The Bottom Line
Feb 12 2014 - Just as with its pricing, the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook falls in between the competitors. It may not have the longest running time or best performance but it gets the job done and provides a good set of peripheral ports that are missing from its most direct competitor. The keyboard is certainly comfortable as long as you can live with the small size of the system. The design overall is a bit dated and hopefully the company will update it soon but for those just needing a basic Chromebook, it does offer a nice balance in price, performance and features.
- Comfortable Keyboard
- Thin Design
- Performance Lags Behind Newer Intel Based Chromebooks
- Display Has Very Narrow Viewing Angles
- Samsung Exynos 5 (ARM Cortex-A15) Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 2GB PC3-12800 DDR3
- 16GB Solid State Drive
- 11.6" WXGA (1366x768) Display With VGA Webcam
- ARM Mali-T604 Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, 3-in-1 Card Reader
- 11.4" x 8.2" x .69" @ 2.43 lbs.
- Chrome OS
Review - Samsung Chromebook X303C12-A01US
Feb 12 2014 - Samsung has actually been a partner with Google producing Chromebooks for some time now. The Series 3 or XE303 model Chromebook isn't the most recent release but currently the only model available from Samsung. The design looks like a traditional laptop with a metallic silver or gray looking finish but it is constructed of plastic as it is designed to be extremely affordable. Sadly, it does not have a highly durable feel to it as there is a fair amount of flex and wobble when it is used. It was the thinnest and lightest Chromebook at the time when it was released and it is still quite light at just over 2.4 pounds but it is not the lightest anymore.
Samsung was the first to produce a Chromebook using an ARM based processor with their Exynos 5 dual core CPU. This is something that one would expect to find in a tablet but it does offer some higher clock speeds and 2GB of memory compared to the 1GB that was found in most tablets. In terms of performance, it works and was slightly better than the old Atom N570 Samsung used in its past Chromebook Series 5 but it is definitely slower than newer Chromebooks that are based on the faster Celeron processors. It is acceptable for media and browsing but is noticeably slower when dealing with graphics and more complicated tasks.
Storage for the Samsung XE303 is typical of a Chromebook with just 16GB of solid state storage. After the operating system, it provides roughly 10GB of user space. Users are intended to use the Google Drive cloud storage to make their files accessible from just about anywhere. If you do need more local storage, the system does thankfully feature a USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external drives. If you prefer some internal storage, there is a media card slot that can be used with SD cards with up to a 128GB storage capacity.
:The display panel for the Samsung XE303 uses a typical 11.6-inch display size with a 1366x768 native resolution. While it offers decent color, the screen suffers from some very narrow viewing angles with color shifting and contrast loss when viewed off center. In terms of quality, it is certainly better than the Acer C720 screen but not as good as the HP Chromebook 11. If the display doesn't work that well for you, there is the option to hook it up to an external display or HDTV thanks to the HDMI output port.
The keyboard design is similar to many other Samsung laptops by using an isolated layout. Overall, the keys are of a nice size and just spaced well enough that it provides a good level of comfort and accuracy. There is a bit more flex than would normally be in a Samsung laptop and this is likely attributed to having to keep the costs down. The trackpad is of a nice size and features an integrated button. Overall, it offers an accurate level of input and works just fine.
The internal battery for the Samsung XE303 is rated at 30WHr which is typical of the 11-inch Chromebooks. They claim that his can be used for up to seven hours of wireless web browsing. In digital video playback tests which are more demanding, it was able to run for five and a half hours before shutting down. This is a bit better than the similarly equipped HP Chromebook 11 but it falls short of the six and a half hours of the Acer C720 or the eight and a half of the HP Chromebook 14. It would have been nice to see it have running times just as long as an Android tablet but it just isn't long enough.
Pricing for the Samsung XE303C12-A01US is roughly $250. This puts it between the Acer C720 and the HP Chromebook 11. The Acer is the least expensive at roughly $200 and also provides the best performance thanks to the better Intel Celeron processor. The downside is that it is heavier and has the dimmest of the displays. The HP on the other hand is slightly more expensive at $279 but provides better build quality and a more stylish design. Performance is nearly the same but it does not offer the USB 3.0, HDMI or SD card slot that the Samsung does.