Two or three times a year, PCMag.com buys a bundle of inexpensive laptops to see what consumers can get on a minimal budget. Samsung's Galaxy Chromebook Go ($249.99) caught our eye because, though it's not the cheapest Chromebook you can find, it has a 14-inch screen instead of a dinky 11.6-inch display. (Plus, Samsung offers a $349.99 model that has LTE mobile broadband as well as Wi-Fi, so you can check the web or email when there's no hotspot in sight.) Unfortunately, it's a sluggish performer with a miserably dim, low-resolution screen that's emphasized by its size. Let's just say we wasted $249.99 so you don't have to: If that is as far as your budget will stretch, go with a model like Lenovo's IdeaPad 3 Chromebook, which weathers the limitations of a low-res screen much better than the Go does.
There's precedent for laptops and tablets with names ending in "Go"; they're usually more compact or more portable than siblings without the suffix. Not so here, though: While the recently reviewed Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a 13.3-inch system that weighs 2.71 pounds, the Galaxy Chromebook Go is a 14-inch model that's half a pound heavier.Our Experts Have Tested 139 Products in the Laptops Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)(Photo: Molly Flores)
The Go has fewer pixels, however. Instead of full HD or 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution, the screen offers the fuzzy 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution that's mercifully vanished from all but the humblest 11.6-inch Chromebooks. And while its dual-core, 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N4500 processor isn't the weakest on the market (though it's close), its pitiful 4GB of memory and 32GB of eMMC flash storage are rock bottom even by Chrome OS standards.
The plastic clamshell measures 0.63 by 12.9 by 8.9 inches (HWD), more or less matching the convertible Acer Chromebook Spin 514 (0.68 by 12.7 by 8.9 inches). Samsung and Chrome logos decorate the lid. There's rather a lot of flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the keyboard deck, and you won't find frills like a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader, or a webcam privacy shutter.
Nor will you find an HDMI port, making this one of those Chromebooks that requires you to find a USB Type-C DisplayPort dongle if you want to connect an external monitor. The Galaxy Chromebook Go has two USB Type-C ports, one on each side and either suitable for the compact AC adapter, plus a USB 3.1 Type-A port and a security lock slot on the right. An audio jack and a microSD card slot are on the left.(Photo: Molly Flores)(Photo: Molly Flores)
The keyboard follows the standard Chromebook layout with browser- and system-control keys in the top row and a menu/search key in place of Caps Lock. As with the Galaxy Chromebook 2, the menu key occasionally required multiple taps to make the search bar and icons stay on screen instead of popping up and falling back down.
It reminded me of typing on cardboard, with a flat and dull instead of snappy typing feel. The buttonless touchpad glides and taps acceptably but has a stiff, awkward click. The webcam is poor but no worse than that of many more-expensive notebooks, capturing slightly dim images with soft-focus 720p resolution and some noise or static.(Photo: Molly Flores)
Calling the Galaxy Chromebook Go's 14-inch screen slightly dim would be a kindness—it's downright dark (Samsung claims 220 nits), with weak contrast and poor, narrow viewing angles. Look at it from slightly off center, and it's a photo negative; view it from moderate-to-extreme angles, and it's practically blank. You need to look at this screen dead-on to retain a semblance of viewability, and even then, it's far from a treat.
That's because its low 1,366-by-768 native resolution makes text look fuzzy and pixelated, a malady that's made more obvious by the size of the screen. This resolution isn't ideal on any modern laptop, but it's notably subpar on any screen above 11.6 inches. Meanwhile, the colors aren't quite as bad as I feared, but they do look washed-out and flat instead of rich and well-saturated. White backgrounds, too, are dingy.(Photo: Molly Flores)
I usually test a laptop's sound by inserting a microSD card with some MP3 songs, but the Samsung ignored or didn't recognize my card. Playing MP3s from a USB flash drive, the Galaxy Go produced decent audio, not tinny or harsh even at top volume (which was pretty soft). Bass was faint to nonexistent, but I could make out overlapping tracks.
The Galaxy Chromebook Go was in no danger of setting benchmark records, but we compared its performance to that of four rivals anyway. Two join it in relying on an Intel Celeron CPU: its 13.3-inch QLED stablemate, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, and the 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook Spin 311 convertible. The HP Chromebook x360 14 and the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook, meanwhile, are convertibles with Intel Core i3 processors and, in the Lenovo's case, a solid-state drive instead of eMMC storage. You can see their basic specs in the table below.
The Galaxy Chromebook Go felt tepid in everyday use, taking a noticeable two or three seconds to launch apps or respond to an inserted USB drive, and that continued in our benchmarks. It held its own against the other Celerons, but the Core i3 systems left it in their dust. Playing a single YouTube video or opening several browser tabs was no problem, but multitasking took effort.(Photo: Molly Flores)
Two other Android benchmarks focus on the CPU and GPU respectively. Primate Labs' Geekbench uses all available cores and threads to simulate real-world applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning, while GFXBench 5.0 stress-tests both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering that exercises graphics and compute shaders. Geekbench delivers a numeric score, while GFXBench counts frames per second (fps).
Finally, to test a Chromebook's battery, we loop a 720p video file with screen brightness set at 50%, audio volume at 100%, and Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting disabled until the system quits. If there isn't enough internal storage to hold the video, we play it from an external SSD plugged into a USB port.
The 14-inch Samsung avoided being the slowest Chromebook we've tested, but didn't impress in our processor and graphics benchmarks or playing Android games. Its battery runtime was also disappointing, coming in at less than a full day of work or school even though our video test isn't the most demanding use scenario.
There are a few worse and weaker Chromebooks than the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Go, but there are many far better ones. Its performance is in the dictionary under "torpor," and its screen not only has the 1,366-by-768 resolution we thought we'd long since relegated to 11.6-inch Chromebooks but is dimmer and harder to view than they are.(Photo: Molly Flores)
If you watch retailers for sales, you can find superior deals. (It was a Black Friday price, but at this writing Best Buy offered a 14-inch Lenovo Chromebook with a 1080p touch screen and twice the storage for $100 less.) The Galaxy Chromebook 2 at least has its QLED display to recommend it, but the Go reminds us of General Motors' attempt to sell the Chevy Nova in Mexico—no va in Spanish means "does not go."
The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Go is an underpowered 14-inch laptop with a dismal display. It's no bargain even at its low $250 price.
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