Laptops were boring at CES, but there’s hope for the future

CES 2020 was a boring year for laptops — at least, it was a boring year for laptops that will be real products that you can actually buy in 2020. The upgrades were incremental at best, and even the more interesting changes are reliant on unproven technology, like AMD’s new processors and 5G internet.

But despite the fact that the upcoming wave of 2020 laptops so far looks like it’s been upgraded even more incrementally than ever before, all is not lost. Among the minor spec boosts, CES 2020 also offered the first glimmers of what might come next for portable computers, with new screen technologies, wild new designs, and 5G modems. Those trends are important for the future of laptops, but we’re not quite in that future just yet.

The simpler updates are the easiest to explain: laptop innovation is largely driven by what parts are available. When new high-resolution screens came out, laptops got better displays, and when Nvidia releases new graphics cards (like at last year’s CES), gaming laptops get more powerful. The most recent hardware release was Intel’s proper next-gen 10nm process Ice Lake processors from late last year that bring big boosts to battery life and efficiency. So a lot of the “new” laptops at CES fall into the category of “similar design that just got upgraded to Intel’s new chips.”

Those laptops include Asus’ new ZenBook Duo, which is smaller and lighter than last year’s Pro model (although the specs are worse, despite the fact that it has Intel’s 10th Gen chips). Asus’ various sizes of VivoBook S laptops got the new chips, too. Acer similarly upgraded its bread-and-butter Spin 5 and 3 laptops, as did Samsung’s with its cheaper QLED Galaxy Book Flex Alpha (which is effectively a rebranded Notebook 9 Pen successor).

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Other laptops, like the XPS 13 and Spectre x360 15, got slightly more dramatic redesigns alongside the new chips. But even then, the designs weren’t really new. The XPS 13’s redesign matches the one the XPS 13 2-in-1 got last year, and the Spectre x360 15’s smaller bezels and not-terrible trackpad debuted on HP’s 13-inch model in 2019, too.

In an interesting twist, Chromebooks got in on the Intel upgrade cycle this year with the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook and the Asus Chromebook Flip C436, both of which got Intel’s newest chips and the Project Athena designations. They’re also the first Chromebooks to have this certification, which covers things like size, weight, Wi-Fi 6 support, and longer battery life, which could help them compete better with conventional Windows laptops. (Those have been getting similar certifications for months.)

Of course, there are always new chips on the horizon, and it’s there where some of the most immediate potential lies. AMD came back ready to take on Intel again with its new Ryzen 4000 series of processors for laptops, and we saw plenty of laptops with those, too. Although, like the Intel spec boosts above, many of these were upgrades to existing designs, like the Dell G15 and Yoga Slim 7. AMD is making some big promises with these new chips: it claims that they’ll outpace Intel’s Ice Lake chips when it comes to performance, along with battery life that’s twice as good as the last generation of AMD chips.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

AMD needs the win. The second-generation Zen+ chips that AMD previously offered were handily outpaced by Intel’s 10nm lineup, but we’ll have to wait and see if AMD can keep up (or surpass) Intel here when we can test the laptops for ourselves. That means that even the more interesting AMD laptops, such as Asus’ ROG Zephyrus G14, are still a bit of a question mark for now.

Not one to be left behind, Intel started teasing its upcoming Tiger Lake chips, which will bring the 10nm process to all of its mobile processors (not just the U-series chips) as well as the company’s upgraded Xe graphics, which it promises will be twice as powerful. Intel also previewed its first discrete graphics chip for laptops, the DG1 GPU, but that’s also still months away. These are products that could bring big changes to the entire laptop world — imagine an ultralight laptop that could play games like Destiny 2 with decent performance — but they’re still months away from being in the hands of product manufacturers, let alone in laptops that you can actually buy.

