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Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: The Chromebook you really want

The Galaxy Chromebook 2’s QLED display, improved battery life and sleek design make this a compelling sequel

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The Galaxy Chromebook 2’s QLED display, improved battery life and sleek design make this a compelling premium Chromebook, even though you need to make some trade-offs.

For

  • Beautiful design
  • Gorgeous QLED display
  • Improved battery life
  • Impressive audio quality
  • Solid performance

Against

  • Key travel could be better
  • Touchscreen input can be inconsistent
  • No S-Pen included

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Galaxy Chromebook 2’s QLED display, improved battery life and sleek design make this a compelling premium Chromebook, even though you need to make some trade-offs.

Pros

  • + Beautiful design
  • + Gorgeous QLED display
  • + Improved battery life
  • + Impressive audio quality
  • + Solid performance

Cons

  • - Key travel could be better
  • - Touchscreen input can be inconsistent
  • - No S-Pen included

Gone are the days when Chromebooks could be easily identified by their chunky design and unimpressive screens. Samsung’s new Galaxy Chromebook 2 offers the streamlined computing of Chrome OS in a sturdy, lightweight chassis slick enough to stand out among the sleekest laptops on the market. 

Starting at $550, you get a bright and colorful QLED display, a sleek design (that’s available in red) and longer battery life than the first Galaxy Chromebook. Though it lacks some of the original’s stand-out features -- including an OLED screen and built-in S Pen -- the Galaxy Chromebook 2 delivers a premium 2-in-1 Chromebook experience with just enough juice to get you through a day of work. In fact, it's so good that it won the award for best Chromebook in our Tom's Guide Awards 2021.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Price and configurations

You have your choice of two models when buying a new Galaxy Chromebook 2. The $550 configuration gives you an Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, and the $700 model includes a Core i3 chip, 8GB of RAM and 128 GB.

That’s cheaper than the original Galaxy Chromebook, and with good reason: gone are some of the original’s outstanding features, like a 4K AMOLED screen and a built-in stylus (though you can still buy your own stylus for use with the Galaxy Chromebook 2). There’s also no Core i5 option. 

The Galaxy Chromebook 2’s lower prices are now roughly in line with those of similar Chromebooks, like the Google Pixelbook Go or the Acer Chromebook Spin 713; if you can take advantage of the trade-in discounts, so much the better.  

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Design

While the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is available in your choice of Fiesta Red or Mercury Gray, the crimson hues of the former really help this laptop stand out on a crowded table.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Weighing in at roughly 2.7 pounds with a machined aluminum chassis that takes up 12 x 8 x 0.6 inches, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is just a smidge heavier and larger than many competing Chromebooks, as well as its own predecessor.

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You’d never notice unless you were holding them at the same time, though, and the Galaxy Chromebook 2 feels light enough that you’d probably forget about it once you slipped it into a backpack.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Gone is the silver trim that highlighted the original Galaxy Chromebook, but you won’t notice its absence amid the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s sleek lines and sturdy construction. Like the original, the 2-in-1 design of the Galaxy Chromebook 2 means the screen can fold all the way around to lay flat against the back of the unit, turning it into a decent (if slightly unwieldy) tablet.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I didn’t notice any bending or weak points in the laptop, even when typing and swinging the screen the back and forth all day; the hinges feel sturdy, and I didn’t notice any worrisome wobbling while tapping away on the touchscreen with the screen spun around to stand on its head.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Ports

USB-C ports are all the rage these days, and the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has two of them: one on each side, affording you the freedom to plug the charger in on whichever side is easiest for you. Both ports can also charge devices, though only when the laptop is turned on. 

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The right side of the laptop is otherwise smooth save for a power button, while the left side sports a volume rocker, headphone jack, and a microSD card reader.

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Gone is the clever slot on the right-hand side of the original Galaxy Chromebook, which securely hid an S-Pen stylus. It was a nice touch, but after several days of using the Chromebook 2 for work and play without once feeling the urge to reach for a stylus, I didn’t miss it.   

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Display

The original Samung Galaxy Chromebook earned rave reviews for its 4K AMOLED display, but it seems like overkill given the dearth of 4K content available for Chromebooks. While the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2’s QLED display isn’t OLED good (Samsung’s QLED tech relies on LED-backlit LCDs coated with a “quantum dot film”), the panel is bright and vibrant enough to ensure that watching movies and YouTube videos in HD is a delight.

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The workman-like 1920 x 1080 resolution and 16:9 display may be a turn-off for some, but that seems to be the defining narrative of this laptop: fewer premium features than its predecessor, with a more reasonable battery life and price. Even without the AMOLED tech colors seem to pop off this screen, and I was entranced by the deep blues and greens the display achieved in high-definition nature videos; it helps that the bezels remain remarkably thin, especially around the sides and top.

Based on our testing, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2’s screen delivers 118.4% of the  sRGB color spectrum, putting it well beyond the average Chromebook and just beyond competition like the M1 Macbook Air (114.3%) and the Pixelbook Go (108%).

