The Luxurious Chromebook
While others are just starting to sell their first generation Chromebooks, Samsung is well into its third generation of systems. Rather than having any particular strength in the classroom, the Chromebook 2 does everything well, although its $319 price tag is quite a bit more expensive than the competition.
The black Chromebook 2 (CB2) has the distinction of being the only computer of its kind that has a textured padded vinyl screen lid. I’m not so sure about the 1960s style faux stitching around the edge, but it all works together and can protect the system from damage.
At 2.6-pounds and 0.8- by 11.4- by 8.0-inches, the CB2 is slightly wider than Acer’s C720P, but 5-ounces lighter. With its AC adapter, the CB2 has a travel weight of 3.0-pounds, a few ounces lighter than the C720P, although its three-prong plug might prove to be a hassle in older schools that have elderly wiring. This is not as good as HP’s Chromebook 11, which uses a high-power USB AC adapter.
Like the current crop of Chromebooks, the Samsung system has an 11.6-inch display that shows 1,366 by 768 resolution. Unlike the Acer C720P, the CB2 is not touch-enabled, so you’ll need to rely on its keyboard and touchpad for interacting with the system. On the downside, the black-on-black internal color scheme might be a problem for teaching with the lights off.
As was the case with earlier Samsung Chromebooks, the company goes its own way as far as processor goes. The CB2 uses Samsung’s Exynos 5420 8-core processor that runs at 1.9GHz rather than an Intel Core, Pentium or Celeron chip. It has the advantage over the current generation of Chromebooks of using less power. The system comes with 4GB of memory, but its 16GB of flash storage is half as much as the C720P’s 32GB.
Samsung also makes a high-end Chromebook 2 model that raises the bar with a 2GHz Exynos processor, a 13.3-inch high definition screen and 4GB of RAM. It sells for $400.
Both Chromebooks come with the expected basics, like a Web cam, a pair of speakers and a built-in microphone. There’s also a good assortment of connections, with an HDMI port as well as USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, audio and a microSD card slot. Unfortunately, the CB2 lacks the wired LAN port that the Acer C710 (though not the C720p) provides; it works well with a generic USB-to-LAN adapter, though. As is the case with just about every other Chromebook available, Samsung’s new entry includes Bluetooth 4 and 802.11WiFi.
It’s more secure than most Chromebooks because the Samsung CB2 has a Trusted Platform Module that can lock down remote access and communications. The system passed my compatibility tests with flying colors, and was able to work with everything from a memory key and external hard drive to an Epson BrightLink projector, wireless speaker, keyboard and mouse. It printed to a Samsung CLP color laser printer via Google’s CloudPrint service without a problem.
It all adds up to a reliable Chromebook that was able to handle all the software I threw at it, including a bunch of the new offline apps and the University of Colorado’s PHET science and math simulations. It starts up in 7.6-seconds but the system came up short compared to the Intel-powered Chromebooks with a FutureMark PeaceKeeper score of 1,227 and a SunSpider score of 600ms. This corresponds to roughly half the performance potential of its peers.
On the other hand, the Chromebook 2 excels with a 4,080 milli-amp hour lithium polymer battery pack. It was able to run for 9 hours and 2 minutes of continuous video playback over WiFi on a charge, easily the best in class for the Chromebook crew. It’s nearly four hours longer than the C710 and roughly double the runtime of the Toshiba CB35.
With its basic 1-year warranty, the CB2 sells for $320, which is $70 more than Samsung’s first generation Chromebook and $20 more than Acer’s C720P touch-screen system. Like most of the students that it is intended for, the Samsung Chromebook 2 is good at most subjects and doesn’t disappoint when it’s pushed
+ Great battery life
+ Padded case
+ Light weight
+ Excellent configuration
+ Trusted Platform Module
+ 4GB of RAM
- Low performance potential