Samsung Chromebook 2 (11.6-inch, Intel Celeron) review:

A stronger Chromebook in more ways than one

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Samsung Chromebook 2 (11.6-inch, Intel Celeron)

(Part #: XE500C12-K01US)
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Samsung Chromebook 2 with Intel Celeron offers sturdier construction than your average Chromebook with good performance with more than 7 hours of battery life, a responsive touchpad and a comfortable keyboard given the 11.6-inch size. Live video support is included powered by Google Helpouts.

The Bad The display quality is disappointing even for an inexpensive laptop. Memory is fixed at 2GB.

The Bottom Line Samsung keeps the nice-looking design of its previous 11.6-inch Chromebook 2 while making it a little more durable and puts live support help just a click away, making it a noteworthy update to the company's Chrome-computing lineup.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Battery 7.0
  • Support 8.0

If you put Samsung's newest 11-inch Chromebook 2 next to the Chromebook 2 it released in April, you probably wouldn't be able to tell them apart save for its silver lid.

The lid does have the same leather-like treatment to as the earlier model, though, making it look and feel a bit nicer than the lids of other Chromebooks. The new version also has the same 1,366x768-pixel-resolution, 11.6-inch LCD, the same wide, comfortable keyboard with curved keys (it's still not backlit, though) and the same big, responsive touchpad.

The screen, though it looks good head-on and gets respectably bright, is pretty bad off-angle. Colors wash out when looking down on it from the top or off to the sides. It all depends on how you plan to use it as to whether this will be an issue for you.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

For example, I had trouble seeing what was on the screen working with it on my lap during my daily commute, which leaves me little flexibility with positioning. But, again, if you can tilt the screen so you're looking directly at it, it's just fine. Well, considering this system's $250 price tag, anyway.

The keyboard is comfortable with at least a little travel so it doesn't feel like you're typing on a board. Key size and spacing is respectable, too. Still, this is a small laptop so you may feel a little cramped depending on what you're used to typing on.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Having tested many low-end laptops over the years, the clickpad on this Samsung is surprisingly good. Like the keyboard, it's reasonably large given the laptop's size and it's responsive without the jumpiness you might expect.

As for ports and connections, those are the same, too: one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, a headphone/mic jack, a full-size HDMI and a microSD card slot. A 720p Webcam with mics and stereo speakers round out the package. The speakers, by the way, actually sound pretty good, but you'll probably want to hook up a set of decent desktop speakers or headphones for extended listening.

The biggest changes between the old and new versions of this Chromebook are on the inside. Perhaps to make it more appealing to business and education markets, the display housing, the corners of the body and the ports have all been reinforced with metal to make it more durable.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

This seems like almost a direct response to Lenovo's Chromebooks, such as the ThinkPad Yoga 11e . That model costs nearly twice the Samsung, but does have a touchscreen and the fold-back design for which the Yoga is known.

Performance and battery life

The other major change is Samsung's use of an energy-efficient 2.58GHz Intel Celeron N2840 processor instead of the Samsung Exynos processor found in the previous Chromebook 2.

The processor is joined by Intel HD graphics, 2GB of memory, 16GB of internal storage and 802.11AC wireless and Bluetooth 4.0, making it all in all a pretty typical Chromebook.

Six screws stand between you and opening up the bottom of this thing, but after doing it ourselves, there really isn't a reason to go digging around in there. That's disappointing because although I didn't expect to be able to put in additional storage, I was hoping to add more RAM.

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Joseph Kaminski/CNET

The one positive is that should its battery stop holding its charge as well, you could potentially service it yourself. (That's the battery being held up in the picture above.)

As is the case with every Chromebook we've tested, the system boots in a matter of seconds, and the combo is powerful enough to efficiently run Chrome and Web apps. Streaming HD video from Hulu Plus or listening to Spotify or Google Play Music while working in other tabs didn't pose any problems, and even under heavy load it stays quiet because of its fanless design.

Opening up dozens of tabs is an urge you'll want to fight as it will slow things down. But for things like simple photo editing using Pixlr Touch Up or Polarr or a quick game of Cut the Rope, it has enough pop.

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