The Samsung Chromebook Plus ($449.99) combines the strengths of a laptop, like a stable hardware keyboard, with a tablet’s light weight and responsive touch screen. This 2-in-1 convertible is also one of the new wave of chromebooks that can run Android apps, in addition to the browser-based ChromeOS. That means you can access the millions of apps, games, and utilities from the Google Play store. It is a bit pricey for a chromebook, due in part to its 2,400-by-1,600-resolution screen and premium, metal build, but these features and the included Samsung Pen make it worth a look, if you have a flexible budget and you don’t need Windows.
Metal Construction, Minimalist Design
Like the Asus Chromebook Flip ($699.99 at Amazon) , the Chromebook Plus ($828.00 at Amazon) is built into a bright-silver, aluminum body that gives it a premium look and feel. The monochrome Chrome logo on the lid looks classy and minimal. It is quite thin and light at 0.5 by 11 by 8.7 inches (HWD) and 2.34 pounds.
The 12.3-inch, 2,400-by-1,600-resolution In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen delivers wide viewing angles and looks very clear when reading text or critiquing the fine detail in photos. The resolution is scaled down to 1,200 by 800 out of the box, but you can set that higher if want the added screen real estate to, say, view more cells in a spreadsheet. (Keep in mind that upping the resolution translates to much smaller text.) The screen brightness is rated at 400 nits, brighter than the 200-300 nit displays on most consumer laptops, though the Gorilla Glass covering the screen is somewhat reflective.
As with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 , the 3:2 aspect ratio screen is narrower than the 16:9 displays you see on most current laptops. This makes the Chromebook Pro easy to use as a drawing tablet. The long overhang on a 16:9 convertible feels awkward; it’s like carrying a legal-size paper pad versus a letter-size one. Holding the laptop in Tablet mode in the crook of one arm and drawing on its screen with the bundled stylus feels almost as natural as writing on a sheet of paper.
Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4)
Dell Chromebook 3189 Education 2-in-1
Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-532-C47C)
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 Special Edition (3153)
Lenovo N22-20 Touch Chromebook
Acer Chromebook R 13 (CB5-312T-K5X4)
Acer Aspire Switch 11 V (SW5-173-632W)
Microsoft Surface Book (2016, Intel Core i7)
Asus Transformer Mini (T102HA-D4-GR)
There are disadvantages to this approach, however. One of the most noticeable is letterboxing, in which there are black bars above and below videos formatted for a 16:9 screen. Other less noticeable nits are the relatively narrow Backspace, Backslash, Enter, Right Shift and Tab keys on the chiclet-style keyboard. If you’re a touch typist, they could be an issue. If you really need full-size keys for typing for long periods of time, then you may want to choose a larger laptop, like the Acer Chromebook 15 ($199.00 at Acer) .
The keyboard isn’t backlit, like it is on the similarly priced Asus Chromebook Flip. Key travel feels soft and a bit shallow, but it’s certainly better than the flappy keyboard cover on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ($849.00 at Amazon) . Typing is comfortable, but it’s not what we would call ideal. By comparison, the scalloped keys and deeper key travel on the Windows-based Lenovo Yoga 710 (11″) ($549.99 at Lenovo) feel luxurious. The touchpad supports multitouch commands (pinch-to-zoom, scroll, right-click, etc.), when you’re not tapping on the keyboard or the screen.
Like most other convertible laptops, the keyboard and touchpad deactivate once you rotate the screen past 180 degrees. Thanks to its convertible design, you can use the Chromebook Plus like a traditional laptop in Notebook mode, or flip the screen all the way around to use it in Tablet mode. You can also fold the keyboard back and face down, with the screen facing toward you (Stand mode), or orient the system hinge-side-up for movie viewing in Tent mode. The screen exhibits a bit of bounce as you quickly tap it with your fingers, but it’s a minor nit.
Pen and Ports
The Chromebook Plus comes with the pressure-sensitive Samsung Pen, which stows in a compartment on the right side of the laptop. The Pen is spring-loaded, and popping it out brings up a pen-based command menu (Stylus Tools) on the screen, which activates shortcuts for clipping screenshots, creating new handwritten notes, activating a magnifying glass, or displaying a cursor that looks like a laser pointer. Samsung bundles a screen-painting program called ArtCanvas, though you’ll be able to peruse the Google Play store for additional Android-based graphics programs.
The Pen feels like it’s made for part-time use, as it is sized to be stowed in the Chromebook Plus’s slender laptop body. At less than 1/8-inch thick and 4.5 inches long, it’s thin and short. The full-size Samsung S Pen ($79) that comes with the Galaxy Tab S3 ($235.00 at Amazon) works with the Chromebook Plus’s screen, and feels more natural in your hand. For more on our experiences with the Samsung Pen, check out our preview of the upcoming Samsung Chromebook Pro .