Foldable and dual-screen laptops grabbed a lot of headlines at CES, between Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, the Dell Concept Ori and Duet, and Intel’s Horseshoe Bend prototypes. But the category is still in its earliest days. Lenovo’s model is the only foldable screen laptop at CES that has concrete plans to ship a product in 2020. Even that will ship with regular Windows 10 at first, not the upcoming Windows 10X operating system that Microsoft is designing for dual-screen / foldable devices (like its own Surface Neo, which is due out at the end of 2020). And these laptops will need 10X to succeed: right now, they’re running customized versions of Windows 10, which just isn’t designed to handle dual-screen / foldable displays like 10X will be. Plus, 10X will offer a consistent experience across all devices of this category, instead of developers having to adapt to whatever unique solutions Dell or Lenovo come up with on their own.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Add in the fact that the ThinkPad X1 Fold starts at $2,500, and you’ve got a product category that — at least for now — looks more like a curiosity than the future of computing, with a couple of similar-looking prototypes that may never result in real products. Foldable laptops like these may eventually be ubiquitous, but it’s certainly not happening this year.

The same could be said about 5G connectivity, which we saw start to trickle into laptops with the announcements of Dell’s Latitude 9510, HP’s Elite Dragonfly G2, and the Lenovo Yoga 5G. Here, too, it’s clear that the upgrade at hand isn’t really ready for primetime. Two of those laptops (the Dragonfly and the Latitude) are business-focused devices that aren’t really aimed at consumers, and both only offer 5G as a configurable option, not as the default.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

This makes sense since 5G rollouts are still ongoing across most of the US. And while 2020 will be a big year when it comes to consumer adoption of the next-gen cellular standard, it’s still very early on in the process. Still, it’s a bit disappointing to see that more laptops aren’t even trying to offer 5G support, given that they’re the exact sort of device that would benefit from reliable, ultra-fast internet on the go that offers speeds comparable to traditional cable internet.

Of course, it wouldn’t be CES without a few exciting experiments. MSI announced the Creator 17 as the “world’s very first” Mini LED laptop, promising better HDR and zone lighting from its far brighter-than-usual screen. MSI also had a pair of gaming laptops with blazing-fast 300Hz displays for gaming and beefy 99.9Wh batteries. Lenovo had a laptop with a full-fledged E Ink panel built into the lid; Asus had one with a customizable dot-matrix LED display that can play animated GIFs. And Alienware stuffed an entire gaming laptop into something the size and shape of a Nintendo Switch with its Concept UFO prototype. Some of these innovations could go on to be the next big thing in portable computers, but it’s too early to tell which will succeed and which won’t. (I wouldn’t go betting on E Ink lids being the new standard for laptops just yet.)

2020 is just getting started, and there’s going to be plenty of new laptops out this year that didn’t make an appearance at CES this week. New processors and parts will presumably ship at some point, enabling the kind of overhauls for higher-end creative and gaming machines like we saw last year, thanks to products like Nvidia’s then-new RTX laptop GPUs.

But despite the promises of flashy folding screens and fast 5G, this year’s laptop lineup looks, for the most part, boring. But it’s the good kind of boring that makes laptops look better, last longer, and feature more refined designs than ever before.

Samsung’s new external SSD has a built-in fingerprint reader for extra security

When it comes to improving external SSDs, there are usually only two things that matter: making the drives faster and adding more storage. Samsung’s new T7 Touch external SSD, which was announced at CES 2020, is a bit more creative. It adds a built-in fingerprint reader to secure your files, in addition to the usual improvements to transfer feed.

It’s a clever idea that gives you the option to protect your files with biometric security even if you’re using a laptop that doesn’t have a fingerprint reader. Samsung says that you can register up to four different fingerprints with the T7 Touch, meaning you’ll be able to easily share the drive with friends or teammates if you’d like.

Another addition to the T7 Touch is an indicator light that shows when the drive is plugged in and actively transmitting data, something that was bafflingly missing from the last generation.

The drive has a solid aluminum chassis, which Samsung says helps make it drop resistant up to two meters (about six and a half feet) — although you probably shouldn’t intentionally test that out for yourself. There’s also a single USB-C port, which can be connected to either a USB-C to USB-C or USB-C to USB-A cable.

