Like many other Chromebook users, I was excited when Samsung announced its new Chromebook 2 laptops in March. There are two models available, but the larger one with a 1080p display is the one tugging at my wallet. Both share an upgraded Samsung chip with eight-cores and both are priced higher than comparable Chromebooks powered by Intel’s Haswell chip. Are they worth the premium prices of $319.99 and $399.99?
It’s too early to say, since I haven’t used one myself. However, Computerworld’s JR Raphael has tested them over the past few days and his full review is available online. Raphael and I have never met, but we chat on social networks and I’ve found that we often come to similar conclusions when testing devices. That’s why I’m disappointed to hear about a performance gap on these more expensive Chromebooks.
While there is much to like about both Chromebook 2 models, Raphael notes that these lag behind less expensive devices:
“Next to a Chrome OS device running a Haswell-based Intel chip and the same 4GB of RAM, Samsung’s model comes up short. I tested the Chromebook 2 side-by-side with the Asus Chromebox, and with all things equal, pages consistently took a few seconds longer to load on Samsung’s device and the system felt less speedy and responsive. It’s not an enormous disparity, but it’s definitely noticeable — and it was apparent whether I had one tab open or 20.
Here’s where things get really crazy: Even next to a Haswell-based Chrome OS device with 2GB RAM, the 4GB-packing Chromebook 2 can’t quite keep up. With half the amount of RAM in place, the Haswell-based Chromebox still pulled up pages faster and outperformed the Samsung system, even when numerous tabs were running.”
That’s concerning, considering you can purchase a Chromebook running on the Intel Haswell chip for as little as $229.
Sure, there’s far more to the purchase decision than performance. Perhaps you have to have that 1080p display on a Chromebook; if so, the $399.99 Samsung is the only game in town. These also look well designed, with good keyboards and trackpads. It appears, however, that the hope of comparable Chrome OS performance from Samsung’s Exynos chip hasn’t been met.
Also troubling to me is battery life. Typically a device with an ARM-based chip powering it offers great battery life. Raphael says he’s getting between 5.5 and 7 hours of usage on a charge with the Chromebook 2. That’s far less than the 10+ hours I routinely see with the $279 Dell Chromebook 11, for example, which is a solid performer with Intel’s chip inside.
This is just a first review, though. The devices actually become available on May 26 after a delay, so perhaps between now and then Samsung can optimize the Chrome OS software to pack a little more punch or some additional run-time on a charge. If it doesn’t, the price difference between the new Chromebook 2 and currently available Chromebooks costing less may put a damper on sales.