The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 isn’t your typical sequel. This stylish Chromebook drops some of the more extraneous features of its $999 predecessor (including a 4K display and an Intel Core i5 processor) in favor of a more focused package that starts at nearly half the price. But this isn’t some budget offshoot — the Chromebook 2 is loaded with great functionality, including a first-of-its-kind QLED display that makes watching movies and surfing the web an absolute joy.
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 ($549 starting; $699 as tested) is one of the most compelling Chromebooks in its price range, with fast overall performance and a gorgeous, versatile 2-in-1 design that can switch from laptop to tablet in seconds. However, its battery life, speakers and webcam quality do leave a bit to be desired. Here’s what we think of Samsung’s sleek new Chromebook after a week of use.
The who, what and how
Who it’s for: The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is for people who want an attractive and easy-to-use laptop that has enough power to juggle multiple tasks at once.
What you need to know: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 is the world’s first Chromebook with a QLED display, making it especially great for bingeing shows and movies. It’s also one of the more powerful Chromebooks you can buy, and has a convertible design that allows it to be used as a tablet.
How it compares: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 is one of the faster Chromebooks we’ve tested, blazing past devices such as the Lenovo Chromebook Duet on benchmark tests. It also delivers a more immersive viewing experience, thanks to its QLED screen. However, we wish its seven-hour battery life were a bit longer.
One of the sleekest Chromebooks ever
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is one of the most attractive laptops we’ve ever gotten our hands on. The notebook’s Fiesta Red finish has a sports carlike sheen to it, with a design that instantly draws attention while still being sleek enough to blend into any home office. There’s also a more subdued Mercury Gray model available, if you’re not a fan of fun.
The Chromebook 2 won’t command much desk space at just 2.7 pounds and 0.55 inches thick, and is easy enough to toss into a bag on your way to work (or, more realistically these days, when you’re moving from your office to your bedroom). Additionally, it features a convertible 2-in-1 design that allows you to easily fold it up into a tablet for when you’re watching Netflix, or put it in stand or tent mode when you’re taking a Zoom call.
The laptop instantly adjusted its display to suit whichever mode we were using, and we found its touch screen reliable for pinching to zoom into webpages or doodling notes with our fingers. And if you have a stylus handy, the Chromebook 2 supports any Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) pen, complete with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity for accurate sketching and note-taking. Unfortunately, you won’t get a stylus out of the box like you do with the original, more expensive Galaxy Chromebook.
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is fairly minimal when it comes to ports, offering two USB-C ports, a microSD reader and a headphone jack. That should be fine if you plan on using the notebook for basic web surfing and email, but those who want to connect to accessories (such as external monitors or mice and keyboards) may have to spring for an adapter or dock.
One of our few gripes with the Chromebook 2’s design is that the keys are a bit too shallow for our liking. We still had no issue hammering away at Google Docs and answering emails quickly and accurately in relative comfort, but our fingers would get a bit fatigued after longer sessions, and we found ourselves yearning for the deeper travel of the MacBook Pro’s Magic Keyboard.
The Chromebook 2’s trackpad made scrolling through webpages and performing multi-finger gestures easy, though pinching to zoom was occasionally a little tricky due to its glossy surface and somewhat small 2.5-inch size.
A stunning QLED display (and so-so speakers)
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is the world’s first Chromebook with a QLED display, using the same advanced technology found on many of Samsung’s high-end TVs. QLED screens use quantum dots in order to deliver richer colors and better brightness than a typical LCD display, and those benefits become apparent the minute you lay eyes on the Chromebook 2’s stunning 13.3-inch panel.
The Chromebook 2’s display brought out every fine detail of an 8K nature documentary on YouTube, allowing us to see the individual hairs of wildlife, such as lions and deers, during close-ups. And colors absolutely popped off the screen, from the vibrant greens of a lush forest to the bright oranges of a cheetah’s fur.
We had a similarly good experience when streaming some “WandaVision” on Samsung’s laptop — while the red of Vision’s face looked a bit oversaturated at times, the show’s costumes had a colorful pop to them befitting to their comic book origins.
As great as the Chromebook 2’s QLED display looks, we do have one minor nitpick — its somewhat thick bezels (roughly 6 millimeters up top and 17 millimeters on the bottom) look a little dated in 2021. While this issue is common among popular laptops (even the new MacBook Pro has large borders around the display), the seamless screens on laptops such as the Dell XPS 13 have us yearning for a Chromebook that’s equally immersive.