It’s not all cosmetic changes and fancy fingerprint sensors, though. Samsung has also improved the actual SSD here, offering write speeds up to 1,000MB/s and read speeds up to 1,050MB/s, which it says is “approximately twice as fast as its predecessor, the T5.”

The T7 Touch will go on sale later this month and is set to cost $129.99 for a 500GB model, $229.99 for 1TB of storage, and $399.99 for the 2TB version. A version of the T7 Touch without a fingerprint reader, the T7, is set to be released in Q2 2020.

Filmmaker Mode is coming to Samsung and Philips TVs to cure motion smoothing

At CES 2020, the UHD Alliance, a coalition that helps define display standards, announced that Filmmaker Mode, which is designed to show films with as little motion smoothing or post-processing as possible, will be coming to TVs released in 2020 from Samsung, TP Vision (which makes Philips-branded TVs internationally), and Kaleidescape (via Hollywood Reporter). LG, Panasonic, and Vizio, which previously expressed interest in bringing Filmmaker Mode to TVs, also shared details about their implementations of the setting.

According to Variety, LG said it will have Filmmaker Mode in “every new 4K and 8K TV that we introduce in 2020.” Panasonic said its 2020 OLED HD 2000 series will include the Filmmaker Mode, with more on the way. And LG, Panasonic, and Vizio all confirmed that their TVs with Filmmaker Mode will be able to automatically turn it on, according to FlatpanelsHD (a feature I will explain a bit later).

Samsung, TP Vision, and Kaleidescape have not shared which TVs will have Filmmaker Mode. And notably absent from the list of TV providers that have pledged to include Filmmaker Mode are Sony and TCL.

The goal of Filmmaker Mode is to make movies on TVs look a lot better. Right now, many HD TVs have motion smoothing turned on by default, which applies a lot of post-processing to what you’re watching and can sometimes create a blurry, overly smooth picture, referred to as the “soap opera effect.” That can make movies look much different — and usually much worse — than the filmmaker intended them to.

Motion smoothing isn’t the easiest thing to turn off, as you usually have to know what the setting is called on your specific TV (LG calls it the not-obvious “TruMotion,” for example) and know exactly where to turn it off in your TV’s settings. (Fortunately, we have a guide to help with that.)

Filmmaker Mode is supposed to remove all of that post-processing so that movies on your home TV look the way their filmmakers made them to look (hopefully without the soap opera effect). The UHD Alliance also wants to make Filmmaker Mode easy to use by having it to turn on by default. That means you won’t have to dive into your TV’s settings just to see The Irishman the way Martin Scorsese wanted it. And if you do want to turn Filmmaker Mode on manually, the UHD Alliance is also standardizing the Filmmaker Mode name across all TVs that have the mode so you can more easily find it in your TV’s settings.

Not surprisingly, Filmmaker Mode also has the backing of a number of directors, including Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron, Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Rian Johnson, and Christopher Nolan. You can hear them and others talk about Filmmaker Mode in this video:

It’s important to note that Filmmaker Mode is only coming to new TVs; it’s not something you can expect to turn on after a software update to the TV you already own. And based on what LG, Panasonic, and Vizio said at CES, it seems that Filmmaker Mode is only coming to some 2020 TVs from the companies that have pledged support. So if you want to use the mode, wait until TVs that have it are officially on sale.

Samsung copied Apple’s Face ID logo in its CES keynote

It’s not the worst press conference mistake we’ve seen at CES this year, but Samsung revisited a classic during its keynote last night: copying Apple’s work, continuing a seemingly endless pattern of Samsung (and other companies) cloning Apple, intentionally or otherwise.

In this case, Samsung presented an icon for facial recognition that is almost indistinguishable from Apple’s Face ID icon. As iMore indicates, they’re not exactly the same — the lines all seem a bit thicker and closer together, and the corners are perhaps a touch less rounded — but we’re basically looking at Apple’s Face ID icon, which is seemingly slightly adjusted to fit in with the art on the rest of the slide.

