Those looking for a decent laptop for a little over $500 should find Samsung's new Chromebook Pro blipping constantly on their radar. Of course, there's a laundry list of Windows laptops under that budget range, but none so feature-rich and decent as Samsung's offering.
Samsung Chromebook Pro Reviews
The Chromebook Pro was unveiled at this past January's CES, alongside the Chromebook Plus, with the Pro having been already rumored since October. Differences between the Plus and Pro variant can be found mainly under the hood: Plus houses an ARM processor, the Pro an Intel Core m3 chip, which packs more power. In terms of graphics, the Plus has internal graphics, presumably integrated, while the Pro packs Intel HD Graphics 515.
Google's Chrome OS
It shouldn't be a surprise that the Pro runs on Google's Chrome OS, a mostly internet-based software that comes with Google's cache of cloud-based products, such as Docs, Gmail, Drive, and a handful more, all of which offer stellar synchronization features across different platforms.
Reviews for the Pro have come out ahead of its release, and they're mostly optimistic for Samsung's budget-priced Chromebook. CNET, in particular, is very positive about the Pro, calling it a "Chromebook for the Chromebook skeptic."
"For the price, it's hard to name a competing product that offers comparable features and performance," writes CNET. The review also notes that people are generally transitioning into full usage of a cloud-based ecosystem of products, so Chromebooks, while offering a completely new operating system, feels oddly familiar.
"[A]fter five years of evolution, the Chromebook concept finally feels ready for prime time."
Running Android Apps
There's one stellar feature on the newest version of ChromeOS that'll make a Chromebook believer out of a skeptic, but before that, let's clear the Pro's specs. This laptop has a 12.3 touchscreen with a 2,400 x 1,600 resolution. There's 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, and of course, ChromeOS, all powered by an Intel Core m3-6y30 chip, as mentioned.
But the real deal, the real selling point, is its ability to run nearly all Android apps from the Play Store. From every new Chromebook from this month moving forward, users will no longer be limited to web-based apps. Owning a Chromebook, in other words, means opening oneself up to Google's stellar breadth of apps on the Play Store, although some apps might not function as intended, such as Pokémon GO, Snapchat, and Uber.
Because the Pro's screen flips 360 degrees to become a tablet, not to mention an accelerometer and gyroscope under the hood, some games that require tilting will work, as noted by Fast Company, who was steadily impressed with the device but also mentioned certain errors that were associated with running android apps on the system.
"Some individual apps are also error-prone," with examples being Microsoft Office, which didn't respond to scroll gestures, or 3D Labyrinth, a game which didn't display properly on the screen. "Although Google has been asking top app makers to optimize their software, most apps still feel like they were made for phones and tablets."
"Yet despite all of these issues and concerns, here I am using a Chromebook in ways I never did before, and wondering whether I really need a Windows laptop anymore."
Is The Samsung Chromebook Pro A MacBook Alternative?
Forbes thinks the Pro is a serious PC and MacBook competitor, even going as far as heralding the device as poised to usurp the MacBook. While certainly a bold assumption, the Pro's combination of a relatively cheap price point, cloud-based features, not to mention its ability to run (some) Android apps, might just be indicative that it deserves Forbes's glowing review.
"Google's Chromebooks keep becoming closer and closer to high-end MacBooks and PCs with each iteration," writes Forbes, noting the stark disparity of prices between MacBooks and Chromebooks.
Reviews were particularly impressed with the Pro's screen quality, its weight, thickness, and the ability to charge off a USB-C port. There's also a handy stylus that comes with the Pro, which can be slid inside a dedicated slot when not in use.
Chromebooks were once thought of as backup laptops or secondary devices that didn't hold a candle to much more powerful primary laptops. While the specs aren't anything to boast about, the Pro packs just about the right number of features, combined with Google's evolving ChromeOS, that'll maybe cause it to be written off the "secondary laptops" category.
The Samsung Chromebook Pro ships in April, and the Plus, which packs slightly lower specs, comes out Feb. 12.