There are two USB-C ports (one on either side), which support displays and can be used to charge the laptop with the included USB-C charger. There are also a microSD card reader and a headset jack on the left side, but that’s it for wired connectivity. You’ll need adapters for older USB 3.0 storage devices, HDMI displays, wired Ethernet, and USB printers. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Android Apps on a Chromebook
Support for Android apps on ChromeOS is available out of the box, though dialog boxes still claim that the support is in beta. Apps we downloaded from the Google Play store, like Disney Movies Anywhere and Asphalt 8, worked great. Asphalt 8 ran smoothly in testing, and you can control the game using the laptop’s gyroscope and accelerometers. While playing a driving game on a 12.3-inch laptop in Tablet mode is technically something you can do, the 2.34-pound system is a bit heavy to game on for very long. Holding the Chromebook Plus straight out with both hands, my arms started to tire after a few levels on Asphalt 8; in contrast, playing the same game on my 7-ounce phone was no problem.
Memory and Storage
Most chromebooks come with only 2GB of memory, which is certainly enough for day-to-day browsing and video viewing, and it keeps the price down. The Chromebook Plus comes with 4GB, so it can handle more than a dozen open browser tabs. Likewise, some less expensive chromebooks only give you 16GB of local storage, while pricier systems like the Chromebook Plus and the Dell Chromebook 3189 Education 2-in-1 ($239.00 at Dell Technologies) come with double that. While 32GB doesn’t seem like a lot of storage, it’s plenty if you consider that the system also comes with 100GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for two years (after that, it’s $20 per year). The microSD slot will eventually support cards up to 2TB, though 256GB cards are the maximum capacity available now.
Samsung offers a one-year warranty for the Chromebook Plus, with the option for Samsung Protection Plus ($99 for two years), which covers accidental damage. The Asus Chromebook Flip gives you more coverage, since it comes with one year of accidental coverage in addition to the standard one-year warranty.
The ARM-based OP1 processor in the Chromebook Plus is compatible with the millions of Android apps available in the Google Play store, and runs ChromeOS efficiently. The system was able to play full HD and 1440p videos smoothly from YouTube streams and other sources in testing. However, when we played 4K content, we noticed occasional skipped frames, especially when there were more than five or six browser tabs open at the same time. While not a deal breaker, the stuttering is noticeable if you have a critical eye.
The Chromebook Plus boots from a power-off state in less than 10 seconds, which is quick, even for a chromebook. ChromeOS can’t run our standard Windows-based benchmark tests, so we were only able to observe the laptop’s performance on day-to-day tasks. It felt quick while loading most websites and web apps. The comparably priced Asus Transformer Mini (T102HA-D4-GR) Windows laptop manages capable, if unexciting, performance, thanks to its quad-core Intel Atom x5 processor. You can expect similar performance from the Chromebook Plus.
Battery life is good, though not excellent, at 8 hours and 54 minutes. That’s better than some laptops, like the Windows-based Lenovo IdeaPad 110S ($229.99 at Lenovo) (7:36), but the Chrome-based Asus Chromebook Flip (10:23) and the Acer Chromebook 15 (14:17) lasted many more hours off the plug.
A Chromebook for Early Adopters
The Samsung Chromebook Plus, while pricey, is an attractive option for its premium build and versatile convertible form factor along with its bright, clear screen with more-than-full-HD resolution. And the bundled Samsung Pen is convenient for quick sketches and other instances when you need a stylus for fine control. It’s one of the first chromebooks to support Android apps out of the box, but there are sure to be others soon, including its soon-to-be-released Core m3-powered big brother, the Samsung Chromebook Pro.
Our Editors’ Choice chromebook, the Asus Chromebook Flip, another 2-in-1, outshines the Chromebook Plus on battery life, local storage space, and overall performance. Plus, you get accidental damage coverage and a backlit keyboard, for just $50 more. If you’re interested in a Windows-based system, the 11-inch Lenovo Yoga 710, our Editors’ Choice for budget 2-in-1 convertible laptops, has a more powerful processor, 256GB of storage, a better keyboard, and improved battery life for about the same price.
Samsung Chromebook Plus
Light weight and thin body.
Comes with Samsung Pen stylus.
Two USB-C ports.
Android app compatibility.
Keyboard isn’t backlit.
Shallow key travel.
Legacy accessories require an adapter.
Rival systems have longer battery life.
The Bottom Line
Samsung’s Chromebook Plus takes convergence to another level, with a 2-in-1 form factor and the ability to run both Android apps and ChromeOS.
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