Left: Apple’s Face ID icon. Right: Whatever Samsung decided to do.

The icon came up about 50 minutes into Samsung’s press conference — titled, for whatever reason, “Age of Experience” — while H.S. Kim, head of the company’s consumer electronics division, was talking about its investment into cybersecurity. “We’ll stay ahead by investing in identity protection and secure access to your favorite websites and mobile apps through Samsung Pass,” Kim said. The icon was up for all of 15 seconds.

This seems like it was probably a mistake on the part of whoever made this portion of the slideshow. Samsung doesn’t appear to use this icon in its software or packaging; its actual facial recognition icon appears to be an outline of a face, which looks kind of generic.

That would make for the second major error of the show. Yesterday, AMD appeared to reveal details about the upcoming Xbox Series X before admitting that it had used a fan-made render of the console and had not, in fact, shown new details about what ports the machine will include.

There’s a long history of companies borrowing, often very directly, from Apple. Samsung is the most infamous, having been involved in a pair of years-long lawsuits over claims that it had copied the iPhone’s design. More recently, the clones have largely come from Chinese brands. There was a wave of notch copycats after the iPhone X came out. Xiaomi last year almost completely ripped off Apple’s dynamic wallpaper and Memoji avatars, and Huawei and its sub-brand Honor have also taken a crack at versions of Apple’s AirPods.

Samsung’s Odyssey G9 is the most extreme ultrawide gaming monitor

Samsung’s Odyssey G9 gaming monitor is an incredible thing to behold in person. It’s on the show floor at CES 2020, and pretty much everyone who sat in front of the 49-inch 1440p display was dazzled.

You’re going to have an impossible challenge trying to find a rig that can push the latest PC games at 240Hz. But if you’re a competitive e-sports player who specializes in older titles, this display could be a dream. Those not running it at 240Hz can still take advantage of its sharp resolution and that immersive 1000R curvature that pretty much envelops your whole field of vision.

The back is very sci-fi, with a clear cutout in the center that reveals a round LED that shifts colors. It looks like Iron Man’s arc reactor. Does anyone need that in a monitor? Nope. Does it look cool, especially for the crowd the G9 is marketed toward? Oh, most definitely.

Listening to the crowd of onlookers here in Las Vegas, I heard some confess that the Odyssey G9 is too much monitor for them and that they’d have a hard time following along with everything happening on-screen in Fortnite. To me, there’s really no such thing as too much monitor. Give me two of these things side by side. Surround me with like five or six of them, even.

With a 1ms response time and support for both AMD FreeSync 2 and Nvidia’s G-Sync, the G9 is likely to come with a very hefty price tag when it ships later this year. It’s easy to quibble over whether it’s worth the cost compared to other ultrawide or 1440p monitors on the market.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

Samsung plans to launch its Galaxy Home Mini smart speaker early this year

Samsung’s Galaxy Home Mini may finally see the light of day, with Samsung CEO and head of its consumer electronics division Hyun-Suk Kim announcing at CES 2020 that the company would be releasing its smaller Bixby-powered smart speaker early this year, via Bloomberg.

It’s been over a year and a half since Samsung first showed off its Bixby-powered Galaxy Home smart speaker, which was announced back in August 2018. The full-sized smart speaker has since missed numerous delays, most recently at the end of Q3 2019. In that time, though, the company also quietly announced the Galaxy Home Mini through a public beta test in South Korea, and it’s that device that’s reportedly nearing a release date.

Samsung had told The Verge back in August 2019 that it was “continuing to refine and enhance the Galaxy Home prior to launch” — a process that seems to have paid off, given that Samsung is apparently close to releasing at least one of its Galaxy Home products.

