Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 packs a QLED display — and could be the Chromebook to beat

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(CNN) —  

The original Samsung Galaxy Chromebook was one of the show-stealers of last year’s CES, packing impressive performance and a vibrant display into a stunning design that flaunted the pop and polish of a sports car. There was just one problem: At $999, the original Galaxy Chromebook was a bit on the expensive side, even for someone seeking a higher-end Chrome OS laptop.

Enter the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Samsung’s second entry into the premium Chromebook arena starts at a much more attainable $549, retaining some of the key features of its predecessor — including that beautiful cherry red finish — and even debuting some new perks such as a QLED display. We got to spend some early hands-on time with Samsung’s latest Chromebook, and it’s shaping up to be one of the year’s more impressive laptops for those who want the simplicity of Chrome OS within a slick design.

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The first thing that caught my eye about the Chromebook 2 is its 13.3-inch, 920 x 1080 QLED display. This is the first Chromebook to use QLED technology, which is typically found on Samsung TVs and uses quantum dots to deliver much better color and brightness than what you’d get from a standard LCD screen.

When watching a Samsung demo video shot in 8K, we enjoyed vibrant colors and an extremely fine level of detail. The lush greens of a forest and the orange and yellow of falling autumn leaves popped off the Chromebook 2’s display, and I could make out each individual strand of hair on a white wolf’s face during a close-up. That’s pretty impressive for a 1080p display.

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Natasha Hatendi/CNN

QLED display aside, the Chromebook 2 looks a lot like its predecessor — and that’s a good thing. The demo unit we saw packs the same Fiesta Red paint job that debuted on last year’s model, and it looks just as stylish and refreshing as ever compared to the sea of black and gray laptops we usually see (there will also be a Mercury Gray option if you want something more modest).

The Galaxy Chromebook 2’s plastic design isn’t quite as premium as its aluminum predecessor, but it still felt substantial and sturdy while also being lightweight enough to pick up easily at just 2.7 pounds. The laptop’s 2-in-1 design made it easy to prop it up as a standalone display in tent mode, or fold it in half to use as a tablet. Its touch screen felt fluid and responsive too, as we had no issues tapping our way around apps or pinching to zoom into web pages. The Chromebook 2 is compatible with most major styli, though you won’t get one out of the box.

The keyboard on Samsung’s latest laptop also impressed, providing a nice amount of travel and clickiness as we typed away gibberish in a Google doc. The Chromebook 2’s Smart Amp speakers (which Samsung says runs up to 178% louder than the average amplifier) provided a nice amount of volume when we cranked up the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer, though we’re eager to see how they hold up during extended music and TV binges.

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The Galaxy Chromebook 2’s more attainable price comes at the cost of more modest specs, but that shouldn’t prove to be much of an issue for those using Google’s lightweight Chrome OS software to send emails, compose documents and browse the web.

The starting $549 configuration of the laptop features an Intel Celeron 5205U processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, while a higher-end $699 version gets you a more powerful Intel Core i3-10110U CPU alongside 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. CPU. By comparison, the original $999 Galaxy Chromebook launched with an Intel Core i5 processor.

You’ll get the essentials in terms of ports, with two USB-C connections, a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. There’s also support for Wi-Fi 6, and a 720p webcam for Zoom calls.

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Natasha Hatendi/CNN

With a much more affordable price than its predecessor and the world’s first QLED display on a Chromebook, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 could very well become the new Chromebook to beat. Its screen offers some truly gorgeous colors and an impressive level of detail, and its blazing red design is one of the best we’ve seen on a Chromebook.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is slated to launch in the first quarter of this year, and we’re eager to run it through our tests to see how it stacks up to the best laptops and best Chromebooks out there. We’ll be checking out a ton more products from this year’s uniquely all-virtual CES, so stay tuned.

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