When Chromebooks first hit the market they were thought off as little more than an affordable option, with entry prices and simple computing devices that could deliver steady performance for basic functions.
However, with Chrome OS gearing up to support Google’s Play Store along with Android apps to the platform that is quickly changing and there’s no greater proof of that than Samsung’s reveal of the Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro at CES 2017.
Samsung Chromebook Plus & Chromebook Pro
The two laptops are essentially two different sides of the same coin, though we’re not really sure what coin that is. The goal of any two-on-one is to blur the lines between laptop and tablet, but with Samsung’s new Chromebooks that line feels razor thin. The pair features a 360-degree display hinge, full sized physical keyboards, along with smooth plastic trackpads, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB eMMC of internal storage.
However, the laptops also come equipped with a built-in stylus and has direct access to mobile apps via the Google Play store.
What differentiates these two devices is their processors. The Samsung Chromebook Plus houses a mobile grade ARM CPU (specifically an OP 1 hexacore, which combines a Dual Core A7 along with a Quad-Core A53) and will be the most affordable of the pair at $450. The Chromebook Pro, on the other hand, features a laptop-grade Intel Core M3 CPU. Samsung has yet to announce a price point for the Pro, but the laptop will certainly be more expensive than its counterpart.
The Less Expensive Plus
Even the more affordable Chromebook Plus is relatively expensive compared to other Chromebooks on the market, but Samsung is also offering a lot of premium trappings seldom that are seldom seen from other Chromebooks.
From first glance, Samsung dispels any notion that the Chromebook Plus or Pro are budget devices. The slim 2.5-pound magnesium silver chassis is slightly curved along the edges creating a smooth and stylish aesthetic. The 12.3-inch QHD (2,400 x 1,600) resolution display also really pops. Samsung scales down the 400 nit panel to 1,200 x 800 resolution to make things a bit more readable (though the option is always there to upscale if you desire). Even with the scaled-down resolution the picture looked great with bright vibrant colors and viewing angles. The only notable downside was that the glossy panel did reflect background images in direct light.
As you’d expect the screen is outfitted with full touch controls to take advantage of the large selection of Android apps available, but the feature that steals the show is the screen’s stylus support.
Both models ship with a built-in stylus. The stylus — which tucks comfortably in the right side of the device — is very reminiscent of the one found in the Galaxy Note 5. That includes the metallic build and clicky pen top that is far too satisfying to press.
While we loved clicking that top it’s actually Google Keep app that makes this a killer feature. Essentially the two Chromebooks begin to learn how and what you write and adapt to make the experience better. It’s sort of like how your smartphone will use autocomplete based on what you have said in the past. But instead of just finishing your word, the Chromebooks is also understand the way in which you write and when you take pauses.
If all of this sounds a little too invasive you can turn the feature off, but we were certainly impressed with our brief time with the two machines. What we wrote was cleaned up and made more presentable. It’s certainly a more fluid feel than just auto-correct. It’s more like the device is leading and following with you instead of jumping to ahead to the end of the sentence.
The small stature of these machines leaves little room for ports. The Samsung Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro feature a pair of USB-C ports that are used for both charging and connectivity. The Chromebooks also feature a microSD slot and an audio jack.
When we first heard that Samsung was releasing a pair of premium Chromebooks we were a bit taken aback. It wasn’t all that long ago that Google released Chromebook Pixel — a relatively great machine that was ultimately stymied by the limitations of Chrome OS — and we couldn’t help but feel a rush of deja vu. However, Chrome OS is changing with full Android support coming to platform it’s certainly more robust.
Obviously the platform will still be limited when it comes to pure productivity, but in other aspects it could flourish, and the intelligent touch and stylus designs of the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro represent that.
If you’re looking for a flexible computing option and are looking for a break from the Apple and Windows, Samsung’s new line of Chromebooks may be perfect for you. The Samsung Chromebook Plus will be made available in February for $450. The Samsung Chromebook Pro has yet to receive a price point (though we would expect it’ll sit somewhere around $550) and will be made available later this spring.