Like its oft-delayed larger sibling, the Galaxy Home Mini uses Samsung’s Bixby assistant to control IoT devices through Samsung’s SmartThings platform as well as functioning as a home speaker using sound technology from Samsung’s AKG audio brand. According to Bloomberg, Samsung’s goal with the Galaxy Home Mini is less to mimic the conversational assistant aspects that have become such a key part of products like Siri and Alexa, and to focus on creating an assistant that executes voice commands well.

Samsung still hasn’t announced a release date for the larger, cauldron-shaped Galaxy Home. According to Bloomberg’s report, the company has yet to decide whether it will be selling it at all. Right now, all focus is said to be on the cheaper and smaller Galaxy Home Mini.

But even if Samsung does hit its planned “early 2020” release date for the Galaxy Home Mini (which, given the litany of delays the Galaxy Home lineup has faced so far, isn’t assured), there’s still the fact that the smart home industry is in a very different place in 2020 than it was in 2018. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant have massively increased their presence in the space, each with new hardware generations of smart speakers and displays that have come and gone since Samsung’s speaker was first announced.

That leaves the biggest question surrounding the Galaxy Home and the Galaxy Home Mini: even if Samsung does release these Bixby speakers, is there room left in the market for another digital assistant?

Samsung’s new Ballie robot is like a real-life mini BB-8

Today, at Samsung’s keynote at CES, Samsung introduced Ballie, a small ball-shaped robot intended to help you around the house. Samsung says Ballie utilizes AI to be a security robot, a fitness assistant, a tool to help seniors connect with smart devices in their homes, and it can even be a friend to your kids and pets.

In an onstage demo, Ballie followed Samsung consumer electronics division CEO H.S. Kim on the stage by rolling around, seemingly by using the camera to track Kim as he walked across the stage. Ballie also gave cute little robotic chimes in response to a couple of commands from Kim, and it even rolled right into Kim’s hands when he called for it.

Rolling around and following people seems to be all that Ballie can do at the moment. But in a promotional video aired shortly after the demo, Samsung showed a bigger vision for Ballie that could someday make it more of an at-home assistant. Ballie opened the blinds in its owner’s home, turned on the TV so that the house’s dog could have something to watch, and summoned a Roomba-like vacuum to help clean up a mess.

Samsung isn’t the first to make robots billed as at-home companions. Sony, for example, recently released APIs for Aibo, its robot dog, that will apparently let you make services and applications for Aibo that let it interact with smart home devices. Below is a concept video of what might be possible with those APIs. Some of the scenarios shown are quite similar to what Samsung is proposing with Ballie.

There’s also a chance that Samsung may run into some of the issues other companies have faced when trying to sell commercial robots. Remember Sphero, the company that actually sold a BB-8-like robot? The company just didn’t sell enough toy robots, forcing it to stop making licensed robots in December 2018 and pivot to making robots for education. Toy robot company Anki shut down in April last year after running out of money, and just yesterday, it was announced that Anki’s assets were bought by an ed-tech firm, meaning that Anki’s Vector robot will live on. And don’t forget about Rolly, Sony’s ridiculous-looking “sound entertainment player” robot that cost $400 when it came out in 2007 and could only get music loaded onto it with Sony’s proprietary Sonic Stage application.

Samsung didn’t share any information about when Ballie might come out or how much it might cost when it’s available, so it’s hard to know if we can ever get the chance to see if it will live up to Samsung’s bold vision that it presented at CES. But for now, it at least looks like a cute little robot that could be a companion around the house — that is, if it’s something you’ll actually be able to buy.

Samsung’s next flagship Galaxy phone will reportedly have a 120Hz display

Samsung’s next Galaxy flagship will have a screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, a new report from SamMobile is claiming. Citing “highly reliable sources,” the publication claims that the Galaxy S11 (or Galaxy S20, depending on which rumors you believe) will use one of Samsung’s own high refresh rate displays, which it has previously manufactured and sold to competitors, but not used in its own handsets.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors that the Galaxy S11 will feature a 120Hz display. Last November, Twitter leaker Ice Universe reported that a hidden 120Hz setting had been found in a beta version of the Note 9’s One UI software. Although the Note 9 itself has just a 60Hz display, the existence of the setting suggests that a 120Hz display is a feature Samsung is considering for its future handsets. Over the weekend, Ice Universe reiterated their prediction.

