Samsung Galaxy Chromebook review round-up: Great hardware save for below-average battery life

As previously reported, today is the day you can buy the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. The only model available is the $999 configuration shown off at CES back in January, with your choice colors: Fiesta Red or Mercury Gray.

You can order the new Chromebook directly from Samsung or from Best Buy here. In my area, there are very few quantities available in Best Buy stores; I’d have to drive an hour to get one. However, you can have your device shipped to you for receipt later this week.

It appears that Samsung seeded review units for large media outlets in advance. I’m waiting to hear when I’ll be getting one. Yes, I could purchase one but I’m not going to. I don’t need to spend any extra money during the coronavirus pandemic, for starters. And I don’t need yet another Chromebook right now, nor do I want to overuse or abuse Best Buy’s return policy.

Having said that, I read through the reviews published today and see some expected trends along with one that’s disappointing. The Verge, Engadget, and Wired all have full reviews and I recommend reading them before pulling the trigger on a new Samsung Galaxy Chromebook.

All three echoed my sentiments from the hands-on time I had with the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook in January: The build quality and the 4K AMOLED display are exceptional. One reviewer also said something I noticed about the device: The vertical space of the trackpad is a little short. Glad to know it wasn’t just me.

Chrome OS ran great for all of the reviewers on this model with a Core i5 processor and 8 GB of memory. Twenty or so tabs? Not a problem.

There were some grumblings about Android apps and those are justified. There still isn’t a cohesive Android experience across all apps when running on a Chromebook. And having a 4K display can make the issue worse in some cases due to scaling issues. But that’s probably not news to anyone who uses Android apps on a Chromebook today.

What is news is the battery life reviewers have seen. I was initially concerned about that due to the 4K display. I asked Samsung at CES what the expected battery life of the Galaxy Chromebook would be and was told 9 hours. I know that most battery life expectations provided by a Chromebook hardware partner are typically higher than real-life usage, so that didn’t help my concern.

So how is real-life and test scenario battery life? I’ll let the reviewers tell you:

Samsung claimed eight hours of battery life; I got four hours and 20 minutes on a charge, swapping between several apps and several Chrome tabs at 50 percent brightness. It also doesn’t juice back up particularly fast. After an hour of charging via one of its USB-C ports, the Chromebook’s battery was only at 50 percent.

Monica Chen – The Verge

In a test of my basic daily routine, I failed to clear the four-hour mark multiple times. The best I did was three hours and 52 minutes of use before the laptop shut down. When looping an HD movie stored on the laptop’s drive, I got five hours and 11 minutes before the battery died.

Nathan Ingraham – Engadget

[T]he Galaxy Chromebook managed six and half hours in our standard battery drain test (playing a looped 1080p video at 75 percent brightness). Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 lasted around 8 hours and the Dell XPS 13 hit 12 hours in similar tests. But if you turn down the brightness—and you can afford to, since the screen is so sharp—you can coax a full day of use out of the battery.

Scott Gilbertson – Wired

That doesn’t instill me with confidence that I could be happy with the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. For $999, I want at least 8 hours of run-time on the go. I think it’s fair to say most of you would too, although I’m sure will just take their charger with them and be OK with that.

Only one reviewer mentioned using Linux on the Galaxy Chromebook and there weren’t many details on the experience. That’s to be expected from mainstream reviews though. And we know Linux runs fine on the Pixel Slate, which has a similar, but older, processor and the same 8 GB of memory.

So after hearing about the battery life results or reading the early reviews, are you still thinking about buying a Samsung Galaxy Chromebook or will you wait to see how the upcoming Asus Chromebook Flip C436 fares?

10 thoughts on “Samsung Galaxy Chromebook review round-up: Great hardware save for below-average battery life

  • April 6, 2020 at 12:13 pm
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    If someone wants/needs to use the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook on battery, they’ll just have to use it at less than the full 400+ nits. You don’t have that option with Asus C436 Chromebook, which maxes out at 220 nits. Someone who’s already serious about buying the Samsung is probably convinced by the 4K AMOLED display. They know that there’s a penalty to be paid for that many pixels, and they’re already on board. One other point that’s important for a lot of folks is the very high contrast on the emblems on the keys. Asus goes the other direction. The emblems tend to become invisible.

