Dear Samsung, It's Time to Stop Making Laptops
We need to talk. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of reviewing your smartphones, laptops and various peripherals. And for the most part, it's been fun. But lately, you've been slacking on the laptop front. And I hate to be the one to say this, but it's time for you to wrap it up, son.
It's become painfully obvious that laptops aren't your first priority anymore. And who can blame you? Your smartphones are blowing up, dawg! Oh, bad choice of words. But you know what I mean. I've owned just about every Galaxy phone since the 4 and had a blast (sorry, sorry), especially when you teamed up with Oculus VR and gave me an affordable way to explore the virtual ether via the Gear VR. And man, you're one of the top TV brands in the country. Kudos.
But seriously, guys, you've gotten stale on the laptop front, and it started happening around 2015. You placed sixth in that year's Best and Worst Brands report, and you were described thusly:
"Firmly in the middle of the pack, Samsung doesn't blow us away, but it isn't a brand you should ignore, either. The company fared pretty well on our tech support showdown, but didn't stand out in any other category."
This was the year you started cutting down on the variety of laptops you released. Laptops like the Chronos 7 had long gone the way of the dodo, and you had settled into a firm groove releasing Ativ Books and Chromebooks. It was the second year we were ogling at that ash- black aluminum chassis, despite being thoroughly impressed by the 2.1-pound ATIV Book 9 Ultrabook. We were also really digging the faux-leather design of the Chromebook 2. But outside of getting slimmer and switching to Intel Celeron processors, there really wasn't much innovation to talk about.
And the decline kept going.
The next year, you face-planted into ninth place and became a "relatively minor player in the laptop market [that] did nothing to raise its profile." Once again, you were dinged in the report for your increasingly small selection of laptops, whose design — which once drew long, covetous gazes — now elicited frustrated feelings of ennui. Of course, the systems had once again gotten slimmer and lighter, but we'd already seen that trick before. And just like in 2015, there was little or no innovation.
Samsung, why don't you want to win? I ask not just as a technology journalist but as a concerned friend.
2017 rolled around and found you comfortably nestled into ninth place for Best and Worst. Thank God for Microsoft, or you would have been in dead last place. And don't worry; you didn't bite it because of your small selection or boring design this time; in fact we cited the Chromebook Pro/Plus and the Galaxy Book as signs of "significant improvement."
You also fleshed out the lineup with the convertible Notebook Spin series and found time to add a gaming laptop, the Notebook Odyssey. You even did pretty well on the innovation front, thanks to the Chromebook Pro/Plus, which we described favorably as "[a] touch-screen convertible 2-in-1 that offers pen input, [that] has helped to reinvent the Chromebook,"And who can forget the TabPro S, one of the first convertibles with an OLED display?
Nope, your undoing came at the hands of the shoddy tech support, which kept sending us to Galaxy phone support when we clearly stated that we were calling about the Notebook 7 Spin. But what was more egregious was that none of your laptops managed to earn an Editors' Choice that year despite overall improvements. A 3-star rating — or, as we like to call it, a gentleman's C — does not cut it when you're up against the likes of Lenovo, Dell and HP.
Which brings us to this year, in which you've pulled off the most unimpressive feat ever. You coasted into last place with MSI hitting rock bottom with not a roar but a whimper thanks to — surprise, surprise — uninspired design. Apparently, your "laptops range from the boring (Notebook 9 Pen) to the downright ugly (Notebook Odyssey), leaving consumers with little to get excited about."
Samsung (insert face-palm), I thought you had gotten over this hump. But clearly, with butterfaces like the Odyssey, you haven't. Seriously, bruh, that thing is Phantom-of-the-Opera-level ugly. I mean, what's up with the touchpad, my dude?
But that wasn't the only thing that killed you. You're charging people 1,200 bucks for that fugly-ass Odyssey, and it only comes with an Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU? Man, you've got some big brass ones, for real. And how much for that bland Notebook 9? $1,399.99? You're tripping!
At the end of the day, Samsung, I think I get it. You're trying to beat Apple in phones. But you're becoming the new Toshiba in laptops, and a). Toshiba is not selling consumer laptops in the U.S. anymore, and b) We don't include that company in our Best and Worst Brands report anymore. It's just not a way to be.
If you're not going to take your laptops seriously, how do you expect us, or your customers, to do so? If you're not going to step it up, it might just be time to go full Teddy Pendergrass and let it go.
TL;DR: Samsung, why don't you want to win? I ask not just as a technology journalist but as a concerned friend.
Sherri L. Smith