Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Still premium, but at a nicer price
Samsung made some smart choices with the follow-up to last year's Galaxy Chromebook, making it more affordable while keeping its higher-end look and feel.
Updated March 1, 2021 6:00 a.m. PT
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Joshua GoldmanManaging Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
ExpertiseLaptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and dronesCredentials
More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
It's unusual for the second generation of a device to have fewer features than the original and still have it be an improvement, but that's the case for the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Samsung dialed back on some of the features and components, making this sequel more affordable than the first-gen model. It also has much better battery life. And Samsung did it all without losing all of its predecessor's premium appeal.
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 starts at $449, which might seem high, but the first-gen version was $999 (though it does go on sale for $699 occasionally), so this new one costs quite a bit less. The original has an Intel Core i5 processor, while the Galaxy Chromebook 2 base model gets you an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of memory and a 64GB solid-state drive.
The $699 configuration that I tested has a 10th-gen Intel Core i3 and twice the memory and storage of the base model, but it's otherwise the same. CPUs for Chromebooks aren't as make-or-break as they are on Windows PCs, as almost everything happens in the Chrome browser.
International pricing isn't available but $499 converts to about £400 or AU$710; $699 converts to about £500 or AU$900.
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
Price as reviewed
13.3-inch 1,920x1,080 touch display
2.1GHz Intel Core i3-10110U
Intel UHD Graphics
802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
USB-C (x2), 3.5mm combo jack, microSD card slot
From first with AMOLED to first with QLED
There have been many premium Chromebooks over the years, but the first Galaxy Chromebook really was a cut above inside and out when it arrived last year. It still is. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is nearly as nice and the differences are subtle with one exception -- the display.
Chromebooks aren't known for their great displays, which made the stunning 4K AMOLED display on the Galaxy Chromebook really stand out. It's also complete overkill for most people and didn't do the Chromebook's battery life any favors. It was the first (and possibly the last) AMOLED display on a Chromebook. On the new model it's been replaced with another first, a full-HD QLED panel.
While it doesn't look as nice as the AMOLED, it's still good, and much better than what you'd find on most Chromebooks. The QLED panel is bright and covers 100% DCl-P3 color gamut. The screen looked great with streaming videos and games. In tablet mode, I used it for reading a couple of graphic novels and the display brought them to life.
With Android app support (as on every modern Chromebook) there's a lot more to choose from, too, when it comes to photo and video editing. With the Core i3 chip and 8GB of memory, you have more power to handle basic edits and other tasks. Plus, the resolution drop no doubt helped this two-in-one last for 12 hours, 3 minutes on our streaming video test. By comparison, the first-gen Galaxy Chromebook only made it to 7 hours on the same test, thanks no doubt to its power-draining 4K resolution.
The other biggish change to the Chromebook 2 is the S Pen included with the first-gen model is gone. Not only is it not included, but it's not even supported. Instead, Samsung opted for USI pen support for the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Samsung doesn't make a USI pen and does not have any plans for USI pens at this time, a Samsung representative said.
Since this is a two-in-one, it's handy to have a pen for writing or drawing on the display. But leaving it out is a good way to bring costs down because it's not a necessity and if you decide you want a pen, any USI pen will work. I tested with a Lenovo pen and it worked fine, although there was a slight flex to the display's glass.
Along with the S Pen, Samsung also removed the Galaxy Chromebook's world-facing camera from above the left side of the keyboard and the fingerprint reader from the upper-right corner of the keyboard. The fingerprint reader is useful to have. But, since you can use your phone as sort of a proximity sensor to unlock Chrome, it's not the end of the world. Similarly, having a world-facing camera is handy for a quick snapshot or document scan but hardly essential.
The one thing I wish Samsung hadn't messed with is the speaker positioning. The speakers on the 2 sound good, but the first-gen model's speakers were on the sides, so audio was always clear no matter what position it was in. On the new model they fire down, so if you're using it on a bed or couch or your lap, the sound is muffled. The speakers do have more power to them, though, so that helps.
Like its predecessor, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a slim aluminum chassis, although this new version is a hair thicker, and it's just under three pounds (1.2 kilograms). It has a good backlit keyboard and a color-matched touchpad, plus you get two USB-C ports, a headphone/mic jack and a microSD card slot. One last thing: Samsung added a rear vent to this model so it doesn't get too warm on your lap. The original vented through the bottom and keyboard and generated a lot of heat.
It's rare that a second-gen device is better than the original because there's less to it, but that's what you get with the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2. The original was beautiful and loaded with features, but this one makes more sense for more people. If you're a full-time Chromebook user or want to run a lot of heavy Android apps, it's worth it to go with the top configuration for $700. The $550 base model is enough for regular use and still feels like a premium package.