The Chromebook market has been one of the bright spots in the computer market along with Windows convertibles and detachable PCs. While Chromebooks don’t run a full, desktop operating system, it does run Chrome OS which gives it some pluses, namely simplicity, security and browser familiarity with some disadvantages too. These limited abilities work fine in scenarios where educators want to deploy a productivity computing environment for students or for consumers and enterprises that have no desire to use a computer for anything other than web browsing where all their apps are on the web. Chromebooks have been selling so well that they outsold Macs in Q1 last year, so something is working.
I wanted to take a look at the latest and greatest Chromebook from Samsung announced at CES 2017, the Chromebook Plus, and see how it handles productivity tasks. I used the Samsung Chromebook Plus for about 2 weeks as my secondary system. My primary was a desktop PC with three displays when in the office and a 13-15” thin notebook when traveling. I shadowed my regular laptop and desktop usage and reveal to me its ability to replicate my daily productivity and entertainment needs.
Because the Chromebook Plus can run now Android applications, I installed numerous popular Android apps to test myself but I did not run any peripherals or additional hardware. Those Android apps included, OneDrive, Twitter, Hangouts, OneNote, Play Movies, Photos, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Outlook, LinkedIn, Messenger, CPU-Z and Device Policy (did not work). These apps are designed to help cover an array of usage scenarios without going overboard on the overall number of apps installed and their exact purposes. Office 365 apps would not load, which I'll get to later.
Experience assessment in a nutshell
As a classic Chromebook experience, the Samsung Chromebook Plus exceeded my expectations in display quality, industrial design and versatility. Adding the Android app dimension was a utility improvement for sure, but that experience needs refinement as it’s a bit rough. I expect that enterprises will need to wrap their heads around using Chrome OS plus Android apps before they dive in with all limbs.
What I really liked
The Samsung Chromebook Plus has a high-quality thin (1/2-inch), all-metal industrial design that is also lightweight (2.38 lbs) and did not suffer from bending issues either as many other thin devices do. A 12” 2-in-1 PC could easily weigh a pound more than this Chromebook. The Quad HD 12.3" display which has a 2,400 x 1,600 (234 PPI) resolution with a 3:2 ratio was wonderful and the best display I’ve used in a Chromebook. Because of this display, videos on YouTube in 4K as well as Play Movie store in 1080P looked great without zero lag or tearing.
The Chromebook Plus included a pen was very convenient and hard to lose and I didn’t experience much lag at all. It's not like writing on a Surface or iPad Pro but pretty good. It isn’t particularly for the “use all day” pen crowd but that’s okay as it’s good to use occasionally. The pen worked well with both Google Keep and OneNote and I could take hand-written notes in Keep and then search for it. That feature is very, very cool and removes one huge barrier to taking pen notes, the inability to search. The full-size keyboard with multitasking and “shrink window”, volume and display keys was a nice thing to have.
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