A couple weeks ago I found myself at Best Buy comparing the $200 Acer Chromebook, the $250 Samsung Chromebook, and the $300 HP Pavilion Chromebook. Those were the prices we saw at the store, and as of the writing of this article, they were also the prices available at various online retailers.
In a matter of months, my girlfriend’s laptop died and then so did my own. So we decided to get a Chromebook instead of a more expensive replacement laptop.
A Chromebook is pretty ideal for a second computer. We already had a reasonably powerful desktop to share. Because at least 90 percent of our computer usage involves things the Chromebook can do, we really only need one Windows computer between us.
The first thing you notice upon picking up and handling these machines (the one reason why we went to a physical store instead of shopping solely on Amazon) is that the Samsung Chromebook feels like it is made of sturdier stuff than the rest. By comparison, the plastic case of the Acer Chromebook feels somewhat pliable. We wanted a Chromebook that could travel in a bag and survive occasional gentle jostling.
One of the things Acer offers that the others don’t is a generous SATA hard drive option that you can select instead of the standard 16 gigabyte solid state hard drive. The SATA hard drive holds substantially more data – hundreds of gigabytes – but it also contains moving parts and is a lot less durable than the solid state hard drive. Solid state hard drives are also much, much faster.
For these reasons, I am strongly of the opinion that in the case of the Chromebook, the 16 gigabyte solid state is the way to go. It could be the recently deceased laptops my girlfriend and I have talking, but the two parts that seem to be the most susceptible to damage are a) the hard drive and b) the screen. The Samsung Chromebook’s sturdy feel was definitely very persuasive on this point.
So as you may have guessed, we picked the Samsung Chromebook. We have enjoyed it a lot so far. But here’s something I’ll tell you that reviewers being paid by Samsung or Google won’t: We have had one small but annoying problem with it. Our Chromebook has a quirk where it tends to drop WiFi occasionally when it isn’t plugged in. It could be because our apartment also has lots of interference from not only our own WiFi devices, but also our numerous neighbors, so that could be it. From our own research of the problem, it sounds like others have experienced this issue as well, but with every type of Chromebook, not just the Samsung. Furthermore, we reported the bug and from what I can see on the Google support forums, Google appears to be working on the problem.
In the meantime, we keep our Chromebook plugged in. So long as it remains plugged in, we have no problems. Somewhat annoying, but could be worse.
The HP Pavillion Chromebook is a nice option, too – although we liked its larger size, the fact that it comes with a larger price tag puts it in a grey area where you could get a budget laptop for a similar amount of money. Plus, when you’re talking about a machine convenient for travel, a smaller size can be a bonus of its own.
For only $250, the Samsung Chromebook is a powerful little machine. It lives up to the hype – it boots in under ten seconds (more like two or three, really) and it actually does very well with multiple users. You can turn it off and it will keep your current tabs in memory and restore them the minute you log back in, and the screen has a beautiful and clear display.
So I would agree with the others who have argued that the Chromebook makes a perfect second computer. We’re really pleased with our Samsung Chromebook and would recommend it. The Wifi dropping has been annoying, but not too annoying to convince us to return it.
Although, be warned: The only games it can run are browser-based flash games. Even Java-based games like Minecraft cannot be run on a Chromebook.
A trip to Best Buy
Personal use of the Chromebook
Prior knowledge of hard drives