Samsung is widely recognized for its phones and TVs, but the company also makes quite a few Chromebooks. With its Chromebook Pro (See it on Amazon), Samsung is using Google’s Chrome OS (of course) while also adding a bit of its smartphone know-how to the recipe. No, there’s not an iris scanner or Super AMOLED display, but instead the Chromebook Pro comes with an embedded pen, similar to what you’d find in the latest Galaxy Note smartphone. It also includes a high-res panel (for a Chromebook, at least) and is spill resistant, making it almost a phone/laptop hybrid. At $549 it’s on the higher-end of the Chromebook pricing scale, and it’s the flagship Samsung Chromebook. Let’s see if its worth the higher price.
One note before we jump in – Chromebooks are obviously not gaming machines or for power users. We evaluate Chromebooks based off their design, build quality, battery life, and general ability to be an effective “daily driver” when it comes to web browsing, word processing, and other basic tasks. A high-scoring, inexpensive Chromebook should not be compared directly to a high-scoring, expensive gaming laptop.
Here are the specifications of the Samsung Chromebook Pro I am evaluating:
- Model: Samsung Chromebook Pro (XE510C24)
- Display: 12.3-inch LED 2400×1600
- Processor: Intel Core m3 Processor 6Y30 (0.9GHz to 2.2GHz)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
- Memory: 4GB LPDDR3
- OS: Chrome OS
- Storage: 32GB eMMC SSD
- Webcam: 720p
- Ports: 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack, 2 x USB-C. 1 x microSD
- Connectivity: 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.1
- Dimensions: 11.06 x 8.72 x 0.55-inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 2.38 pounds
- Price: $549
Outside of gaming computers, it’s increasingly rare to see an all-black finish on a laptop. Even the Chrome logo, which is typically bright and colorful, is dark gray atop the Chromebook Pro’s matte black housing. The silver hinges and Samsung logo on the lid are just enough to break up the black theme.
Upon opening the lid, you’ll notice the 3:2 aspect ratio of the 12.3-inch QHD (2400×1600) display. It takes a little time to adjust to the non-traditional screen ratio (16:9), but it’s nothing to worry about. The display is crisp and responsive to touch. The material used to cover the display is smooth and doesn’t attract fingerprints. With the untraditional ratio, the size of the Chromebook Pro is also a bit different, measuring 11.06 x 8.72 x 0.55-inches and weighing just 2.38-pounds. It’s extremely portable and also a 2-in-1 convertible that includes a stylus that tucks away neatly inside the chassis.
Inside the tiny laptop is an Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB of LPDDR3 memory, and a 32GB eMMC SSD for storage. If you’re worried about not having enough storage, a microSD card slot with protective cover is found next to a USB Type-C port and 3.5mm audio jack on the left side of the laptop. On the opposite side is another USB Type-C port and a housing for the pen stylus. Both USB Type-C ports are for charging or USB data transfers, but you’ll need a $50 USB Type-C to HDMI adapter to run a 4k display. To remove the stylus, you press on the top of it and it pops out. A volume rocker and the power button are also located on the right side. Wireless connectivity is handled via 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1.
The keyboard and touchpad are kind of boring, but that’s not a bad thing. The touchpad is more rectangular than it is square, and the keyboard offers the standard Chrome OS layout; with a row of shortcut buttons at the top, and a standard layout (save for the Caps Lock button replaced by a search button) below it. The touchpad is responsive, both for gestures and clicking.
Two speakers are tucked on the underside of the Chromebook Pro, which is held up by four feet on the bottom. The gap is enough for decent sound to stream from the speakers, however, they are easy to cover when placed on your lap.
Real world use of the Chromebook Pro reminded me of the lack of performance hiccups and reloading Chrome tabs as I experienced on Google’s Pixelbook and the Asus Chromebook Flip.
The Asus Chromebook Flip and Chromebook Pro scored 45,645 and 45,862, respectively, in the Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. The rest of the scores for the Chromebook Pro were similarly close, such as the Geekbench 4.0 multi-core score of 4,972 for the Flip and 4,993 for the Pro. Overall it is safe to say the Samsung Chromebook Pro performs as well at the higher-end of the spectrum, and you’d be hard pressed to find one that is significantly faster.
Also, using the pen was convenient at times, such as snapping quick screenshots and annotating them, or using the stylus in place of my finger to navigate the OS. The pen’s housing on the side is als handily recessed so that accidentally ejecting and losing it won’t be an issue. Also, if you happen to mess up the tip of the pen, Samsung has graciously thrown a couple extra tips and a replacement tool in the box.
When using the Chromebook Pro in tablet mode, and holding it in portrait orientation, the screen’s ratio makes it feel more like a standard piece of paper. This is especially helpful when editing a document, using the pen as a highlighter.
Speaking of tablet mode, Chrome OS does a good job of adapting to the various modes as you rotate the screen from laptop to tent to tablet mode, but Google desperately needs to do something about the virtual keyboard. It’s ugly and not user-friendly by any means.
Using Geekbench 4 to handle IGN’s Chrome OS battery test, the Chromebook Pro clocked in at 6 hours and 13 minutes. The score is the lowest we’ve seen on a Chromebook yet, and for something that has “Pro” in the name is quite disappointing. Real world use resulted in battery life closer to 7.5 hours, but still a tad short of the 9 hours Samsung advertises. Still, with that kind of battery life, you should be able to get through most of a work day, a full schedule of school classes, or even a cross-country flight.
The Chromebook Pro I used for testing is currently on the stable channel, with Chrome OS 63.0.3239.140 installed. Support for the Google Play Store and Android apps is included out of the box. Samsung always had some sort of software tweak in its products that also include a stylus or pen. With the Chromebook Pro, it comes in the form of a shortcut to the Chrome OS stylus tools.
Immediately after removing the pen from the laptop’s base the stylus tool activates and pops up, asking what you’d like to do: Capture region, Capture screen, Create note, Laser pointer, or Magnifying glass. AirCommand, a feature that typically accompanies Samsung’s pen on the likes of the Note smartphone or even some of its Windows products is nowhere to be found on the Chromebook Pro.
The Samsung Chromebook Pro has an MSRP of $549 but it can be regularly found online for $500 or a little less. It’s also a little more prone than most Chromebooks to go out of stock, but it generally returns after just a day or two: