Samsung claims that its battery can deliver as much as 8.5 hours on a single charge. We ran the unit continuously for six hours before it gave out. During that time, we performed a mixture of Wi-Fi web access and media playback from USB, most of which was at full-screen brightness. A single LED, not visible with the lid closed, is blue when the unit is powered up, red when charging. A complete recharge took about 90 minutes. The unit wakes instantly from sleep and boots to a login screen in just a few seconds. Apps and web pages load instantly, and all-around performance is snappy.
On the physical side, the new laptop's display is more than an inch wider than the original 12.1-inch, yet the Chromebook 2 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor. The higher-end model sheds its shiny plastic shell for a faux leather one, but it's still made of dark gray plastic. The unit measures 12.7 inches wide by 8.8 inches deep. It's 0.65 inch thick and weighs 3.1 pounds (two tenths less than its elder). The 11.6-inch model -- available in black or white -- measures 11.4 x 8 inches, is the same thickness and weighs 2.65 lbs. Its 4-inch-wide touch pad is roomy and responsive, with native support for multifinger gestures.
All Chromebook 2 models include one USB 2.0 (too bad) and one USB 3.0 port, a MicroSD card slot and an HDMI output port. The 13.3-inch unit adds support for Intel's Wireless Display (Wi-Di) protocol and a gigabit Ethernet port (optional dongle required). All models support the high-speed Wi-Fi ac spec and Bluetooth, but only the larger unit provides Bluetooth 4.0. As with prior models, Samsung chose a pin-thin power connector for its 40-watt AC adapter with LED. Although this is probably its most vulnerable aspect, a 90-degree plug helps mitigate some of the risk from accidental damage.
The Google Management Console provides installation and blocking of apps and Chrome extensions, user and group management with network access control, asset tracking and a series of reseller-configurable features. IT departments might also like a new "Powerwash" feature, a single step that removes all accounts and resets the Chromebook to be "just like new." There's also built-in security and virus control, and the Chrome Remote Desktop remote-control extension is part of the default installation. For Windows shops, a Desktop-as-a-Service project between Google and VMware unveiled in February permits Chromebooks to access Windows desktops running in VMware Horizon.
For its speed, power, versatility, affordability, offline capabilities and suitability to enterprise and general mobile users, the CRN Test Center recommends the Samsung Chromebook 2, which lists for $399 for the 13.3-inch model and $319 for the 11.6-inch unit.
PUBLISHED MAY 29, 2014