2014 saw over 10 new Chromebooks hit the consumer market, but if you just looked at basic names listed on Amazon.com, you might not realize it- we seem to be getting a lot of variants on new Chromebooks coming out, such as an education version, or a trimmed-down budget version of a device (I’m looking at you, Toshiba Chromebook 2 B3330).
Samsung released two versions of their Chromebook 2 this year—you should check out our review of the first one—but at the price point of $249, that Chromebook’s little brother, the XE500C12, isn’t one to be overlooked.
To get right into it, the big selling point here is the Intel processor. In contrast to the Exynos processors of the rest of the Samsung Chromebook family, the Intel N2840 gives up a little bit of power in favor of extended battery life.
How does it compare to the original Samsung Chromebook 2? Through basic use I couldn’t find much difference, but I did notice some slowness developing once I reached about 12 streaming tabs of video. All in all, though, you’ll find the performance is just about on par with the other 2014 Chromebooks in the same weight class, like the Toshiba Chromebook 35A.
Processor aside, this Chromebook 2 touts a modest 2 gb of RAM and 16 gb of internal storage, also standard fare for Chromebooks in the $200-$300 range. It also boasts 802.11ac wireless technology, so users with that kind of power in their wireless access points will have a seriously robust wireless internet experience.
This Chromebook 2 sports a typical Macbook-influenced clamshell design, and is the same size as the XE503C21, although it’s about .2 lbs lighter. It also features a 1.3 MP webcam, and stereo 2 watt downward facing speakers underneath.
The keyboard and touchpad are quite functional (even for users with large hands) but not anything to write home about either—Samsung seems to be gunning for a very middle-of-the-road device here, with the only really outstanding quality being battery life.
When the device first showed up in our office, some people mocked the fake leather stitching, but at the end of the day it still looks pretty slick (and looks aren’t everything, as we learned with the Samsung 303c).
The ports are spread out sparsely on the Chromebook 2, with one side devoted to a USB 3.0 port and the A/C port, and the other side shared between a USB 2.0, HDMI output, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a MicroSD slot. I have to say I’m disappointed they didn’t swap it for a full SD slot (yes, some of us are still living in 2010), but it does lend to a clean form factor along the side of the case.
The case is small, but not delicate- both the top and bottom panels feel sturdy from the inside. The flex when lifting from the bottom corners is almost completely negligible, but is a little more pronounced around the edges of the screen.
Still, it’s noticeably stronger than similarly sized Chromebooks, like the Acer C720, and against the Samsung 303 (this Chromebook’s true predecessor), there’s no contest whatsoever. It’s relieving to see Samsung show more care towards build quality in their lower-price models.
As with many of the Chromebooks in this price range, the display leaves a little to be desired. It’s an improvement on the 303c (significantly better viewing angles) and it just about matches the display quality of the original Samsung Chromebook 2. Having said that, it’s still a little bit washed out, and while it claims an HD display, it’s still a lackluster 1366×768 rather than 1080 (although 1080 would be a little excessive on an 11.6” screen).
Battery life being the driving quality behind this Chromebook 2 (besides a lower price tag), I was the most eager to test it out, and I was not let down. While Samsung claims up to 9 hours, I was able to reach about 7.5 while streaming video with the brightness and volume set to 50%. More reserved usage should have no trouble hitting between 8 and 9 hours on a single charge- over 2 hours greater than its predecessor, the Chromebook 303.
All in all, the Chromebook 2 XE500C12 fits remarkably well into its price range. While it’s not doing the heavy lifting that you’ll find in more expensive Chromebooks (like the i3-equipped HP 14), users of the Samsung 303 or the Acer C720 will be pleasantly surprised at this versatile device.