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The Chromebook Hasn’t Fully Arrived. Not Yet

So many things right.

Henry Phillips

So many things are good on the Samsung Chromebook Pro. The touchscreen. (The price.) The stylus. The 360-degree hinge. (The price.) The 8GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. (The price.) And so many things are still missing. But before we get to those, let’s clarify how close the Chromebook is really close to being a fantastic piece of tech.

For starters, Chrome OS actually works, and it works fast. It flies through all daily tasks, from spreadsheets to Netflix, and even with the swiveling and stylus-ing, it never skips a beat. It works, and it works really, really well. That competence, along with all the handy features at your disposal — tablet-esque touchscreen, phablet-esque stylus, laptop-esque keyboard and trackpad (long live the trackpad!) — plus that teensie pricetag ($549 for the Pro I tested, $449 for the Plus) makes it good. But it’s not quite great. Not yet.

Beyond the screen and internals — which are great — the rest of the product validates, in the worst possible way, the low price.

A great piece of tech, these days — where the bar is set high in the sea of thousands of average products — needs to have the wow factor. And the wow factor comes in the small details — the touch of the keys, the precision of the hinge, the responsiveness of the touchpad, the satisfying engagement of the stylus in its little port. Thank Apple. Thank Google. Thank Tesla. Thank Leica. They’ve all set the bar high, and if the details are missed, then the product quickly becomes just a tool, not a new member of tech’s exponentially expanding cadre of objets d’art.

So buy the Chromebook — it is, relative to the rest of the market, cheap (the cheapest iPad Pro, with Keyboard and Pencil, rings in at $847; the MacBook starts at $1,299). But know that that word — cheap — also serves to condemn the hardware. Beyond the screen and internals — which are great — the rest of the product validates, in the worst possible way, the low price. The performance is there; the perks are there; but the hardware — keys, trackpad, stylus — are a far cry from something to be cherished. The Chromebook Pro is a work horse and a great entry-level 2-in-1 for the everyday user. It’s affordable. But it’s simply one iteration on what will, hopefully, be a product lineage that leads to a truly great piece of tech. As of now, it’s just part of the progress. The Chromebook has yet to fully arrive.

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