Samsung Chromebook Pro (XE510C24-K01US) Review
Chromebooks are now center stage; and, the 2017 Samsung Chromebook Pro makes a compelling case for “premium” chromebooks. It combines the strengths of a laptop, like a responsive 12-inch QHD touch display, a 2-in-1 design, a stylish stylus, and enough processing power. This 2-in-1 convertible joins the new wave of chromebooks that can run Android apps, alongside the stock browser-based Chrome OS, giving you access to a full array of Android apps via the Google Play store. At the end of the day, Chromebooks appeal to most of us for affordability, beefy processors and longer battery life.
The Chromebook Pro seems to fall a bit short on both fronts, though not prohibitively so. Take for instance the pricing, it seems a bit pricey, due in part to its 2,400-by-1,600 resolution screen and a premium, metal construction, and the the included Samsung Pen makes a compelling case, worth a look if you have a flexible budget and don’t rely on Windows for day-to-day computing.
Premium Feel, Metal Construction
If stylish gadgets excite you, the Samsung Chromebook Pro’s design will tick off off a few boxes, design wise. It is set in a sleek chassis, measuring 0.55 by 11.06 by 8.72 inches (HWD) and weighs a paltry 2.3 pounds. For starters, this is compact and portable enough to fit into, almost any, backpack, and light enough to carry on your back on daily commute. Compared: It’s fairly the same size we’ve seen on the Asus Chromebook Flip (0.53 by 11.96 by 8.26 inches), and, just like any typical convertible laptop, the Pro can be used in four modes: Laptop, Stand, Tend, and Tablet.
Samsung gave the Pro a minimalist look, but it does live up to a premium design and pricing. On the lid, it gets a Samsung logo and a not-so-bold Chrome logo. The Chromebook pro is available in black, and the color makes a point of differentiation from its other stable mate, the Samsung Chromebook Plus, available in silver color and released around the same time.
It features a crisp 12.3-inch 2,400-by-1,600 touch screen. The screen looks clear enough, and while you won’t have the razor sharp detail on pictures and movies, its still a better resolution than the 1,366-by-768 resolution you get on most 11- or 13-inch chromebooks. Even with the nice screen, its 3:2 aspect ration gives it a square look that the rectangular look you’d get on most laptops.
While it doesn’t count for much, you might find it uncomfortable staring at it for long as you type, since you barely have any space on the side. It even becomes complex when trying to keep multiple windows open. Wondering why Samsung opted to give it a squarish look? A wild guess sends me to the assumption that they were mimicking the size of an A4 paper that can seamlessly be used with the included Stylus Pen.
Stylus Pen not an S-Pen, but Close
The included Samsung Stylus pen, it actually isn’t an S-Pen, but something close to it. Both Google and Samsung have confirmed that it uses the same hardware as the S-Pen, but the experience is different, altogether. It makes se of predictive machine learning to analyze your handwriting and reduce latency, and being pressure sensitive, it can easily be used with ArtCanvas or Google Keep to turn your handwriting into text.
The Pro will prompt you with a small menu once the stylus is ejected from its slot, including: taking partial or full screenshots, creating new notes, laser pointer mode, and a magnifying glass mode. The stylus pen isn’t as precise as the S-Pen, since you can visibly see some latency while using it for writing or drawing. Plus, pressure sensitivity works based on the app so the experience isn’t uniform across all apps.
For connectivity, the Pro has forward-looking ports including two USB-C ports, one on each side. This is quite impressive, but in case you have lots of peripherals, its easy to end up in #Donglehell with adapters, so is the case when you want to hook it up to an external display where you need an adapter. Additionally, it has a headset jack, a microSD card reader, and a spring-loaded stylus holder alongside a power button and the volume control.
There’s a 720p HD webcam, an accelerometer and a gyroscope that suffices for playing games. Also, it gets dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0. Here you get 32GB of flash storage – not much, but with Chrome OS its still enough and par with competitors.
Powerful, but Skimps on Battery Life
The Chromebook Pro is outfitted with a 900MHz Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor and 4GB of RAM, which is quite enough for the course. This combination allows you to do multiple browser tabs and stream HD videos, without any lags. Since it supports android apps, you can be doing all that and still keep four or five Android apps open in the background.
So far, I’m convinced that it isn’t the processor, screen or convertibility that makes the Samsung Pro stand out. Competitors like the Asus Chromebook Flip have beefier chips, that are better than the Celeron or ARM processors you’d find in most chromebooks. What sets it apart from the pack is the fact that its one of the first chromebooks to launch with seamless Google Play app store integration.
By integrating Google Play into a chromebook, Samsung and Google have managed to overcome the greatest obstacle of buying and using chromebooks: limited software. Until recently, a chromebook was only gauged on strength of your Wi-Fi signal, but now things are looking up. Android apps now give you a never-thought work around to reliability on Internet, as you can comfortably work offline. Although the integration isn’t very smooth, we’re glad for the step that has been made so far, and hope for refined chromebooks going forward.
Battery life, however, is middle-of-the-road. The Chromebook managed to eke a mere 8 hours and 39 minutes in our tests – which isn’t quite impressive. Although it is better than most laptops, it is still below what we term as all-day life, and fairly in the same class as the HP Chromebook 13 (8.14) and the Lenovo N22-20 Touch Chromebook (9.06). It is, however, dismally behind what we saw from the Acer Chromebook 14 (11:52) and the Acer Chromebook 15 (14:19)
Ready for Early Adopters
The Samsung Chromebook Pro, while a bit pricey, is an attractive option that’s hard to pass by for its premium build, versatile 2-in-1 convertible design, along with a high-resolution screen. And the bundled Stylus Pen makes for a lot, if you occasionally need to do quick sketches and drawings. Plus, the fact that it among the first chromebooks to support Android apps, out of the box, counts for a lot. For sure, there are going to be others soon, as we have seen with its younger brother, the Samsung Chromebook Plus.
As I said earlier, chromebooks owe their appeal to their affordability and all-day battery life, but once they start getting pricey, the prospects become lean. Even with the benefit of launching with the Google Play store, we still expect affordability and better battery life. In fact, the Google Play apps isn’t exclusive to this system alone. It will apply to almost all chromebooks launching this year, so it’s a tempting wait for better prices and battery life. Right now, if you can’t wait for fairly priced chromebooks to hit the market later in the year, the Asus Chromebook Flip , that has a larger screen, same processing power, double storage and offers almost 2 extra hours of battery life, looks like a better deal worth a long look.