As the benefits from increasing screen resolution have become more marginal, phone manufacturers are increasingly turning to higher refresh rates to give their phone displays the edge. Last year’s Google Pixel 4 and the OnePlus 7T both featured 90Hz displays, while gaming phones like the Razer Phone 2 and the Asus ROG Phone 2 have gone further with their 120Hz displays. Higher refresh rates have the benefit of making motion and scrolling appear much smoother on a phone screen, which benefits games as well as other software animations. Past a certain refresh rate, diminishing returns inevitably set in, but the point at which it does so is a matter of much debate.

Regardless of whether it ends up being called the Galaxy S11 or Galaxy S20, Samsung’s next flagship is due to be announced on February 11th, where it may or may not be joined by the company’s second foldable smartphone.

Samsung’s ideas for the future of TVs are stunning and weird

Samsung has come to CES 2020 with some high-design TVs that range from the flagship 8K QLED Q950 (with bezels that are basically nonexistent when the screen is on) to the Sero, a “lifestyle” 4K TV designed for millennials, Gen Z-ers, and really anyone who lives on their phone. Link it to your mobile device, and the Sero can rotate its 43-inch screen vertically to show portrait videos (or mobile apps and games) without any pillarboxing.

If you’re a vertical video hater, the Sero might seem almost sacrilegious. A TV designed to showcase video that people are capturing the wrong way? But portrait clips are here to stay — be it Instagram stories, TikTok posts, Snapchat, or other content — and this is the first time where it’s made any real sense to bother watching these videos on the TV screen.

Pricing, which hasn’t been revealed yet, will make or break the Sero. Too high and it’s a costly gimmick. But if it’s not outrageous, the Sero will have an easier time finding its way into some living rooms and bedrooms.

And then there’s Samsung’s nicest-looking TV, the new 8K flagship called the Q950. When it ships later this year, the TV with razor-thin bezels will come in 65-, 75-, and 85-inch sizes. It’s just 15 millimeters thick and somehow packs six speakers into that all-screen design.

Gorgeous as it is, the bezel-less 8K QLED solves none of 8K’s problems. There’s still no real content of which to speak. The best Samsung can do is lean on AI-powered upscaling and make vague promises about streaming 8K in the not-too-distant future. If the Infinity Display design could be had in a 4K model, I’d be all-in. This design is what the future of Samsung’s TVs should be. It’s far more stunning in person than in press renders.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

For most consumers, Samsung’s most important 2020 TVs will be its mainstream 4K QLED lineup — and the company didn’t have much to say on that front at CES. Like other TV makers, Samsung is prepping for the coming new generation of game consoles and will probably have much more to share on its 4K sets over the next few months.

But Samsung used its annual appearance in Las Vegas to show where it thinks TVs are headed. At the luxury end, you’ve got a phenomenally immersive 8K TV, and at the other is a unique set that might just cause some people to share their Instagram Story with friends from the couch instead of passing a phone around.

The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is beautiful, fast, and expensive

The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is one of the nicest pieces of laptop hardware I’ve touched in a very long time. Not since Google’s 2017 Pixelbook has there been a Chrome OS device this good-looking, powerful, or — here’s the rub — expensive. Available sometime in the first quarter of 2020, the Galaxy Chromebook will start at $999, and it could go much higher if you fully upgrade its RAM and storage.

The central conceit of this laptop is that there really is a demand for a high-end Chromebook, and while that may be truer in 2020 than it was in 2017, it’s not a sure thing. Chrome OS still has a nagging inability to do some of the things you’d want a device that costs more than a thousand dollars to do: run full desktop apps, easily edit photos and video, or play more premium games.

