Most of the first and second generation of Chromebook laptops look similar, offer similar features, and cost around the same. Growing sales numbers indicate Chromebooks are hitting netbook-like heights of popularity among budget laptop shoppers, but to avoid the netbook's eventual fate, systems will have to evolve and offer more features, while keeping prices down.
Samsung says the answer is its next-gen version, called Chromebook 2. These new models, in
Both versions have a new look, which Samsung describes as, "a durable textured lid and elegant stitched design." That basically means they have a faux leather outer finish (confirming the leaks that appeared in recent days), with a soft-touch feel and "stitches" molded into the outer edge.
In our hands-on time with the two new systems, they're actually nicer than they sound, and certainly better than a flat plastic lids most Chromebooks have now, although the stitching does seem superfluous. The 11-inch model comes in black or white, while the 13-inch is a muted grey.
The rest of the body takes a few design cues from Samsung's excellent Ativ Book 9 (nee Series 9) Windows laptops, and both sizes are about 0.65 inches thick, with the 11-inch weighing 2.5 pounds and the 13-inch weighing 3 pounds.
Inside, both are powered by Samsung's home-grown Exynos 5 Octa chip, with a slightly faster version inside the 13-inch model. Both sizes get a bump to 4GB of RAM (versus the 2GB in nearly every other Chromebook), but onboard storage remains a skimpy 16GB.
The biggest upgrade comes with the full 1,920x1,080 display on the 13-inch model. We've only seen one 13-inch Chromebook before, the Toshiba Chromebook (can we get some new names, guys?), but that $299 model has a standard 1,366x768 screen.
Samsung promises better battery life (around eight hours) from the Exynos chip, versus the Intel Celeron chips most other Chromebooks use, and better productivity thanks to slightly scalloped keyboard keys and some packed-in software.
The 11.6-inch Chromebook 2 will cost $319, a slight bump from comparable models; while the 13-inch full-HD model will cost $399. Both will be available in April 2014.