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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Long battery life
Speakers are bottom-facing
Not good for gaming
The Samsung Chromebook 3 is an easy-to-use and ideally sized laptop for streaming media, browsing the web, and completing all your favorite Google cloud-based activities on the go.
If you’re a dedicated Google user and you’d like a lightweight laptop rather than a tablet, the Samsung Chromebook 3 could be a great complement to your connected lifestyle. It doesn’t take up much room or overcomplicate the experience with too many extras. You just need a Google account and you’re good to enjoy the full suite of Google services and other media via USB, HDMI, and microSD. I used this laptop for a week of general media playback and browsing and enjoyed the straightforward, minimalist experience and impressive battery life.
For more laptops under $200, check out this list for affordable options.
The Samsung Chromebook 3 is a champ when it comes to portability. At just 2.54 pounds with a relatively slim build, it adds a little but not too much bulk. I still definitely noticed it when I stowed it in a tote bag or backpack, but it’s nothing compared to a laptop that’s over 3 pounds, which is a considerable amount of heft for daily commuting or travel.
At just 2.54 pounds, the Samsung Chromebook 3 is a champ when it comes to portability.
The screen hinge is quite sticky, but that’s preferable to feeling like it’s going to fall off—especially since the screen has the ability to recline completely back to reach a nearly 180-degree stance. The keyboard takes up much of the body of the laptop. The keys are large, raised, and curved, which is supposed to make the experience more comfortable. It did offer some ergonomic comfort in contrast to the touchpad area, but it’s a bit too small. Because it’s oriented so close to the edge of the device, I felt wrist strain even after just a few minutes of use. Touchpads aren’t known to be especially cozy for long-term operation, but I experienced more of an unnatural bend in my wrist than I’ve noticed with other laptop touchpads.
There’s a healthy number of ports on this small device. It was easy to extend the display using an HDMI cord and connect an external drive via one of the USB ports. There’s a microSD port as well for accessing media, but there’s no Type-C port.
Touchpads aren’t known to be especially cozy for long-term operation, but I experienced more of an unnatural bend in my wrist than I’ve noticed with other laptop touchpads.
The Chromebook 3’s 11.6-inch display is decent, though not out of this world. It features Intel HD Graphics 400 and anti-reflective properties—both of which were richer and more effective than what I noticed from the Lenovo Ideapad S130’s display. Content is somewhat visible and legible even from an extreme angle to the side of the screen. I didn’t notice as much of the sort of shadowy effect that can sometimes take hold when not looking at an LCD straight on.
As for appearance in bright light, it held up pretty well, with little glare or washed-out appearance. The screen resolution, especially when streaming Netflix content or other media, was best when the brightness was turned up to 100 percent. Most content tended to look more cool than vibrant, but this small screen offered more contrast and vibrancy than I expected.
I used CrXPRT, a benchmarking tool from Principled Technologies for Chromebooks, to gauge general performance with tasks like streaming video, playing movies, and even editing photos. I ran the Performance Test which yielded an overall result of 72.
Compared to other Samsung Chromebooks, the score wasn’t the lowest. The Samsung Chromebook XE303C12 takes that spot with a score of 32, and the highest performer is the Chromebook Pro 510C24-K01, at 130 points. (The better-performing Chromebooks scored by CrXPRT earned marks closer to 300).
I also ran the WebXPRT 3 test to capture how well this device performs basic web-based tasks. The score of 46 placed it above competing models like the HP Stream, which scored a 29 overall, but below the Dell Inspiron 11 3168, which scored a 51. By contrast, some of the highest performing laptops score near or over 250. The 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro was near the top of the table with a 246 overall score.
This small machine is very capable of performing multiple tasks at once. I could operate several browser tabs, stream both YouTube and Netflix content, and play a simple game like Pac-Man and Pocket World 3D without noticing any lags or interruptions.
It was efficient for working within the Google suite of tools like Google Docs and Gmail and web surfing as well. All of these basic functions are what a customer buying a device like this is looking for, and the Chromebook 3 delivers for daily computing and multimedia use.
