The Chromebook sphere has been silent for quite a while now. There have been releases of low-end cheap chromebooks that fit the bill for those looking for simple media-consumption devices. The last major flagship launch in the Chromebook sphere was the Chromebook Pixel, which was quite a while ago.
Now we have 2 new mid-range Chromebooks from Samsung, who has worked with Google on these.
The Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro are the first of their kind built ground up with support for Android apps. They’re also the first Chromebooks to come with a stylus and support for on-screen inking. The Chromebook Plus will be available starting this February for USD$449 – whether it’ll come to Singapore is unclear. The Chromebook Pro is identical to the Chromebook Plus, with the exception of a more capable processor. It will arrive later this year for a tentative, but higher price.
Google and Samsung worked together on the new device, which features a 12.3-inch, 2400 x 1600 pixel LED display; 4GB of RAM; 2 USB Type-C ports, which support charging and 4K video output; a MicroSD card slot; and 32GB of internal storage. It sports and all-metal chassis and weighs just under 1.1kg and is just over half an inch thick when closed. The Plus has an ARM-based chip, while the Pro sports a beefier Intel Core M3 processor. The 360-degree hinge lets the device switch between laptop and tablet modes, which is similar to several Windows convertibles from companies like Lenovo and Dell.
The stylus can be used to take notes in Google Keep, which are then instantly synced and searchable through Google’s optical character recognition technology. Google is also using its cloud services to improve the writing experience – Google says it can predict where you’ll move the pen next, which improves response and makes writing or drawing feel more natural on the display. Kan Liu, senior director of product management for Chrome OS, says that the technology makes the Chromebook’s stylus more responsive than the Surface Pen used with Microsoft’s Surface devices. Stylus support and the flexibility to switch between modes are a big part of Google’s pitch for the device, which is said to work for both productivity and entertainment. It’s very similar to the pitch Apple gives for the iPad Pro and Microsoft gives for the Surface Pro, though Google touts that only the Chromebook combines a desktop-class browser with the wealth of mobile apps provided by the Google Play store. Liu says that this kind of flexibility could make the Chromebook Plus and Pro more appealing to consumers, as opposed to the education and enterprise markets that have made up most of the Chromebook user base so far.
I must say that these new Chromebooks are rather interesting at the turn of the year, especially since Chrome OS received a huge boost with the support to run Android apps. The work-tablet sector is being increasingly contested by big companies, notably Apple and Microsoft, but also OEMs like Lenovo and Dell bringing in their own Windows offerings. Google has aimed to bring balance to the abilities of the devices with its software prowess. It’s notably more powerful than iPad Pro due to its form factor and it’s desktop-style interface, but it also touts the power of Android Apps.
Will it be successful in giving Google the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Apple and Microsoft in this upcoming sector?
Only time will tell.
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