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The Galaxy Chromebook and the problem with promises

Oh, Galaxy Chromebook. Dear, sweet Galaxy Chromebook. You looked so perfect, so irresistible, so alluring. You had such promise. You were so close to being the one.

When we first got a glimpse of Samsung’s highest profile, highest-priced Chromebook to date earlier this year, it looked almost too good to be true. The device was billed as a 2020-worthy spiritual successor to Google’s own top-of-the-line Pixelbook — a luxury-level laptop that put the Chrome OS experience into powerful, premium hardware that was primed for productivity and a pleasure to use.

For anyone using a Chromebook for professional purposes, such a proposition has obvious appeal. Despite never-ending murmurs to the contrary, Chrome OS is actually quite capable for work purposes, whether you’re using it in a small-scale business or in a managed enterprise environment. And as is the case with any platform where work is being done, there’s bound to be a certain level of demand for high-end hardware and the niceties it presents. The idea that there’s no place for such quality on a Chromebook is flawed, myopic, and silly.

And on the surface, good golly, the Galaxy Chromebook seemed to have it all: The device was gorgeous, with a slim, sleek, and premium-as-can-be design; it had enough under-the-hood horsepower to handle practically any level of multitasking, heavy-duty Android and/or desktop-caliber Linux app use, and even resource-consuming virtual desktop work; and it had a pixel-packed display sure to satisfy even the pickiest of peepers. Combine that with a convertible form, an exceptional keyboard, and even an integrated stylus, and what more could a discerning computer owner possibly ask for?

Samsung Galaxy ChromebookSamsung

The Galaxy Chromebook: beautiful…to a fault.

The answer, as it turns out, is battery life — an even remotely reasonable level of stamina — along with a laptop that doesn’t scald your skin when you use it. In a harsh reminder that press releases and even early hands-on impressions can’t tell us everything about what a laptop’s actually like to use in the real world, the Galaxy Chromebook turned out to be an embarrassing disappointment in both of those domains.

It’s no exaggeration: Samsung’s $1,000 laptop saw battery life in the range of a mere three to four hours per charge, according to most assessments, with hot-running surfaces one reviewer described as making “the keyboard slightly uncomfortable to type on” while the system’s lower surface at times started to “fry [her] legs.” Ouch. No matter how you frame it, that’s simply unacceptable for a high-end laptop — or, heck, even a budget-level system.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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