In what has become the most difficult head-to-head comparison I’ve ever attempted, we are going to take a side-by-side look at the Samsung Chromebook Pro and the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302 to see if we can sort out which one of these fantastic devices deserve your hard-earned dollars.
When I say this has been difficult, it is a huge understatement. When devices reach this level of goodness, it becomes very tough to declare either one the ‘winner’. Instead, we’re going to walk through the normal categories I cover in a review and hopefully give you a clear sense of which device is better at each phase of being a great Chromebook. I’ll go ahead and spoil it a bit: you can choose either device and be completely happy with your purchase. Of that I am positive. But, there are differences and different things each one does a bit better than the other, so let’s take a closer look.
What becomes abundantly clear when you look at the build of both devices is the fact that Chromebooks are not bargain bin devices any longer. Aluminum and glass dominate both devices, yielding thin, light, and sturdy bodies. Aesthetically, they veer to different sides. ASUS employs a very squared, boxy look. Its lines look classic and elegant and the aluminum has a matte finish that exudes quality. No creaks or wobbliness, here. Everything feels in place and substantial. It is the closest thing to a Macbook Pro I’ve used that isn’t a Macbook Pro.
Samsung, on the other hand, goes more the route of tablet or mobile phone aesthetics. Everything is very rounded and gives the Samsung the perception of being thinner than the ASUS. It is actually a fraction of an inch thicker, but it doesn’t FEEL like it. Again, everything is firm, thin, and clad in aluminum. The finish on the Samsung is better at repelling fingerprints, for what it is worth.
Both devices have 360-degree hinges and both operate very well. I give the Samsung a bit of a win here, though, as it’s 3:2 aspect ratio just feels more natural as a tablet. If you don’t use that mode too often, this is likely a moot point. I’m a fan of the taller display (and have been since the Pixel), but that isn’t a universal win. Some people prefer 16:9 screens, and the ASUS falls more comfortably into that slot. Overall, the ASUS feels more like a laptop and the Samsung feels more like a hybrid, tablet, mobile device. Again, it’s all in what you are looking for. Both are built very well and you can feel good about taking either down to your local coffee shop and feeling like your purchase was for something quality.
This is also quite similar. Both sport 2 USB-C ports, micro SD, headphone/mic jack and speaker ports. Both have decent sounding speakers, with the Samsung being bottom firing and the ASUS firing to the sides. I’d give ASUS a slight edge here, as side firing speakers are much less prone to be blocked and provide a wider stereo separation. Samsung’s speakers, oddly enough, perform well even when the ports are covered up. I’m inclined to think the sound is routed up through the keyboard as well. Either way, the speakers on the ASUS have a bit better sound all around.
Now we get into some pretty substantial differences. In a nutshell, the ASUS has a 12.5-inch, IPS, 16:9, 1920×1080, 300 nit screen.The Samsung comes in with a 12.3-inch, IPS, 3:2, 2400×1600, 400 nit screen. On a stat sheet alone, those are two very different screens. This is the first place where there is a clear winner, and that is Samsung. First off, though the diagonal measure of the ASUS is larger, the actual square inch area of the screen is greater on the Samsung. Next, the 3:2 ratio is a big win, especially with device that will be used as a tablet. With web content and documents, as well, the taller screen just feels more spacious and better suited to web-related tasks. Another win for Samsung is in the resolution department. Clearly, there are way more pixels on Samsung’s display, and it shows. That’s not to say the ASUS is a slouch. With the new scaling for 1080p screens, things look great on the ASUS. But they look superb on the Samsung. Like, as good as I’ve ever seen good.
I’m sure there are some contrast ratio, RGB, or other display specs that this display isn’t the best at. But in the Chromebook world, it has only one rival. The Pixel. And that is stellar company to entertain. I can’t overstate how great and how important this display is. Everything is crisp and pops and is simply gorgeous. Between it and the ASUS, there is simply no comparison. Brightness is, again, a win for Samsung. At 400 nits, there is no environment where this thing has issue. ASUS’ display comes in at 300 nits, and that’s really good. But, when up against an absolutely stellar display, it quite literally pales in comparison.
