If you're looking for a cheap laptop for basic web browsing and other lightweight tasks tied into Google's vast service platform, reviewers say the Samsung Chromebook is a solid option -- though some other Chromebooks are a tad quicker. Just be sure that a Chromebook is suitable for your computing needs and that your Internet connection is reliable.
Google all the way. The Samsung Chromebook has its head in the clouds. This laptop's Chrome OS operating system is built around Google's Internet-based services (Gmail, Google Drive, etc.). It's pretty useless without an Internet connection, so you'll need Wi-Fi. Or pick the step-up model (Est. $330) with a 3G radio to help you keep a solid, if slow, connection on the road. Expect more than six hours of battery life -- very good, experts say. Performance skews toward light use, though. The Chromebook chugs if you try to do too much at once or open more than a handful of browser tabs, reviewers report.
What's with the port placement? Reviewers love the Samsung Chromebook's basic ergonomics, praising the ultraportable build and surprisingly decent keyboard and touchpad. However, Samsung places the Chromebook's HDMI and USB ports -- one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0 -- on the backside edge, forcing users to flip the notebook around to plug in cables.
About what you'd expect for $250. The 11.6-inch, 1,366-by-768-pixel display sports a matte finish to cut down on screen reflection. "For casual browsing and Google Docs use, the display was perfectly usable," TheVerge.com's Chris Ziegler reports. This budget machine features a basic webcam, but don't expect orchestra-quality sound. While the clean exterior looks attractive enough, it's made of plastic and one side of Ziegler's review unit creaked while he typed.
Outstanding reliability and tech support -- usually. Samsung's laptops don't break often. In fact, Samsung boasts the lowest repair rate of any laptop brand, PCMag.com's reader survey finds. Tech support is terrific, too. Only Sony does better in Laptop Magazine's undercover tech-support investigation. Samsung's phone support proves fast, friendly, free and accurate. Facebook and Twitter inquiries get timely help too, although a live chat tech gives incorrect advice. However, a minority of owners at Amazon.com complain that their Samsung Chromebooks crash continually. Some never could get the problem solved -- Samsung and Google each blamed the other.
It all depends on your computing needs. If you need a laptop for only light tasks or web browsing, and don't mind being tied to an Internet connection, the Chromebook is a good value at $250. Like all Chromebooks, it offers 100 GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for two years. It's not quite as quick as the Acer C7 Chromebook, but the Samsung is lighter, slimmer and has a better keyboard and longer-lasting battery. Still, Chromebooks are light-duty only, and they're crippled without an Internet connection. Look elsewhere if you have more intense computing needs or hate the idea of losing functionality when you're away from the web.
Chris Ziegler subjects the Samsung Chromebook to extensive hands-on and basic benchmark testing in this detailed review. He gives the laptop a score of 7.5 out of 10. He admits the rock-bottom price makes the laptop's poky performance more palatable.
Review: Samsung Chromebook Review, Chris Ziegler, Oct. 24, 2012
This fairly thorough report is also full of hands-on impressions, but it lacks TheVerge.com's benchmark testing. Still, J.R. Raphael calls the Chromebook an outstanding value for people who need basic web-enabled computing.
Review: Samsung Chromebook Review: Google's New $249 Computer, J.R. Raphael, Oct. 19, 2012
3. Information Week
Thomas Claburn's review of the Samsung Chromebook essentially mirrors the one at Computerworld.com. "It's not perfect, but it's very good, even excellent compared to what else you can get for $249," he says. "It would make a fine additional computer, if you need a second or third."
Review: Samsung Chromebook: Hands-On Review, Thomas Claburn, Oct. 22, 2012
Nathan Olivarez-Giles says the Samsung Chromebook fits his computing needs so perfectly, he barely cracks open his MacBook Pro anymore. He does note flaws -- sluggish boot-up, low-res display and a cheap plastic build -- but for a student, someone who wants a second computer or anyone who usually computes in the cloud anyway, it's great.
Review: Samsung Chromebook, Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Jan. 30, 2013
5. Laptop Magazine
Samsung earns an A-minus in Laptop Magazine's undercover tech-support test. Phone, Facebook and Twitter help are all outstanding, although a live chat tech gives incorrect advice. Sony is the only brand that does a tiny bit better.
Review: Tech Support Showdown 2012, Editors of Laptop Magazine, Sept. 17, 2012
Samsung wins the award for best overall laptop brand in this reader survey. It has won twice in three years, thanks to an "excellent overall satisfaction rating" and extreme reliability. It has the lowest repair rate of any laptop brand.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013 Winners: Laptops and Desktops, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 20, 2013
More than 2,500 users review the Samsung Chromebook here. Three-fourths of them award it 4 or a perfect 5 stars. For some other users, though, the browser continually crashes.
Review: Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of July 2013