Hands on: The first things you notice about Samsung's Chromebook 2

Hey, look, kiddos: It's the Samsung Chromebook 2! Live and in the flesh. (Well, as live and in the flesh as an inanimate object can be, anyway.)

Samsung Chromebook 2 Hands On Impressions

Yep, it's true: After many months and some last-minute delays, Sammy's follow-up to its popular 2012 Chromebook is finally almost ready to ship. I'm in the midst of getting to know the 13.3-in. model of the device now and will have a full review to share with you soon.

For now, though, let's go hands on for some initial impressions. Ladies and gents, the first things you notice when you pick up the Samsung Chromebook 2:

The design

As you've probably heard, the Chromebook 2 has the same faux-leather look introduced with Samsung's Galaxy Note 3. And you know what? It actually works fairly well in this context.

Samsung Chromebook 2 Hands On

Sure, the fake stitching effect is still a little tacky. But all in all, it's not a bad look for a laptop. Especially compared to the generic plastic shells most Chromebooks in this category possess, the notebook-like design makes the Chromebook 2 distinctive and -- dare I say -- almost classy-looking (again, relative to the entry-level playing field).

Now, is it a Chromebook Pixel-caliber build quality? Of course not. But it's also a $400 computer, not a $1300 one. All things in perspective, right?

Samsung Chromebook 2 Design

Based on my time with the various Note 3 products, I'm still skeptical about how the design will come across in the white and black Chromebook 2 models -- but in the gray model I have in front of me, at least, I'm pleasantly surprised.

The size

We've seen a little variety in Chromebook sizes over the past several months, but by and large, 11.6-in. is still the standard screen size most manufacturers are sticking with. Samsung's Chromebook 2 does come in an 11.6-in. version, but the 13.3-in. model I'm testing is noticeably larger than that norm -- and for most folks, I think that'll be a good thing.

The added display real estate makes the system feel more like a traditional laptop and less like a netbook, with ample on-screen space for doing what you need to do. The tradeoff, of course, is portability: The Chromebook 2 is larger and heavier than its compact cousins. But in and of itself, the device doesn't feel at all bulky or unmanageable; it's still perfectly comfortable to carry around and use on your lap.

For perspective, the Chromebook 2 is about half a pound heavier than its 11-in. predecessor (as well as Samsung's new 11-in. Chromebook 2 model). It's a full pound lighter than HP's Chromebook 14, meanwhile, which sits at the top of the Chromebook size spectrum.

Chromebook 2 vs. Original Samsung Chromebook

The new 13.3-in. Chromebook 2 next to the 2012 Samsung Chromebook

The display

Size aside, the one thing you notice right away when booting up the Chromebook 2 is the quality of its display. The 13-in. model is the first Chromebook other than the top-of-the-line Pixel to move above the baseline 1366-x-768 resolution -- and at 1080p, this glossy display definitely looks better than what you get on most competing devices.

Samsung Chromebook 2 Display

There is one caveat, though: Samsung opted to stick with a lower-quality TN panel instead of going with a higher-end IPS display -- and man, is that difference apparent.

I'll see how my impressions evolve as I use the system more, but at this point, I'm wondering if that'll be the biggest thing that holds this system back from being the true midrange Chromebook we've been waiting to find.

(The 11-in. version of the Chromebook 2, it's worth noting, still utilizes the standard entry-level 1366-x-768 resolution.)

Stay tuned

There's so much more to discuss with the Samsung Chromebook 2 -- and fear not, my friends: From performance to the rest of the hardware and the nuances of the display, we'll get to all of it soon.

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I'll be continuing to live with the Chromebook 2 around the clock for the next several days. Stay tuned for my full review, and if you're itching for more Chromebook chit-chat, come join me over on Google+ in the meantime.

UPDATE: Chromebook 2 review: Compelling -- but not without compromise

More Chromebook coverage:

In depth: Meet the new Samsung Chromebook 2

Here's the deal with bloatware on Samsung's Chromebook 2

The 2 things that hold the Chromebook 2 back from midrange glory

Chromebook overload! A simple guide to all the new stuff ahead

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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