Samsung: 2018 Brand Report Card
Samsung continues to finds itself at the bottom of our Best and Worst brand rankings. This year, the company tied for last with MSI, thanks in no small part to its small offering of lackluster laptops. Premium Chromebooks such as the Pro and Plus are bright spots in an otherwise dismal lineup.
It's unfortunate, since the company has some of the best tech support around. The company is also lacking in innovation; its only real change in the past year was bringing S Pen support to its laptops.
Samsung's Key Strengths
- Excellent tech support - From social to live chat to actual phone calls, Samsung has some of the best tech support in the business.
Samsung's Main Weaknesses
- Uninspired design - Samsung's laptops range from the boring (Notebook 9 Pen) to the downright ugly (Notebook Odyssey), leaving consumers with little to get excited about.
- Lack of value - Outside of its Chromebook 3, the majority of Samsung's notebooks are bland and overpriced.
- No real innovation - Outside of adding S Pen support to the Notebook 9 Pen and Notebook 9, Samsung did nothing to push the envelope.
Top-Rated Samsung Laptops
Oh, Samsung, if only your laptops were half as good as your phones and TVs. Of the eight Samsung systems we reviewed over the past year (the company doesn’t make many), two scored less than 3 stars, and not one was good enough to earn an Editor's Choice award.
The company has some great ideas on paper, but its execution is lacking. Take the Notebook 9, a 13-inch laptop that weighs a mere 1.8 pounds and has a beautiful screen. However, it suffers from short battery life and a chassis that flexes. The Notebook Odyssey 15, with a weak design, a dim display and prices that are higher than competitors' offerings, just doesn't stack up to other gaming systems.
Design (9 / 15)
With so much focus on its phones, it's easy to forget that Samsung also makes laptops. And sometimes it feels like Samsung forgot as well — especially when you look at the Notebook Odyssey. First off, Samsung's only gaming laptop is made of plastic and has an off-putting, nondescript white symbol at the center of the lid. Samsung doubled down on the weird with the touchpad, surrounding it with an LED-lit parallelogram that has no purpose outside of aesthetics.
It's puzzling, especially since the company is capable of making a perfectly nonoffensive laptop, as seen in the Notebook 9 and Notebook 9 Pro. True, they're rather boring, but we'd rather a boring system than an unsightly one. Strangely enough, Samsung really shines with its Chromebooks. The Chromebook Pro and Plus are absolute visions in silver aluminum. Samsung even managed to make the Chromebook 3's textured plastic frame look like it was made of metal. So it's confusing why the company's cheaper systems get so much design attention rather than its flagships.
Support and Warranty (17/20)
Samsung's tech support agents offered helpful, correct (or at least mostly right) answers to every question we asked when we called them up for our annual Tech Support Showdown. The hands working its social media and live chat accounts also did a fine job of handling our queries.
The neat thing about Samsung's warranty program is that its 12-month service window is a bare minimum, so certain laptops will get even more, with up to 36 months of coverage. If you need to send your product in for service, you may need to pay for shipping. However, Samsung says that, "in certain cases," it will provide free shipping.
While our views on Samsung’s laptops were (how do we put this nicely?) mixed, the company has brought some innovation to the table in the last year. In the Notebook 9 Pen and Notebook 9 Pro, we finally got the excellent S Pen stylus on laptops, and Samsung added in Air Command for Windows, to boot.
The Notebook 9 Pro had a Radeon GPU, adding a workstation to diversify its mix. And while the Notebook Odyssey felt cheap, it got Samsung back into gaming, added new software in the Odyssey Control Center and a new heating system (though its utility was questionable).
Value and Selection (8/15)
Samsung doesn’t offer a very wide variety of notebooks. Its cheap option is its $179 Samsung Chromebook 3, but the notebooks in the majority of the rest of its lineup are either the clamshell or 2-in-1 version of its Notebook 9, which is a bland computer that we found to be overpriced in several iterations. If you prefer a detachable tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Book is for you, but it costs almost $1,300.
MORE: The Best Samsung Laptops
There is a gaming option — the Notebook Odyssey — but at $1,200 for a laptop with a GTX 1050 GPU (you can find those under $1,000), it just wasn’t a good value. It also looked gaudy and felt cheap.