The Samsung Chromebook Plus’ release is just around the corner. In just 6 days, the much-sought-after device will hit store shelves and online outlets all over the internet. In that market, where does this device find its place?
We’ve talked quite a bit about the importance of this particular device for Chromebooks and Chrome OS in general. This one is important and it seems Samsung is taking it pretty seriously.
While that is exciting and knowing that this device can change the landscape of Chrome OS is energizing, it is important for us to realize the real competition for the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro.
And it isn’t other Chromebooks, per se.
Sure, direct competition like the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302 is going to be inevitable. When we talk market change, though, other Chrome OS devices aren’t the target.
I’d contend, instead, that this device will be going toe-to-toe with the iPad Pro and Surface Pro. Sure, the similarities aren’t a perfect 1:1. Each device maintains a specific footprint, but the size, use case, and feature sets overlap in enough ways that general consumers will likely be making a decision between the 3.
So, lets take a quick look at each from this perspective and try to see which device could be the better fit for you. We’ll do our best to keep it quick.
Coming in at 12.9 inches and a 4:3 screen ratio, the iPad pro has a beautiful display, the best form factor for a tablet (I’m just partial to 4:3 for tablets), and a crazy-fast set of internals. To keep things in the same realm, we’re talking about only the 12.9 inch device for now.
The keyboard is the worst of the 3, here, as it is fixed-angle, lacks a trackpad, and is only built into a soft case. There are 3rd party keyboards, but they are clunky and not nearly as well executed as the Apple version.
The pen, though feature-packed, is not stowable and requires a charge. The charging mechanism is goofy as well, having you plug it in to the bottom of the iPad and just hang out there until the battery is topped up.
The battery life, like all iPads, is stellar. You’ll make it easily through a day with some to spare.
Lastly, lets consider the price for all this. The iPad Pro doesn’t come with a keyboard or pen, so those need to be purchased. We’ll go with the entry-level pricing, here. The 32GB version starts at $799. Adding on $169 for the keyboard and $99 for the pen, you end up at a grand total of $1067.
Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft’s latest flagship holds even more in common with the Samsung Chromebook Plus/Pro, coming in at 12.3 inches at the exact same 3:2 ratio. Again, this display is impressive. Bright and pixel-dense, it simply delivers. The internals can vary widely here, going from a Core m3 up to a Core i7, but again, we’ll go with entry-level to keep things comparable.
The Surface keyboard is not included, but has become pretty good at its job: and that is remaining firm and pleasing to use while keeping a slim profile. The trackpad isn’t half bad, either. Sure, it doesn’t come close to a solid, built-in keyboard, but for a portable solution, this thing is pretty impressive.
The pen implementation is quite good as well, using a battery-powered pen that has no place to be fully stowed. Like the iPad, the pen is more full sized both for ergonomic reasons and likely for battery life. It works quite well and does everything you’d expect from a proper pen.
Battery life isn’t amazing, but for the Core m3 version you can expect 7-9 hours on a charge, which should get you through the day.
Pricing is a bit of a mixed bag, but for the most part, the Surface Pro 4 entry level with pen comes in around $899. There are sales here and there, so that can change. We are just looking at standard pricing for this comparison. Adding the keyboard will put you up to $1028.
Samsung Chromebook Plus
For this comparison, we’re going to use the Chromebook Plus, as it is the entry level model. Keep in mind, everything between the Plus and Pro is identical, save the ARM vs. Core m3 processor.
The Plus comes in at the same 12.3 inch, 3:2 screen as the Surface, giving the two a very similar form factor. As with the other two, this display is rather impressive. Bright, crisp, and pixel-dense, this display delivers just as well as the iPad and the Surface. It is impressive.
The ARM chip in the Plus is untested right now. The only time we’ve had with it was on the showroom floor at CES, so I can’t definitively comment. Scoring in the 10-11K range on Octane should yield decent performance and the chipset should do quite well with Android apps as well.
I’d say it is the least powerful of the 3, but I don’t see it having a significant impact on overall performance in day-to-day tasks.
The keyboard and trackpad are the winners outright. A firm keyboard with great travel married to a glass trackpad give the Chromebook Plus a distinct input advantage. There’s just no substitute.
With the Pen, there are advantages and losses, here. The Samsung provides the only stowable solution, so losing or forgetting your pen is far less likely. It is a smaller, slightly unnatural pen, though. For more artistic types, that may or may not be a factor. Additionally, the pen is not battery powered. All the pen magic is in the screen, so no charging is needed.
This gives a couple advantages: your pen will never run out of battery and, in the event you do lose it, a replacement is not expensive.
The EMR tech in this pen isn’t quite as detailed in its pressure sensitivity as the battery-powered options on the Surface and iPad, but I’d say only a tiny fraction of users would be able to tell the difference.
Battery life is likely a winner, or at least close. The ARM version we are discussing here will likely see between 10-12 hours of life, but we’ll need to get it in hand before making that assertion. Either way, it will do as well or better than its competition.
Lastly, we come to price. And this is where the Samsung kills it. You get all the above-mentioned features for $449. No additional accessories needed. For the price of the Surface or iPad outfitted in a similar fashion, you could buy 2 Samsung Chromebook Plus devices.
Differences That Matter
We can sit around and compare/contrast all day. The offerings from Microsoft and Apple are faster and have varied approaches to apps and installed programs. The Surface can run everything, but is the least secure. The iPad has the best app store, but is clearly limited in many ways by Apple’s closed ecosystem approach. The Samsung Chromebook Plus can run a ton of Android apps, has a full desktop experience, and is super-secure.
There are reasons different devices will work best for different consumers.
Where Samsung could have a winner here is with price vs. features. If the general public gets to see this thing in the flesh, right near its competitors, I feel like many will consider it as their device of choice.
To get a high-quality build, superb screen, pen input, touchscreen, desktop and tablet all in one device for $449? I think that becomes a very, very enticing offer.
With the Chromebook Plus, I think Samsung has created something of substance and quality that can finally begin to grab attention away from devices that have sustained the public eye for quite some time.
Who knows? Maybe in 6-9 months from now, seeing people around town with a Samsung Chromebook won’t be so odd anymore. Maybe, just maybe, Samsung has a real winner on its hands.
We think so, anyway.