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best chromebooks samsung galaxy review hero
BEST BUY/GETTY IMAGES

  • Value: 17/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality/Ease of Use: 19/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Speed: 19/20

TOTAL: 93/100

Even though a Chromebook is technically a laptop that runs Google’s operating system, Chrome OS, to my friends and family, it’s always meant “affordable.” It’s the laptop you buy because you have young kids and you won’t be devastated if they spill milk on the keyboard—or because you need to crank out a spreadsheet or write that Great American Novel, but you don’t want to spend more than $350. They’re lightweight and reliable, provided you have a solid internet connection. But once your needs for a computer progresses beyond sending emails and writing Google docs—say, to nonstop Zoom calls, as we fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic—I’ve always told people it’s worth investing in a Mac. In fact, I was planning on doing so myself…until I had the chance to spend a few weeks testing out the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. And now, it’s making me rethink everything I thought I knew about the line.

It Can Hold Its Own Against the MacBook Air

For years, I’ve used a MacBook Air at work, and while I didn’t love its occasional lagging—particularly if I moved between Chrome and Word docs—I loved its portability and how quickly it’d boot up. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook put my 2019 Air to shame. Given that its retail price is comparable to the Air, I'll be totally honest: It better. The Chromebook boots up in seconds, it weighs half a pound less (2.29 pounds vs. the Mac’s 2.8). Both feature 256 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM, but the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook includes a microSD card slot. And it can convert into a tablet with a full touchscreen, making it feel like you’re getting two gadgets for the price of one.

So far, I haven’t had any issues with lag—despite my propensity for having 48 tabs open at once—even as I take on Zoom and Meet calls. (Though maybe I’m unfairly blaming my Mac on this front, since the spinning wheel of doom only appears when I’m using Microsoft Word on it. While the Chromebook works with Office, I’ve been using Google docs for everything.)

The Display Makes Everyone (and Everything) Look Good

I thought the MacBook’s Retina display was unreal, but the Galaxy Chromebook’s 4K resolution brings movie theater quality to a 13.3-inch laptop screen. Which is great for streaming Netflix; less great when I become acutely aware of just how dark my roots are mid-Happy Hour hangout with friends.

Enabling “Offline Access” Is a Must

When I first started using a Chromebook nearly a decade ago, the tradeoff for value was that the computer wasn’t too useful when you didn’t have an internet connection, largely because you used Google Docs in place of Office and just about everything was saved in Google Drive. Those things haven’t changed, but one thing has for all Chromebooks, the Galaxy included—you can enable offline access and keep working on Google docs (or emails) even when your WiFi’s on the fritz.

It’s Ideal for Creative Types

With a pop-out stylus and touchscreen display, I suddenly wish I were more of an artist. I could totally envision myself using it to design my own tees and cards (hello, burgeoning lifestyle empire!), only to be reminded that I can draw a mean smiley face…and that’s about it. But if you’re into illustration—or are a designer who wants to quickly show clients your vision for, say, changing their floor plan—this laptop is a game-changer.

That said, given all of its special features, and its higher price point, this isn’t a laptop for your second-grader’s first foray into virtual classes. You’d probably want something cheaper, simpler and a bit more durable, like the Lenovo Duet or HP x360 2-in-1 Chromebook.

If you’re headed to college, starting a new side hustle or looking for something a bit more high-tech, the Galaxy’s for you. (BTW, it's $200 off right now, it makes an even more compelling case to give it a shot.)

BUY IT ($999; $799)

RELATED: The 18 Best Laptop Accessories for Making WFH Way More Comfortable

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