The Chromebook 2’s speakers get decently loud, thanks to Samsung’s Smart AMP technology, but their actual audio quality is a mixed bag. While the ethereal vocals and triumphant horns of Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto” came through clearly, the song’s guitar and bass tracks were harder to pick out, and the entire song sounded canned and muddy at full volume by the time its rocking crescendo kicked in. More lively rock tracks, such as Machine Gun Kelly’s “Forget Me Too,” had similar issues — the vocals sounded OK, but the buzzing electric guitars sounded unclear and distorted.
While the Chromebook 2’s speakers weren’t the best for listening to music, they made it easy to hear a colleague clearly during a quick video conference over Webex. And the laptop’s built-in microphone did a perfectly fine job capturing our voice for those on the other end.
Great overall performance — and a note about apps
The $549 Galaxy Chromebook 2 starts with an entry-level Intel Celeron 5205U processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, though we tested the $699 model with a more powerful Intel Core i3 processor alongside 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. And those specs proved to be more than enough power to get us through our daily work routine. We never experienced any notable slowdown with Samsung’s notebook, even as we bounced between more than a dozen Chrome tabs with apps like Spotify, Slack and Discord running in the background.
The Chromebook 2 is a solid casual gaming machine, with access to dozens of streamable games on Google Stadia as well as the thousands of Android titles it can access via the Google Play Store. Stadia games worked especially well on the Chromebook 2, as we were able to stream titles such as Destiny 2 and Super Bomberman R Online with virtually no noticeable latency. Graphically rich Android titles, such as Injustice 2 and Asphalt 9, also ran well on Samsung’s laptop, with crisp visuals and only a handful of performance hiccups.
However, it’s worth noting that not all Android games are optimized to be played on a laptop, so while Asphalt 9 was easy to control with the keyboard, the superhero brawling of Injustice 2 required us to swipe and tap on the screen (or deal with clunky mouse controls). Also, certain titles, such as Call of Duty: Mobile, were marked as incompatible with the Chromebook 2.
That brings us to an important point. For those not familiar, Chromebooks run on Google’s extremely lightweight Chrome OS software, which is largely designed for use with web-based apps like Google Chrome, Gmail and YouTube. This makes Chromebooks dead simple to use, but it also means they’re not as robust as MacBooks and Windows laptops, and can’t download nearly as many applications from the web.
Chromebooks did get a boost recently with support for Android apps, which you can download to your laptop via the Google Play Store. But since most Play Store apps are built for mobile devices, they can look and perform a little funky on a laptop. For example, we generally stuck to the browser-based versions of apps such as Slack and Discord on the Chromebook 2, since the Android versions made it harder to bounce between chat rooms while on a big screen. This isn’t a major issue if you can get most of your work done on the web, but power users who rely on intensive photo and video editing apps should make sure their go-to programs are supported and work well before picking up a Galaxy Chromebook 2 (or any Chromebook for that matter).
Decent battery life (and a disappointing camera)
Samsung’s premium Chromebook lasted roughly seven hours on our battery test, which consisted of playing a 4K video on a loop with the screen set to 50% brightness. That’s enough juice to get you through most of a workday, but you’ll want to keep a charger handy if you’re taking the Chromebook 2 on the road. By comparison, the cheaper Lenovo Chromebook Duet lasted closer to nine hours in our test.
The Chromebook 2’s 720p webcam leaves a lot to be desired. The selfies we snapped on Samsung’s laptop looked very blown out even under minimal natural lighting and very grainy in low light. It’ll still get the job done for occasional Zoom chats, but you might want to spring for a dedicated webcam if you want to look as clear and professional as possible during long days of back-to-back video meetings.
The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is an excellent premium Chromebook, delivering plenty of muscle for juggling spreadsheets, emails and video calls while sporting a design that’s as beautiful as it is versatile. And once it’s time to take a break from work for a Netflix binge, the laptop’s gorgeous QLED display is one of the best you can find on a laptop at this price.
If you’re on a budget or just want longer battery life (and don’t mind sacrificing some performance), the $279 Lenovo Chromebook Duet may be more your speed. It’s also worth considering the $649 Google Pixelbook Go, which impressed us with its strong battery life and punchy, quiet keyboard. But if you’re seeking great performance for the price — and care about having a laptop that looks good — the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 delivers big.