Due to hit the market in April, Samsung's new Chromebook Pro embodies the next stage of Google's push to merge the worlds of desktop and mobile computing. Like its companion Samsung Chromebook Plus, which ships starting next week, the Chromebook Pro was designed from the ground up to run Android apps available from the Google Play Store.
Google has for years floated the possibility of melding its Chrome operating system, which powers Chromebooks, with its Android mobile operating system. That idea began coming to life at Google's I/O 2016 conference, when Chrome OS product management director Kan Liu revealed that Android apps on the Google Play Store would soon become available on the Chrome operating system.
Unveiled at CES 2017 last month, the new Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro are described by Samsung as the next-generation Chromebook "born at the intersection of hardware and software innovation." Both are 2-in-1s that, for the first time, also come with built-in digital pens for on-screen drawing, writing and note-taking.
A Growing Threat to Windows, Mac?
Early reviews of pre-production models of the Chromebook Pro so far run the gamut from lukewarm (Engadget said the device offers "a lot of potential" but added the Android apps and touchscreen "aren't ready") to pretty good ("on the right track," according to Ars Technica) to effusive ("a nearly perfect budget laptop," said Gizmodo).
Several reviewers have also noted that Samsung's newest Chromebooks could begin posing more of a market threat to Microsoft's devices and Windows operating system. With its touchscreen and digital pen, the Chromebook Pro is moving in on Microsoft's Surface device territory, USA Today noted. And the growing integration between Chrome OS and Android could make Chromebooks increasingly appealing to Windows users who want cross-device access to their apps and services, BGR said.
The sales of Chromebooks, which have been widely adopted in school settings, outpaced the sales of Apple's Macs for the first time in early 2016, according to the analyst firm IDC. And the global sales of standard PCs in general have declined steadily over the past two years.
Two USB-C Ports, 4K Streaming
The 12.3-inch, 2.38-pound Samsung Chromebook Plus, which has been available for pre-ordering since last month, is priced starting at $449.99. It features a Quad HD display made of Gorilla Glass 3 that can rotate a full 360 degrees, enabling the device to be used as either a laptop or tablet. It comes with a 2 Ghz, hexa-core dual ARM processor. In contrast, the same size Chromebook Pro will be powered by a 2.2 Ghz Intel Core m3 processor and will be priced starting at $549.
Both devices come with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, with a battery life of up to eight hours and include two USB-C ports and support 4K streaming.
All of the latest Chromebooks will also now provide improved assistive technology for visually impaired users, Google announced yesterday. The updated version of the ChromeVox screen reader will make it easier for users and teachers to navigate and select commands, and adds new auditory features to give users more contextual information about screen and app activities, according to Google.