This should have been a big launch for Google.
The release of the Samsung Chromebook Pro was going to be the opening salvo in 2017’s battle of the cheap computers. It went on sale on May 28th, priced at $549.99. It’s a handsome and thin touchscreen laptop that looks like it costs twice as much. Because it also comes with stylus and performs at speeds you don’t usually get on Chrome OS, it should have been an inexpensive flagship that can prove that Chromebooks aren’t just for students and couches, but could be your main computer.
The operative word there is “should.” Because after a grand unveiling at CES, reality hit: the hardware wasn’t finished in time, and the software still isn’t finished. Even though it’s now on sale and shipping to customers, the software has a memory bug that crashes the computer if you push it too hard. Until Google fixes it, you should hold off on buying this laptop. I’m holding off on reviewing it, too.
I found that if I open more than a dozen or so tabs or web apps, the Chromebook Pro can become unstable — the whole device will freeze or even restart. The problem is intermittent and seems worse if you happen to open an Android app or had opened and closed one since you last rebooted.
Although Android apps are still in beta, they’re available for regular users out of the box. In fact, one of the core features of the Chromebook Pro is annotating images in the Android version of Google Keep. That means you can’t use the key differentiating feature of the Chromebook Pro without causing crashes.
To be clear, the bug rears its head even if you never open an Android app — it just seems to be worse when you do. Until Google solves these problems, you can only use a fraction of the Chromebook Pro’s capabilities without risking a freeze-up. Google says it’s working on the software fix.
What I should have been doing this week is judging this laptop by a new standard: standing toe-to-toe against Windows 10 S and the iPad as a complete vision for the next generation of simplified, secure, yet nevertheless powerful computing.
Instead of doing that, I’m doing this: telling you that the Chromebook Pro was delayed, that the main thing we were hoping it would do (Android apps) is still months away from being any good, and the people who ordered it on day one are going to experience a critical bug that breaks their experience until Google issues a patch.
Earlier this month, I wrote that Google prefers slow and steady iteration to iteration to flashy, change-the-world product releases. That slow and steady approach is admirable in its way and may ultimately win the race for Chrome OS. But if you’re going to take a measured approach to releasing products, you absolutely shouldn’t be tripping over your own feet as you do it.
We’ll update this article and post a review of the Chromebook Pro when Google issues the patch.