It’s true that Chrome OS runs acceptably on more modest hardware than Windows 10 or 11 does. But the happiest trend we’ve seen in Chromebooks in recent years has been the rise in models with processors that are more powerful than an Intel Celeron, memory more than the absolute minimum of 4GB, and solid-state drives that are more generous and capable than humble 64 GB of eMMC flash storage. Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is not part of that trend – it hopes that you will not notice any of the above, but that you will notice its eye-catching Fiesta Red hue and high quality QLED display. These are great features, but it’s up to you whether you want to pay $ 549 for a Chromebook that is otherwise equipped as one that costs half as much.
It ‘QLED’, beware, not ‘OLED’
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a more affordable successor to the Galaxy Chromebook, which Samsung launched in early 2020 – a $ 999 convertible with a dazzling 4K resolution AMOLED screen. This model’s touchscreen is the same size (13.3 inches), but it settles for full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels).
And instead of the OLED technology increasingly seen in high-end laptops, its QLED design is an improvement over a conventional LCD. It has LED backlighting, so black pixels still have some light behind them instead of being completely off, but QLED technology puts a quantum dot filter over the backlight to improve contrast and make the colors more vivid.
It’s a successful compromise, but you may not be so happy with the Galaxy 2’s Other things compromise. Instead of its predecessor’s Core i5, it has a dual-core Celeron 5205U processor. It’s heavier – 2.71 to 2.3 pounds – and it does not come with an S-Pen, as the first Galaxy Chromebook did. To be fair, the new Samsung trimmer than any other recently announced 13.3-inch convertible in the same size, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook weighs 2.97 pounds; it measures 0.55 times 12 times 8 inches to Lenovo’s 0.67 times 12.2 times 8.4.
Our test unit is a $ 549 Best Buy configuration. The retailer also sells a model with a 10th generation Intel Core i3 CPU and dual memory (8GB) and storage space (128GB, although it is still eMMC flash instead of an SSD). Both versions are also available in Mercury Gray. We expect the Core i3 to offer faster performance (see benchmark results below), but it’s well into premium consumer Chromebook territory for $ 699.
Speaking of premium Chromebook features, the Galaxy 2 has a dimly lit keyboard, but no privacy shutter release for its webcam and no fingerprint reader to avoid entering passwords. On the plus side, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth are standard, and the bright red chassis with black keyboard makes it a visual standout, aided by thin screen frames (apart from the thick bottom frame). The laptop is made of plastic with an aluminum lid; there is not much flexibility if you grab the corners of the screen or press the keyboard, but as with many 2-in-1 machines, the screen wobbles when pressed in clamshell laptop mode.
Without an HDMI port on the edges of this notebook, use a USB Type-C DisplayPort dongle to connect an external monitor. Samsung has two USB Type-C ports, one on each side; both can accommodate the compact AC adapter. The left edge also features a volume rocker, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. The power button is on the right side.
The QLED touchscreen is without comparison the Galaxy 2’s best asset with rich, well-saturated colors and wide viewing angles. White backgrounds are pristine instead of nuanced, and the contrast is sharp with clear details and no pixelation around the edges of the letters.
The brightness is adequate, though I almost always want there to be one or two more notches left after setting a laptop screen to its highest brightness setting. As with most Chromebooks, if you think the screen’s original 1080p resolution makes screen elements and text look too small, you can choose from several faux or “similar” options. (The default is 1,536 times 864.)
As mentioned, the keyboard backlight is not very bright, although it does make the letters on the keys look more contrast-filled. The keyboard has a standard Chromebook layout with top-notch system and browser controls and a search / menu key instead of Caps Lock. An annoyance: It usually took me two or three taps to make the menu bar stay on the screen, instead of it briefly appearing and then retreating again.
The keyboard has a fast and comfortable typing feel. Key presses are audible, but not too high. The small, buttonless touchpad slides and taps smoothly with a somewhat stiff click.
The 720p webcam, meanwhile, is paired for the cheap laptop. It captures reasonably well-lit and colorful images with a bit of noise or static. The bottom-mounted speakers are similarly mid-range: they produce relatively loud, not overly thin sound. There is no bass to speak of, but you can see overlapping tracks.
Galaxy Chromebook 2 test: Parking on the back of the Chromebook package
For our benchmark charts, I compared the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 with four other Chromebooks. Google Pixelbook Go and the aforementioned Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook share its 13.3-inch screen size in clamshell and convertible designs, respectively. The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is an 11.6-inch convertible. The 2021 edition of the HP Chromebook x2 is an 11-inch removable or tablet-and-keyboard combination. You can see their basic specifications in the table below.
The Galaxy 2 held out against the detachable HP and its Qualcomm ARM processor, but did not outshine the Acer (with its older, theoretically slower Celeron) and was blown away by Lenovo and its 11th generation Intel Core i3. Samsung doesn’t feel too sluggish if you limit yourself to just two or three apps or open browser tabs, but it’s a slut by current Chromebook standards. Even launching the Files app seems heavy instead of instant.
Two other Android benchmarks focus on CPU and GPU, respectively. Primate Labs’ Geekbench uses all available cores and threads to simulate real-world applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning, while GFXBench 5.0 stress tests both low-level routines such as high-level texturing and game-like image rendering that trains graphics and computer shaders. Geekbench delivers a numeric score, while GFXBench counts frames per second (fps).
Finally, to test a Chromebook’s battery, we loop a 720p video file with the screen brightness set at 50%, the volume at 100% and Wi-Fi and keyboard backlight disabled until the system shuts down. If there is not enough internal storage space to hold the video, we play it from an external SSD connected to a USB port.
Again, we consider IdeaPad’s Core i3 to be a mainstream Chromebook processor today (several systems boast Core i5 or AMD Ryzen chips that surpass it), but Samsung only patterns a third or a quarter of muscle mass – fine too a $ 199 or $ 249 Chromebook, but hard to swallow for a $ 549 model. Its endurance in our battery cut was fair, but unique, even though it, like HP and Acer, also had to drive the external SSD with the 70 GB video file.
Verdict: Skip Celeron
Overall, we can’t recommend the Celeron configuration of the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 – you’ll be much happier with the more perky Core i3 model, though the $ 699 price will buy you one of several faster, more desirable Chrome OS or Windows laptops. Samsung’s sleek style and beautiful QLED display have undeniable appeal, but its chassis prints a check that its components cannot redeem.