As for anything more demanding like more intensive gaming, this little laptop falls short. I tried to play Asphalt 8 with little success. There were lengthy load times and lagging, and it froze up easily.
I could open several browser tabs, stream content, and play a simple game without any interruptions.
Audio quality isn’t terrible on the Samsung Chromebook 3. Videos and music reached high volumes and were quite clear, but the higher the volumes, the tinnier the sound became with a kind of echoey effect with dialogue.
Overall volume was louder with headphones than without them, and a little clearer too. But considering that the stereo speakers are located on the bottom of the device, I’d say the sound is not nearly as muffled as I’d expected it to be. For games, too, this sort of echoey and muffled sound quality came through, but it seemed better than when playing video content.
The Samsung Chromebook 3 is a Bluetooth and 802.11ac dual-band capable device. While Ookla Speed Test results (in the Chicago area) showed average download speeds of 58Mbps on my Xfinity ISP of up to 200Mbps. That said, I noticed slight lag from the performance I see with a 2017 MacBook which averages between 90-120Mbps with my tri-band 802.11ac router.
Most laptop shoppers aren’t looking for a top-notch built-in camera, but the Chromebook 3’s camera is lackluster at best. It functioned adequately for video chat usage and did not lag when capturing video, but picture and video quality was blurry. Bright light, especially natural light, improved the ability to capture a clearer picture or video, but generally, everything was a bit hazy, fuzzy, and washed out.
Samsung says the Chromebook 3’s battery can last for up to 11 hours. With consistent use of heavy-duty tasks like video streaming, I noticed the battery lasted closer to 8-9 hours. Without asking the laptop to perform streaming-heavy activity, it was much closer 11 hours and maybe a little more when combining stints of active use and then periods of non-use. Even better, this laptop consistently charged back to full in about two hours.
If you regularly use or want to use certain features or programs that are only specific to Windows or macOS and not offered by Chrome OS, then a Chromebook like this one could feel more restrictive and less of a valuable investment. But the Chrome OS isn’t necessarily a constraint if you’re dialed in to Android and Google. If that’s you, you’ll probably find the kinds of extensions and apps you want in the Chrome and Google Play stores.
You do need a Google account to get the most from this device, though using guest mode does grant access to general Chrome web browsing—which eliminates all traces of browsing history once signed out. That includes any bookmarks or file downloads.
If you don’t demand too much heavy lifting from your laptop, this budget-conscious notebook is easy to throw in your bag for web browsing and computing essentials.
Price is a hurdle that the Samsung Chromebook 3 clears quite well. Lightweight and affordable laptops for around $200 are sort of a rare find. Chromebooks from other brands like Asus can creep well above $200 and maybe even exceed $400 for premium options. If you’re aiming for an inexpensive but efficient Chromebook that offers solid performance, the Chromebook 3 sits right in that unique sweet spot to save you some cash and still get what you want from a laptop.
The Acer Chromebook 15 (see on Amazon) has a list price of just $29 more than the Chromebook 3, but boasts the larger display at 15.6 inches. The Acer’s screen is designed with the same graphics controller model and screen resolution, but it features a wide-angle display for better visibility from different angles when viewing content and for webcam use. Another benefit when viewing content is the top-facing stereo speakers on the Acer Chromebook 15, which eliminates muffling.
The trade-off for the larger display comes with an overall larger body and significantly heavier weight of 4.30 pounds. The Acer Chromebook also functions on the same processor but has less memory at just 2GB. As for compatibility and convenience, the Acer Chromebook matches the Samsung Chromebook on ports, but its battery is supposed to last up to 12 hours, which is 1 hour longer than the Samsung Chromebook. Both offer decent portability and the same kind of performance for daily, easy computing tasks and web browsing. But if you’re looking for a large display and slicker metal build, the Acer Chromebook 15 pulls slightly ahead in those areas.
A lightweight, budget-friendly Chromebook for the basics.
The Samsung Chromebook 3 combines an affordable price and lightweight form factor with enough performance and efficiency for reliable daily use. If you don’t demand too much heavy lifting from your laptop, this budget-conscious notebook is easy to throw in your bag for web browsing and computing essentials.