    Reply
    • April 6, 2020 at 2:25 pm
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      Agreed on all counts. I love me a 4K display, especially OLED, but I’d rather have 4K on a large screen (such as a TV) if I have to pay a big battery penalty. If I were in the market, I’d personally lean towards the Asus even though the screen brightness isn’t great. But that’s just me: Folks who can live with the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook battery life and heat are sure to be happy.

      Reply
  • April 6, 2020 at 12:54 pm
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    Hi, Kevin!

    The specs say that the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook has a U-series chip, but no fan. How does that work? Or am I looking at incorrect specs? Thanks for your great work and stay safe!

    Sincerely,

    Kenny

    Reply
    • April 6, 2020 at 2:23 pm
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      What George said: No fan, it’s passively cooled by throttling chip performance which isn’t ideal for a U-Series chip. That’s why at least one of the reviews said the device can get uncomfortably hot on a lap. Someone I know bought one this morning and said the same to me after just an hour of use! Stay healthy and safe, Kenny – cheers!

      Reply
  • April 6, 2020 at 2:16 pm
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    Over-heating (and likely resultant CPU throttling) due to a passively cooled design was reported by The Verge’s reviewer and would add to short battery life as significant downsides to the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. Samsung’s decision to passively cool the Galaxy’s Intel 15W ‘U’ processor is extremely unusual and possibly unprecedented. The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 (which is actively fan-cooled) and comes with a conventional display will likely not suffer from either of these two issues. The Galaxy’s unique professional-quality 4K Amoled display may, however, outweigh its limitations for some buyers.

    Reply
  • April 6, 2020 at 7:30 pm
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    I am on the market to update, and I’m very disappointed by the reviews I’ve read for both the Samsung and the C436. The choice seems to be between four hours and a hot lap, or a cheap, flimsy build and invisible keys.

    So now, I’m thinking to either get a 2019 model or wait it out to see what else comes out later this year.

    Reply
  • April 7, 2020 at 8:20 am
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    “That’s to be expected from mainstream reviews though.”

    Expected, maybe, but still disappointing.

    When you see them saying that the specs are overkill for a Chromebook, complain about Android app quality on ChromeOS, and then completely ignore a whole set of functionality and applications with Linux I feel like I’m just not getting the whole story about what this machine can do.

    This isn’t exclusive to just these reviews, of course, but I was hoping that the conversation would change a little with this machine and the other great specced Chromebooks that are coming.

    I think this will only change if Google starts marketing Linux support seriously, and may even add Linux apps to the Play Store or create a unified App Store for Chrome OS, with extensions, Android apps and Linux apps.

    Reply
  • April 8, 2020 at 10:34 am
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    I got one. Yes it quickly gets too hot to have in your lap. I’ll flip it into media mode often for that reason. Yes the battery life is pretty bad, mediocre at best. And I’m sad about 16:9. But I still like it. The hardware is just so nice. The screen is incredible. And even beyond 4k OLED I’m in love with Ambient EQ. Wish that was available in more phones and chromebooks. I hope they can improve on this concept or more OEMS jump into premium chromebooks from here

    Reply
  • April 11, 2020 at 6:04 pm
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    I have been using mine for 6 days and have been using it for general websurfing, e-mail and playing some Android games. I have been getting about 6 hours on the battery and it has not gotten very hot. I love thhe 4K screen and am always near an outlet so I don’t need 8 – 10 hours of battery. Good performance and good build quality.

    Reply
    • April 19, 2020 at 2:15 pm
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      @Roger:

      This is good to know. I use my Chromebook for work mostly, but I’m mostly looking for speed and the ability to handle like 30 Chrome tabs (I use 3 different virtual desks for my 2 jobs and personal stuff). Plus, I handle a lot of PDFs so I want pen capability.

      I can live with 6 hours because even though I work in different places all the time, I’m usually near a plug once I get to my destination. The only time that doesn’t apply is when I travel (which is as little as I can if truth be told). Still, airports and airplanes have plugs these days too just in case you need to top off a bit.

      Reply

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