As far as brightness goes, our testing backs up my experience of this screen getting very, very bright: the average brightness (averaged from light gun readings from all four corners, plus the center) is 390 nits. That’s better than the 357 nits we saw from its predecessor and an improvement over competitors like the 368-nit Pixelbook Go. However, the Chromebook 2 is not quite up to the Acer Spin 713’s 445 nits of brightness.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 can get loud, louder than I expected from a laptop of this size

The Galaxy Chromebook 2’s 13.3-inch touchscreen proved effective, and I was able to comfortably use it to browse the Internet and manipulate various Chrome apps without any issues (besides the buildup of greasy fingerprints). During my testing the touchscreen did seem to stop reading my inputs once or twice after I’d swung the laptop around to tablet mode, but the issue was quickly fixed by restarting the machine. 

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Audio and webcam

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 can get loud, louder than I expected from a laptop of this size, and while the bass leaves something to be desired, vocals and bass lines remain remarkably distinct even at maximum volume. Some of this can likely be chalked up to Samsung’s advertised “Smart Amp” technology, which purports to let you crank up the jams well past reasonable listening levels without encountering any audio distortion. 

I can’t speak to where your reasonable listening level is, but I did blast some recent Open Mike Eagle and Kamaiyah tracks loud enough to make the neighbors say something, and I didn’t notice any tinniness or distortion. However, speaker placement means you may encounter some muted tones when listening with the device on your lap.

The 720p webcam built into the top of the display will get you through a day of Zoom calls, but the grainy picture quality won’t exactly spark joy. Gone is the second, sharper camera that Samsung built into the keyboard of the original Galaxy Chromebook, which afforded you the option to shoot photos while the laptop’s in tablet mode; it was an interesting addition, but I never missed it while working on the Galaxy Chromebook 2.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Keyboard and touchpad

Though Samsung makes a point of celebrating the width of the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s keys, my chubby sausage fingers didn’t love the experience of typing on this flat, quiet keyboard. With practice I was able to reliably type quickly without making too many errors, but after days of use I wish the Chromebook 2’s keys had a bit more travel to them.

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Clocking in at 2.4 x 3.9 inches, the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s touchpad is small but functional. Since my hands are on the larger side I pined for another inch or two, but I had no trouble tapping and scrolling my way through a workday. The touchpad feels responsive, and it reliably picked up on my two- and three-finger gestures.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Performance

While Chromebooks aren’t marketed as performance machines, the Core i3 Galaxy Chromebook 2 is beefy enough to handle just about anything you can throw at it while browsing the web. I did my best to break it on the wheel of my poor attention span, but the machine didn’t stutter or slow down once, even with 20+ tabs open in Chrome and multiple HD videos streaming simultaneously on YouTube. 

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The Galaxy Chromebook 2 we tested earned a score of 2,171 on our Geekbench 5 general performance test, which is lower than the 2,232 its predecessor earned and significantly lower than competitors like the Acer Spin 713 (3,253 for the Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM). However, it’s still better than the 1,356 put up by the Pixelbook Go, which also packs a Core i5 and 8 GB of RAM.

In our Jetstream 2.0 test, designed to gauge performance while using JavaScript and other web apps, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 put up a respectable score of 104.9. That’s an improvement over its predecessor’s 91.9, better than the Pixelbook Go’s 85.9 and nearly as impressive as the Acer Spin 713’s 113.5 score.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Battery life and heat

Low battery life was the number one complaint about the original Galaxy Chromebook, and Samsung has made a show of taking that criticism to heart, promising that the Galaxy Chromebook 2 can last for up to 13 hours on a charge. 

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In practice, I found that to be optimistic; I was able to eke out about 7.5 hours of continuous use, cycling between streaming HD YouTube videos, typing, and general Internet browsing. In my experience, that’s not quite enough juice to get you through the day without having to worry about carrying a charger, but it is a nice improvement over its predecessor.

The original Galaxy Chromebook burned through battery, in large part due to its 4K AMOLED screen, and in our battery tests it lasted just 5 hours and 55 minutes. The new Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 performed much better on our web surfing test, lasting 7 hours and 50 minutes. 

I should also point out that I never once noticed any heat or fan noise, even after using the laptop all day to stream video and play games in Chrome. In our testing the laptop never went above 89 degrees, which is much better than the 100+ degree temps we registered on the back and underside of the original Galaxy Chromebook during testing.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review: Verdict

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a more affordable, more practical version of its predecessor. While you may miss some of the original Galaxy Chromebook’s bells and whistles, the sequel offers more reliable battery in an affordable package that’s as svelte and eye-catching as the original. 

If the original Galaxy Chromebook reminded us of a luxury sports car with its bright red paint job, gorgeous screen, and small gas tank, the Chromebook 2 is more of a fancy daily driver: the screen isn’t quite as nice and some of the accessories are missing, but in the course of a busy day you’ll appreciate the added comfort and battery efficiency more than you’ll miss extras like a built-in stylus or fingerprint sensor. 

Overall, the lower price of entry makes Samsung’s latest premium Chromebook a compelling choice for those seeking a Chrome OS laptop with style.

Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.