Samsung's Chromebook Plus- Nearly a Winner

It's no secret that I really love Chromebooks. Google has done an exceptional job with ChromeOS and many manufacturers have created great laptops running ChromeOS. This year looks to be the best year ever for Chromebooks as every Chromebook coming out this year will have USB Type-C for charging and connecting devices, will be able to run Android apps, and many manufacturers are coming out with more premium builds for their machines.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to try out the Samsung Chromebook Plus. Overall, it's a pretty great Chromebook. It looks greats, the screen is amazing, and the pen is easy to use and works well. However, it falls short in a couple of categories. Read on to find out a bit more. 

 

Samsung Chromebook Plus

Pros

  • Amazing Screen quality with a great screen ratio for tablet use
  • Great overall build quality
  • Fantastic Pen input
  • Android apps work well overall
  • Small, light, and easy to carry

Cons

  • The processor just isn't powerful enough as a Chromebook
  • 4GB of RAM just isn't enough
  • The keyboard could be better
 

Cons

Let's start the Cons, everyone always starts with the Pros! While I do like Plus overall as a Chromebook, there are some issues for a user like myself. Who is that you might ask? Well, I'm a proud owner of a Chromebook Pixel LS from 2015 with 16GB of RAM and an Intel i5 processor. This means that my comparison of this Chromebook overall could be a bit unfair. 

The Chromebook Plus comes with special ARM based processor that is certified by Google. If you want to know more about it, read this great article from The Verge. What this processor does particularly well is work with Android Apps, but as you can see in this video from Chrome Unboxed, the Plus's processor doesn't hold up to the Intel processors like the M3 that you'll find in both the Asus 302C and the Samsung Chromebook Pro. In face, it's half as fast for ChromeOS based tasks.

 

What this means to someone new to Chromebooks or to someone without a need for a really powerful Chromebook is that it will still likely work really well for you overall. I found that there were some issues with loading JavaScript heavy sites like Squarespace or loading pages like Google Photos especially on a slower internet connection. I tried it against my MacBook Pro, another generally unfair comparison, and found it to be quite sluggish at times. 

The problems were the worst when I was signed into two accounts at the same time and was running Android apps at the same time. If I only had a few tabs or Android apps open the Plus and was only signed into one account performance was generally acceptable. Where I suspect some of the issues come into play is with the outstandingly awesome and high resolutions screen. I think the special ARM processor just can't quite keep up with the extra pixels at times.  This may not be a big deal to most people. However, I think my next Con is related and may, in fact, contribute the Plus's issues.

The Chromebook Plus has 4GB of RAM, which a few years ago was a great thing on a Chromebook and I wouldn't recommend purchasing a Chromebook with anything less than 4GB of RAM. More RAM means the computer has more memory to have more things going on. More tabs can be open, more apps can be running, and generally more is better. Generally speaking, more RAM means better performance. 

Unfortunately, that beast does not yet exist and a Chromebook that runs Android apps and has a high resolution screen needs, as Jeremy Clarkson would put it, ‘More Power’. 

The RAM limitation on something that runs both ChromeOS and Android apps is a big one. Chromebooks are making an evolution where they can do much more than before and have access to nearly the entire Google Playstore.  When you pair that with a processor that is half as fast as Intel based (x86) processors, this issue becomes even more apparent. It would be interesting to see a Chromebook with a similar processor to this one, but using 8GB of RAM. It might make many of the issues disappear. Unfortunately, that beast does not yet exist and a Chromebook that runs Android apps and has a high resolution screen needs, as Jeremy Clarkson would put it, "More Power". 

Asus 302CA Chromebook 

The last issue with the Samsung Chromebook Plus is a minor one in comparison. The keyboard just plain feels a bit to cheap. The keys feel a bit hollow and they are not back lit. Some reviewers have not like the size of the keyboard, but I have not had any issues with that. It is a bit smaller due to the 3:2 screen ratio, but it still works well for me. I just wish it the keys were the same as the keys on the Asus 302C. This may be a preference of course and you might love this keyboard.

Pros!!!

With the bad out of the way, let's talk about the Pros of the Chromebook Plus by Samsung. Starting with design, the Plus is very lightweight and easy to carry around. It has a great little USB Type-C charger that works well. It also charges using my TYLT ENERGI Pro Power backpack (Yes get one, they are great) battery and charges pretty quickly. The Plus is sturdy and has a great build quality. 

Part of the amazing build quality is the the fantastic 3:2 high resolution screen that both the Plus and Pro models of this Chromebook come with. This screen is very similar to the one I have on my Chromebook Pixel and the plus is almost one third the price. Anyone who buys this Chromebook will love the screen without a doubt. I also prefer the 3:2 aspect ratio, especially for tablet mode. In short the screen is bright, sharp, and has good black levels.

Beyond the screen the Plus comes with a great stylus. The stylus worked great in the apps I used it with. I didn't find any issues with major lag. In fact the pressure sensitive stylus rendered my horrible handwriting as perfectly as a piece of paper. The palm rejection was excellent as well. Though I don't take handwritten notes because of my handwriting and I'm not a talented artist,  I found myself often using the stylus to turn pages of a book, navigate the Chromebook's interface and I even used it in many apps. I could see myself using it for grading or making some notation on articles though.

Stylus on Chromebook PLus

My wife tried this feature out and she was really surprised by how well the stylus worked for her. She has good handwriting and could see herself taking notes with the Chromebook Plus.  That point brings us to the last great thing about this Chromebook. It can run Android apps right out of the box! I downloaded a few to use with the stylus and with the exception of app sometimes not going full screen when you turn the Chromebook a certain direction, they all work very well. I used Netflix, Google Play Movies, and Hangouts without any issues at all. I even downloaded content to the Plus for viewing offline and it work perfectly. Having access to the hundreds of thousands of apps on Android is really going to make a huge difference for those how believe that Chromebooks can't do enough. 

 

Conclusion

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is nearly a great Chromebook, but falls short in and couple of key areas for power users. The processor could be more powerful and Chromebooks in general could use just a bit more RAM. 8GB would be perfect. However for a user who wants to be able to use a stylus to take notes or draw, and doesn't open tons of tabs and run 5 applications at the same time. In fact, if my wife used the Plus on a daily basis, I would bet she would really like it.

In terms of educational use, the $449 price tag takes it out of the reach of a 1:1 device for most schools, but it might make a good option for teacher machines. The higher resolution screen and ability to take notes and markup student work would make it a good choice.  

The Samsung Chromebook Plus has a great screen, an OK keyboard, and is built really well. The Plus's more powerful kin, the Pro, will be out in April and I look forward to trying that one out as well. It may well be the Chromebook I have been looking for.