Despite those limitations, Google and Samsung are looking for ways to get Chromebooks to escape the classroom and start appearing in boardrooms. The Galaxy Chromebook could be part of a revitalized effort to do just that.

Running down the specs of the Galaxy Chromebook is like hitting a laundry list of the things you might want in a top-tier Windows ultrabook. It has a 13.3-inch 4K AMOLED display and an Intel 10th Gen Core-i5 Processor. There’s a fingerprint sensor for unlocking, two USB-C ports, and expandable storage via microSD. The screen rotates 360 degrees, and there’s an included S Pen stylus that can be stored in a silo on the device. It’s built out of aluminum instead of plastic, has a large trackpad, and is less than 10mm thick.

Also, and I know this is kind of a cheap trick, the laptop comes in an incredibly bold red color that looks electric orange in certain lighting. (Samsung calls it “fiesta red.”) There’s also a plain old gray color if you like plain old things.

Build quality is top-notch. The laptop looks very much like a Pixelbook, in fact, with two very thin and blocky aluminum wedges attached with a slightly curved hinge. There’s no fan, and the sound shoots out of the side through tiny holes milled into the metal.

In fact, I joked to a Google executive by saying, “I guess I know why you haven’t updated the Pixelbook,” and I was surprised when I got a knowing smile in response. Google and Samsung have collaborated closely on previous Samsung Chromebooks, and it seems like that’s the case again here.

The most important feature on the Galaxy Chromebook is the screen, a 13.3-inch AMOLED with 3840 x 2160 resolution. (That’s 16:9 if you don’t want to do the ratio math, which I still don’t love.) However, the bezels on the top and sides are incredibly thin, giving the laptop a fairly small footprint. There is an eensy webcam at the top of the screen, but I can’t speak to its quality.

The screen looks great, and Samsung tells me it’ll support HDR400. There’s a caveat, however: Chrome OS apparently doesn’t support all of the necessary DRM to get proper HDR content from many providers, so you might not see the HDR you’d expect when you stream or rent something.

Samsung also says that the screen can change its color temperature based on the lighting in the room with the same “Ambient EQ” technology Google uses on its Nest Hub smart display. That confirms they worked together on this Chromebook.

Because it’s so thin, there’s not a ton of room for key travel. Samsung tells me it’s about 1.2mm. It still felt better to type on that Apple’s infamous butterfly keyboard and was certainly quieter, both due to the fact that Samsung stuck with traditional scissor switches.

My biggest problem when typing is that, on the units Samsung had in the room, the screen had a really bad wobble when the laptop was on my lap. Hopefully final shipping units will tighten up the hinge to solve that.

There’s a fingerprint sensor for logging in, and there’s also an 8-megapixel camera on the keyboard deck. It’s there in case you want to put the device into tablet mode to take pictures. I’m not sure who actually uses this feature, but Samsung keeps putting cameras in that spot, so presumably, somebody does.

The base specs for $999 comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is above average for Chromebooks but the minimum I’d accept at this price point. It supports up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, though there’s been no word on what those upgrades will cost you.

Samsung says the 49.2Wh battery should be good for about eight hours of use. Somewhat interestingly, this is also the first Chromebook to qualify for Intel’s Project Athena specifications.

As you can probably tell, I’m very impressed with this hardware. If Samsung can tuck in a few corners — like that wobbly screen — it will be able to stand toe-to-toe with pretty much any other ultra-thin laptop hardware I can think of.

Emphasis on “hardware” in that last paragraph. Chrome OS can do 90 percent of what 90 percent of people need to do 90 percent of the time. And this machine will likely be able to do it faster and better than anything else on the market. It’s the other 10 percents in that story that are the problem, and Google has been struggling to figure out how to address it.

Just releasing great hardware won’t solve those issues. But for some people, those issues won’t matter. The Pixelbook apparently sold well enough to convince both Google and Samsung that there’s a market for ultra-premium Chromebooks. I suspect the Galaxy Chromebook will end up being a niche device for a niche audience.

But it’s a very pretty niche.