Last year Samsung impressed me with its Chromebook portfolio, and that all started with the Chromebook Plus. While it has some flaws and I ended up preferring the Chromebook Pro in the long run anyway, it was still a fantastic device. Recently, Samsung launched the second generation of the Chromebook Plus, and I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about my first impressions.
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At the time of writing, I’ve had the Chromebook Plus V2 in hand for about a day and a half so far, and I’ve already got a lot to say about it.
Build & Design
Samsung hasn’t changed much in the overall look of the Chromebook Plus, but there are some welcome enhancements here. First off, there’s a new darker color which is fantastic. The new “Stealth Grey” isn’t too far off from Apple’s “Space Gray,” but it has its own unique look and the way it reflects light is nice too.
The display has also been changed. Instead of the 3:2 aspect ratio of the original, the Chromebook Plus has a 16:10 display. This makes the machine feel way more native when in use as a tablet, but it’s a bit of a shame for web browsing and writing, as a lot of vertical real estate is lost.
Regardless of the different aspect ratio, though, the big complaint here is how things have changed in terms of quality. This new panel isn’t nearly as bright as the previous model, and it’s not as sharp either at just FHD resolution. It’s still a good experience at the end of the day, but it feels like a downgrade.
Like last time, this doesn’t feel super premium, but it’s good-looking and feels sturdy. The biggest change, though, is the weight.
The original Chromebook Plus weighed in at 2.38lbs, and the newer model lands at 2.93lbs. That’s not much of a difference on paper, but in the hand, this machine feels almost twice the weight. It seems that this is mostly due to how the weight is distributed. The original Chromebook Plus was well-balanced and felt almost hollow to an extent.
The Chromebook Plus V2, on the other hand, has most of its weight in the display while the bottom feels pretty light. That’s odd not just because the bottom portion is much thicker, but also because having all of the weight in the display makes the machine top-heavy while typing and almost a struggle to pick up.
This further exaggerates one problem that plagues many Chromebooks, and that’s opening the lid. You have to use two hands, and even then it’s still a bit more difficult with the weight. When using this as a laptop, you know, on your lap, it’s terrible too. At the wrong angle, the machine would just fall down if you let your hands off of it.
A huge contributing factor to this is the choice of materials. The bottom half of the machine is made from plastic, but the display portion is aluminum. It gives a more premium feel, but the weight imbalance is just terrible.
The first word that came to mind with this was “unrefined.” Most laptops don’t feel like this, and it seems like a massive oversight to let this slip through the cracks. Aside from the weight, though, the hardware here is still very nice.
Keyboard & Trackpad
Ok, with that mini-rant over, let’s talk about the input devices here. Samsung has thankfully improved its keyboard on the Chromebook Plus V2. The new keys are better spaced and don’t feel cramped like the original. Within minutes of starting to type on this machine, I was at full speed and comfortable. This is easily one of my favorite changes.
As for the trackpad, it’s pretty much the same as last time. It’s a bit small for my taste, but it does its job quite well. It’s tactile and smooth to use, but nothing particularly special really.
One of the biggest additions on paper to the Chromebook Plus V2 was that of the camera. Not only do you get a standard webcam, but you also get a “rear-facing” 13MP camera.
Long story short, this camera is pretty terrible. The viewfinder is slow, the dynamic range is not great, and really, it’s just a bad camera even in the best of conditions. I guess it’s nice to have though?
Admittedly, I’ve been a bit critical so far, but there’s one major saving grace with this new model, and that’s performance. The original Chromebook Plus could handle basic tasks, but it didn’t take much to hit its limits on the ARM-based chipset. Now, the Chromebook Plus V2 has an Intel Celeron chipset, and it handles daily tasks much better. It’s still nothing mind-blowing, but it’s a huge upgrade.
Some Interesting Tidbits
- It’s great having a full-size USB port, but I wish there was still USB-C on both sides.
- Chrome OS’ camera app weirdly doesn’t directly save images to the file system, rather holding them in the app itself. You have to manually save them to the “disk.”
- The Chromebook Plus V2 is the “Nautilus” baseboard that was expected to be a detachable earlier this year. I’d wager that Samsung might have another model in development that is a detachable, but that’s just speculation.
What Do You Want To Know?
I’ll be working further on a full review of the Chromebook Plus V2 over the next couple of weeks, wherein I’ll be able to further detail things like battery life, ports, and what it’s like to use this machine in daily use.
What do you want to know, though? Drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it!