Samsung Chromebook Plus review

Tom Westrick

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Apr 29, 2012
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As I’ve mentioned before, Chromebooks are experiencing a renaissance right now thanks to the inclusion of Android applications and a real focus on touch screen use. At the forefront of this is the long rumored Samsung Chromebook Plus and its sibling, the Chromebook Pro. After being announced at CES 2017, the Chromebook Plus was released in mid February, while the Chromebook Pro will be released in April. The main draw of these devices are the 3:2 aspect ratio that makes them feel better in tablet mode, the inclusion of a stylus and software features for said stylus, and the premium build.

I’ve been using the Samsung Chromebook Plus as my main device for two weeks. I didn’t do much homework on it since I’ve been on a break between terms, but I used it for everything else such as reading books, watching Netflix and my Plex library, and just good ole fashioned web browsing. The Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro includes two USB-C ports - one on each side - and either can be used for charging, video out or data transfer. The left side holds the 3.5 mm headphone jack and micro-SD card slot, while the right side contains the stylus silo, power button and volume rocker. There are no USB-A ports, so an adapter will be needed for accessories using that port. Just like the new Asus Chromebook Flip, being able to plug in a charger on either side of the laptop is fantastic. The Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro feature 4 gigabytes of RAM, 32 gigabytes of storage and a 12.3” 2400 x 1600 (roughly 2K) display. The only differences between the two models are the processor and color: the Plus uses an OP1 ARM processor, while the Pro uses an Intel Core m3 processor. The Plus is only available in silver, while the Pro will only be available in Black.

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The keyboard is the standard ChromeOS layout, but some of the keys on the outer border are cut short. I had no problem adjusting to the smaller keys after an hour or so of typing, but for others it may be a deal breaker. The keys aren’t backlit, but have a bit of a reflective coating on them. When used at night, I can read the keys well enough if the display brightness is cranked. This isn’t ideal, since I want to keep the brightness low when I’m using the device at night. These Chromebooks definitely would have benefitted from a backlit keyboard, and it’s a troubling admission at this price point.

The first thing I noticed when I turned the Chromebook Plus on was the gorgeous display. Colors are accurate, individual pixels are nowhere to be seen, and it can get super bright. In the few times I used this outside in the bright Texas sun, I had no problem seeing what was on screen. The Chromebook Plus and Pro are both made of a very sturdy magnesium, and it feels rock solid while also being lightweight. I had no problem carry this in my backpack or holding it to read a book and play games - though it did get very warm when I was playing a long session of Monument Valley.

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Performance is better than I expected, given my use of the Acer Chromebook R13, which also uses an ARM processor. Unlike that device, the Samsung Chromebook Plus had no issues keeping up with my large workload while I did some assignments. For some heavier users, I imagine there may be a difference in performance between the Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro, but I wasn’t left wanting any extra power. One issue I had is the screen (and my second display) went completely black in the middle of a Hangouts video call. I’m not sure what caused this, and I wasn’t able to duplicate it later on. Speaking of my second display, therein lies my biggest complaint about the Chromebook Plus: support for my USB-C hub has been hit and miss. There have been times where it fails to detect either the second display, the charger, or both. I don’t know if this I just received a defective Chromebook, but it soured me on the whole device.

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My home setup, when the Chromebook Plus actually recognizes my hub.

Another issue that soured me is the battery life. I knew the higher resolution display would draw more power than the display in the Asus Flip, but I figured the more efficient processor would negate that. Instead, I saw worse battery life on the Samsung Chromebook Plus. Even if I just used it to watch Netflix at 50% brightness, the battery would be near empty in about 5 hours. One bright side is it only requires 30 watts of juice to charge at full power. This means I was able to get a second charger for my bedside, as well as a portable battery [LINKS] to charge it at full speed. While it is convenient to be able to charge from more sources, this doesn’t make up for the less-than-stellar battery life.

The Android applications I tried all worked without a hitch, though Microsoft’s Office applications were strangely incompatible. Monument Valley played very smoothly, though high speed racer may present more problems. A drawing application called ArtCanvas is included out of the box for use with the stylus. Truth be told, I didn’t use the stylus for more than a few minutes because I just don’t incorporate a stylus into my normal workflow. Due to the weight and aspect ratio, the Chromebook Plus is very comfortable to hold for long reading sessions, the the 3:2 aspect ratio presents problems when web browsing. The interface of many websites scales down fine, there’s just less content on the screen. With YouTube, this means the left menu is hidden, and on Facebook it means the right chat menu is shrunken down. It isn’t unusable, but it took some getting used to.

The Samsung Chromebook Plus retails for $449, while the Chromebook Pro retails for $549. At those prices, they are well worth it for how well they perform and feel, especially for stylus users. Unfortunately for me, the battery life just isn’t where it should be, trying to use it with my hub at home is frustrating, and I don’t use it in tablet mode enough to justify the compromises that come with the 3:2 aspect ratio. I’ll be returning the Chromebook Plus and purchasing a(nother) Asus Chromebook Flip, since that is the better fit for me.
 

kopmd j

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Mar 4, 2017
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After test driving the Chromebook Plus at Best Buy, and viewing numerous YouTube videos on ASUS vs Chromebook Plus/Pro, I think the ASUS flip is the best buy for the cost and features, particularly the keyboard and touch pad being significantly better than Samsung, ASUS flip is what I will purchase.

Where can I purchase one and get it delivered right away?
 

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