro will ship in Black. The Plus, which is slated to cost $100 less, will retain the silver color and will hit stores starting February 12.


Samsung Chromebook Pro Preview - Tent Mode


The Pro features a beautiful 12.3-inch 2,400-by-1,600 touch screen. And while you won’t be able to scrutinize every single pore on your favorite celeb’s face when watching movies, that’s a much higher resolution than the 1,366-by-768 resolution you typically find on 11- or 13-inch chromebooks. But because of the 3:2 aspect ratio, the screen is more square than the rectangular laptop displays you’re probably used to. For the most part, this is not an issue, but it can be awkward while typing as there’s barely any room on either side of the keyboard. Plus, you don’t have a whole lot of space for keeping multiple windows open. Why is it squarish? Probably to mimic the size of a sheet of A4 paper for use with the stylus (see below).


As far as ports, the Pro is future-proofed with two USB-C ports, one on each side. The drawback is that if you have a lot of peripherals or if you want to hook the Pro up to an external display, you’ll need to invest in adapters and dongles. On the left side, there’s also the headset jack and a microSD card reader, while on the right side you’ll find the spring-loaded stylus holder, the power button, and the volume control. There’s also a 720p HD webcam, as well as an accelerometer and a gyroscope so you can play games. The Pro also comes with 32GB of flash storage—not a lot, but as Chrome OS is cloud-based, it’s actually par for the course. For connectivity, you get dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0.


Samsung Chromebook Pro Preview - Tab Mode


Apps Galore


It’s not so much its processor, screen, or convertibility that makes the Chromebook Pro stand out. The Acer Chromebook 14 for Work, the Asus Chromebook Flip, and the HP Chromebook 13 G1 all sport beefier chips than the Celeron or ARM processors you generally see in chromebooks. What sets the Pro apart is that it’s one of the first chromebooks that will launch with Google Play app store integration.


This is big because it addresses the greatest weakness of chromebooks as a whole: limited software. Up until now, a chromebook’s usefulness has been directly proportional to the strength of your Wi-Fi signal. But opening up chromebook users to the full array of Android apps gives you a whole new way to work around that. No Internet? That’s fine. If you need to write an essay offline, it’s as simple as downloading the Evernote or Microsoft Word apps. Before, you had to enable offline sync in Google Docs—which was no good if you were without Wi-Fi and hadn’t already done so.


For testing, Samsung and Google suggested trying out apps like Slack, ArtCanvas, Asphalt 8, and Evernote. They all worked as they should, and make no mistake, the potential for greater offline capability is hugely promising for not only the Pro, but all chromebooks going forward. That being said, it’s still early and there are some growing pains. Switching between apps can be clumsy, and not every app in the Google Play store is optimized for Chrome OS. That can be annoying, especially when you’re switching between standalone apps and apps that run through the Chrome browser. Take Slack. Hitting the Enter key won’t send your message when typing. That’s because it’s optimized for mobile, where it’s more intuitive to just tap the “Send” airplane with your finger. This is not the end of the world, but it’s an example of the type of small annoyances that can detract from the overall experience.


A note: The Play store is disabled on enterprise domains, aka your work email. I was asked to use my personal Gmail account to set up the laptop I tested, but if administrator allows, the Play store. There are lots of ways to work around this (such as enabling multiple logins, emailing documents to yourself, uploading everything to a Dropbox account, and so on) but it’s just another example of a kink Google has to work out.


Samsung Chromebook Pro Preview - Stylus


Not an S-Pen, But Close


The other distinguishing feature of the Pro is the stylus. At a reviewer’s workshop, Google and Samsung mentioned that it is the same hardware as the S-Pen, but the experience is different. Mainly, the stylus uses predictive machine learning to analyze your handwriting and reduce latency. It’s also pressure sensitive and can be used with ArtCanvas or Google Keep to turn handwriting to text.


One nifty feature is that the Pro will prompt you with a small menu of commonly used actions when you pop the stylus out of its slot. These include taking full and partial screenshots, creating new notes, a laser pointer mode, and a magnifying glass mode.


There is some latency when using the stylus; you can visibly see the lag when writing and drawing. As for how well the pressure sensitivity works, it depends on the app. You can’t really see it when writing notes or doodling in Google Keep (see my masterpiece of Anakin Skywalker and his opinion of sand).


Samsung Chromebook Pro Preview - Anakin Skywalker


It’s more visible in ArtCanvas. I’m an amateur doodler, so digital art can be a challenge. It’s not easy to find an affordable drawing tablet or software that’s as intuitive to use as a pencil and paper sketchpad are. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to quickly and easily sketch BB-8. It’s also easy to see the different pressure levels used to draw the main shape and detail work. This was sufficient for a hobbyist like me, but the latency and limited feature set might be irksome for professionals.


Samsung Chromebook Pro Preview - BB-8


Snappy, But Short on Battery Life


With a 900MHz Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor and 4GB of RAM, the Pro is quite capable. Multi-tab browsing and HD video streaming are a breeze. You can also keep three or four Android apps open without worrying about slowdowns.


Battery life, however, is less impressive. Its first time through our battery rundown test, the Chromebook Pro eked out just 7 hours, 36 minutes—a poor showing. On its second run, however, it lasted a more respectable 8:44. Although that’s a pretty big swing, it’s at least above the 8-hour mark we consider to be all-day life, and roughly in line with the HP Chromebook 13 G1 (8:16) and the Lenovo N22-20 Touch Chromebook (9:09). But it still pales in comparison to what we saw from the Asus Chromebook Flip (10:23), the Acer Chromebook 14 (11:50), and the Acer Chromebook 15 (14:17). Hopefully the final production unit will display better, more consistent battery life. We’ll retest the new hardware when we receive it.


The Samsung Chromebook Pro benefits from being one of the first chromebooks to launch with the Google Play store. But at the end of the day, that’s not a benefit exclusive to this laptop. It will apply to all chromebooks launching this year, so this admittedly tempting advantage has a time limit. If you can wait, it might be prudent to hold out for less expensive chromebooks with Android app integration to hit the market. And while the Chromebook Pro excels at thoughtfully integrating the stylus for anyone who likes to handwrite notes or doodle, this isn’t functionality that everyone needs. This is especially true when you consider the Pro’s unexceptional battery life and hefty price tag—obstacles Samsung and Google will need to overcome before the final release in April. Right now, something like the Asus Chromebook Flip, which costs $50 less and has a slightly larger screen, the same processing power, double the storage, and almost 2 extra hours of battery life, looks like the better deal. And if you’re merely looking for the best inexpensive chromebook you can get, take a look at the $280 Acer Chromebook 14.



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