Samsung's just-announced Chromebook 2s have impressive specs, but they also have one serious drawback as well. Are they the best Chromebooks ever, or has Samsung made a serious miscalculation with them?
In April, Samsung will start selling two new Chromebook 2s, and they appear to be a serious upgrade over its very good existing Samsung Chromebooks. There's an 11-inch model and a 13-inch one, and both are powered by a new Samsung chip, the ARM-based 2.1 Ghz Exynos 5 Octa, which has eight individual cores. Four processors do the bulk of the work, and then the other four come into play when the processing load gets higher. The 13-inch model may have a more powerful Exynos 5 Octa than the 11-incher, but that's still to be seen.
Both models will come with 4GB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage with an additional 100 GB of Google Drive storage, and a 720p Webcam. There's also a nice assortment of ports, including HDMI out, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 and a microSD slot. As for screens, the 11-incher has the typical Chromebook 1366-by-768 resolution, but is brighter than past screens. And the 13-incher sports a serious screen, with full HD 1920-by-1080 resolution. Because of the screen improvements, both models are certified by Google for running Google Hangouts, something other Chromebooks haven't yet received.
Samsung is also trying to get away from the standard plain-Jane Chromebook design with the two models, with a faux-leather exterior.
All that sounds quite impressive, and so on paper at least, these two sound like the best Chromebooks ever. But there is one potentially big big problem with the new Samsung line -- price. The new 11-incher will sell for $320, and the 13-incher for $400. It's pretty well established by now that between $200 to $250 or just a tad higher is the Chromebook's sweet spot. Take a look at the Amazon best seller list for laptops -- five of the top 12 laptops are Chromebooks, and they range in price from $200 to $256. Samsung's existing Chromebook is there at number 2, and it sells for $230. At $250 or under, a Chromebook is a great deal. You get a light, usable machine that will handle most productivity tasks as well as browsing the Web and email. It's tough to beat that.
But $320 and $400? Now you're starting to talk real money, and bumping against the lowest-priced Windows laptops. For example, you can get a Dell Inspiron 15.6-inch laptop with 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive and Windows 8 for $355. And there are plenty of other similar laptops you can buy in that general price range. Will someone really want to pay $50 more for a machine with a much smaller screen, much smaller hard disk, and that can only effectively work when connected to the Internet?
So if price is no object, one of these new Samsung Chromebook 2's could be just what you want. But if you're leery of paying up to $400 for a Chromebook, they won't be for you.