This is another area where we have some pretty clear differences and where the ASUS takes a bit of an edge. With the ASUS, we get a backlit, full-sized keyboard that has fantastic feel and travel. It is probably my favorite keyboard to date. With Samsung, we get a good keyboard with slightly cupped keys and very good travel. However, there is no backlighting and because of the more square shape of the overall device, keys on the left and right get truncated a bit. You get used to it over time, but it takes a bit of getting used to. After a couple weeks, I still miss the backspace and tab keys from time to time. Not a deal-breaker, but the ASUS keyboard is clearly better. Trackpads go the other way, however, with the Samsung employing a glass trackpad with perfect click travel. It is as good, if not better, than any trackpad I’ve used. The ASUS trackpad is good. Again, none of these differences are deal-breakers. But the ASUS tends to pick up more oils and loose it’s smoothness over time much quicker than the Samsung. Overall, the surface of the Samsung trackpad is just better.
Now we come right back to the similarities. Both of these devices are running the same Core m3 processor with 4GB of RAM. One big difference is the ASUS’ 64GB of storage on the base unit. That is double what you get with Samsung’s Chromebook, and it is yet to be seen exactly how much local storage will be best for Chromebooks running Android apps. For what it’s worth, I didn’t have storage issues on either device. Also, the ASUS looks to come in multiple configurations down the road with up to a Core m7 and 8GB of RAM. Samsung looks to be staying with the single models for now with no intentions of expanding down the road. Finally, the ASUS will have a perceived edge in performance due to the display resolution. The Samsung has 3.84 million pixels to push around while the ASUS is only dealing with 2.07 million. That means the Chromebook Pro is constantly having to push 2 times the pixels. While this won’t show up in Octane benchmarks, it is apparent in real-world use. The ASUS simply feels faster, but it usually only shows up when there are many tasks going at once. Again, not a deal-breaker, but it is a spot where the ASUS wins out.
We have to mention, at this point, that there is a clear and defined differentiation in Samsung’s Pen. For some, this is a non-issue. But for others, this is what sets Samsung’s latest Chromebook apart from the rest. I enjoy using it from time to time, but it isn’t what seals the deal for me. My hope is Google Keep continues to get more and more capable with the Pen and becomes more indispensable as time goes on. For me, right now, it is simply a cool add-on and not a game changer. For some of you, though, the addition of the Pen is enough to crown Samsung the winner in this little competition.
Pricing and Availability
This is where it can get a little tricky. As of this review, the ASUS Flip is available for purchase and runs $499 for the Core m3 with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. The Samsung Plus is available as well for $449 with The ARM hexacore chip, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The device in this review is the Samsung Chromebook Pro and doesn’t become available until April and will run $549. Depending on your particular budget and needs, that could paint your decision considerably.
What really allows me to suggest the better overall device, for me at least, is my attraction to each. Both are well built, fast, attractive, capable machines. There are parts of each that outpace the others and there isn’t a way to definitively say one is better than the other. All I can tell you is which one I want to pick up and use on a daily basis, and that is the Samsung Chromebook Pro. The sacrifices in keyboard, performance and speakers are perfectly fine with me. Maybe it is the screen or the pen or the style…I’m just not sure. What I can say for sure is I enjoy the Samsung more than the ASUS. I’ve been using both for a few weeks and that one thing hasn’t changed. Samsung has done a fantastic job with getting the things it gets right really right with the Chromebook Pro. So much so, that I’m very quick to overlook the flaws just because the parts they nailed were simply the ones I care more about. I feel like I’ve said it a bunch, but it needs to be stated that some people will care about different things than I do. And those cares may make them want the ASUS over the Samsung. That is legit. I simply hope that this in-depth comparison can help you make that decision for yourself.