Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US Highlights -
Pros: Competitively priced. Long battery life. Includes exclusive software value. Responsive keyboard/trackpad.
Cons: Only 2GB of memory. Sub par processor performance. MicroSD card slot instead of standard SD card.
Chromebooks are not high-performance machines, but usually have enough hardware specifications to stream video and music and handle a reasonable number of browser tabs and games. Since chromebooks are also meant for extensive typing, it makes sense for these little machines to have a good keyboard and trackpad. In addition, having good wireless is quite an important feature as the chromebook is primarily Cloud based. Battery life, size, weight and portability are also important features. If you are able to find a chromebook which ticks most of the boxes above for less than $350, then you can be reasonably confident with your choice. In this review we will be looking at the Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US to see how it fits the criteria we mentioned above.
The first thing that stood out with the Chromebook 2 was the overall design and it's looks. The laptop lid is wrapped with an artificial leather-like metallic silver finish that is soft to touch and has a nice grip to it. It doesn't collect dust easily and stays nice and clean. The rest of the laptop's entire gray plastic body is reinforced with metal to give additional strength to the laptop's internal frame, making it very durable and shock resistant to prevent damage. As far as portability is concerned, the Samsung Chromebook 2 is quite lightweight at 2.6 pounds with only 0.66 inch thickness. Overall, we think Samsung has done a very good job with it's simple, elegant and usable design. When it comes to hardware specifications, the Samsung Chromebook 2 features an Intel Celeron processor with 2GB memory and 16GB Solid State Drive, paired with a 11.6 inch 720p screen. The hardware is not overly powerful, but on the plus side Samsung claims users will get close to 9 hours of battery life. We think however, the main selling point here is the low price. Samsung is offering the Chromebook 2 for less than $250, which we think is very competitive.
Performance - The Chromebook 2 features an Intel Celeron N2840 Bay Trail dual core processor with a base clock frequency of 2.16GHz and a burst clock frequency of 2.58 GHz. The burst clock or turbo boost mode is activated upon request by the operating system to make the processor cores temporarily run faster than their base frequency in order to run a processor intensive task. For simple everyday use the performance offered by this processor is quite adequate. You'll find the processor to be generally responsive while performing basic tasks such as writing emails, streaming music and videos and doing some web browsing. It is also capable of handling a few browser based games as well. However, as soon as you load 5 or 6 programs or load multiple tabs all at once, there is a noticeable lag in the system. It is most likely due to the Bay Trail chipset featured in the N2840. It is not as powerful as Celeron processors that feature the Haswell chipset or the Exynos processors that Samsung offers in it's other Chromebook 2 models. However, the upside of using the Bay Trails is less power consumption, thereby enhancing battery life and allowing manufacturers to design a smaller and thinner chromebook with no fans. Nevertheless, the N2840 processor is sufficient for most tasks.
Storage & Memory - We were disappointed to see the system with only 2GB of memory instead of the typical 4GB memory. The reason for occasional slow performance could also be attributed to this small sized memory. The processor speed determines the performance of a single application, while the memory size affects how many tabs or applications can be opened at once before everything slows down. Even though the memory will be ok in the beginning for light multitasking, we would have liked to see this chromebook with at least 4GB of memory for smoother multitasking capability. In addition, the 16GB Solid State Drive (SSD) is also on the lower side. But again this is a chromebook, so you're expected to store most of your documents and files in the Cloud. On the upside, the SSD speeds up boot time and makes the system quickly available whenever you need it.
Display, Graphics & Sound - The Samsung Chromebook 2 features an 11.6 inch high definition (1366x768 pixels) display with 200 cd/m˛ brightness and matte/anti-glare finish. The screen is quite bright however the colors look a bit washed out when viewed from the side due to the limited viewing angles that come with older TN panel displays. To be fair, most budget priced laptops have a similar screen. Overall, it is a perfectly viewable screen with good color quality and sharp/crisp readable texts. The integrated Intel HD 4000 Graphics is only suitable for playing older and less demanding games but because this is a chromebook and most of the games are browser based, the system should have no issues playing these games. In addition, the speaker's sound quality is actually pretty good, which is loud enough to fill a room however you shouldn't expect cinematic sound quality either.
Battery - Even though Samsung promises a battery life of close to 9 hours, in real world application you should easily be able to use this chromebook for up to 7 hours without charge.
Operating System - Chrome OS.
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The ports on the Samsung are pretty much in line with what you will find on other chromebooks. On the right side, there is a USB 2.0 port and a headphone jack. On the left, there is a USB 3.0 port, a HDMI port, and a microSD card slot. Having a standard SD card slot would have been nice, but the microSD card could still serve as a second storage drive, if you really wanted it. There is also a front facing 0.9 mega pixels (MP) webcam. For network connectivity, the Chromebook 2 comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and the latest 802.11ac dual band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) wireless, which is faster than the previous generation 802.11n. The keyboard feels nice and comfortable and the keys are well spaced. Same goes for the trackpad which measures 4.35 inches diagonally and offers good scrolling and clicking movement. Another value addition offered by Samsung is the bundled software package that includes applications like AirDroid Premium, Wunderlist Pro and Little Bridge to improve productivity and kids learning. In addition, the Chrome Help app connects you to a live help and troubleshooting chat system to answer questions about the hardware and Chrome OS basic usability and features. This will especially be beneficial to users who are new to the Chrome operating system environment. The Chromebook 2 measures 11.40 x 8.06 x 0.66 inches and weighs 2.6 pounds.
When you consider the key criteria we mentioned above, the Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US is a good choice as far as battery life, portability, design and having good wireless and keyboard input is concerned. Where it falls behind is sub par performance when compared to similar chromebooks. Also, the absence of bigger memory makes this chromebook deliver even slower performance. Nevertheless, the system boots up quickly and the hardware specifications are enough to run most basic tasks - web browsing, editing documents, checking email, quick online games and so on. The fanless design is a plus and it stays quiet during operation. In a nutshell, it's main features boil down to a nice design with solid build quality, a decent screen, good battery life and a solid keyboard with affordable price tag. If these are your top priorities then the XE500C12-K01US is a good choice. However, unless you’re really keen on saving the extra money, we would recommend the Samsung's 13.3 inch Chromebook 2 which is a better buy with it's superior full high definition 1920x1080 pixels screen, a slightly better processor and double the memory - Samsung Chromebook 2 XE503C32-K01US. Alternately, you can opt for chromebooks such as Toshiba Chromebook 2 for a full HD resolution IPS display.