ASUS Chromebook CX9 vs Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2: Which should you buy?
Back in January, ASUS rocked the Chrome OS world by announcing their upcoming hero device, the Chromebook CX9. Samsung also released an incredibly premium sleek Chromebook earlier this year with the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Both manufacturers are clearly targeting the high-end Chromebook aficionados out there. It’s a common misconception Chromebooks only come with basic specs and these two devices are perfect counterexamples.
The i3 models of the CX9 and Galaxy Chromebook 2 are also similarly priced. The Core i3 model of the Galaxy Chromebook 2 retails for $699, while the Core i3 model of the CX9 checks in at $749. Of course, the similarities don’t stop there. Both devices feature bright displays, plenty of RAM and storage, as well as excellent build quality. In this comparison, we’ll take a look at the key differences between these Chromebooks and see which device comes out on top in each category. We’ll discuss display quality, performance, battery life, and more.
ASUS Chromebook CX9 vs Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2: Specifications
|Specification||ASUS Chromebook CX9||Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging|
|Software||Chrome OS||Chrome OS|
About this comparison: I personally own the Core i7 model of the CX9 and the Core i3 model of the Galaxy Chromebook 2. For this comparison I’m drawing on my own experiences using these two devices at home and in the office. Keep in mind when it comes to performance-specific tasks, the Core i3 CX9 will be closer in benchmarks to the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Build quality, keyboard comfort, display quality, and other aspects aside from performance, are directly comparable on all models of each device. You can view the differences among different models of each Chromebook in the table above.
Design and build quality
Both of these Chromebooks have a premium look and feel. I personally love Samsung’s design language throughout their product lineup. From smartphones to TVs to Chromebooks, Samsung knows how to make something that looks great and stands out. The Galaxy Chromebook 2, particularly in Fiesta Red, is no exception. On the other hand, ASUS really stepped up their design game for the CX9. You can tell they put considerable thought into the packaging with the CX9.
Most Chromebooks, including the Galaxy Chromebook 2, come in a bland brown recyclable box, but the CX9 box is a bit bigger. When I received the package in the mail, I was wondering what they had included to require such a large box. As it turns out, the brown exterior box was just protection for the sleek navy blue product box holding the CX9. You also get a separate smaller navy blue box, holding the charging brick and cable.
On the Galaxy Chromebook 2, the aluminum chassis feels sturdy and substantial, and is a pleasure to carry around. There’s something about the feel of cold metal that makes a plastic-bodied Chromebook feel less desirable. If you like to stand out in a crowd, the Fiesta Red color on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a head-turner for sure. The red is so bright it looks nearly orange in several photos I took in the bright Arizona sun.
The CX9 official product sheet calls the device color Star Black, but it’s quite clearly more dark blue than black. Either way, it’s a really unique color to see on a Chromebook, just like the Fiesta Red for Samsung. Picking up the CX9 for the first time, it’s almost shocking how light, yet sturdy, the design really is. At under 2.5lbs, this is one of the lighter 14 inch Chromebooks out there. But at the same time, the rigidity of the chassis is unparalleled.
While both devices have well-built frames, the CX9 is the clear winner when it comes to rigidity. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 has some degree of flex to the chassis and if you hold it by a corner it can bend a bit too much for my liking. You can pick up the CX9 by any side or corner and not feel the slightest bit of flex. This is somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to Chromebooks, something that makes the CX9 stand out in my mind.
One of my favorite tests when comparing laptops is the one-hand open test. You know, can you open the lid with just one hand? It seems like a small thing, but it’s a usability consideration you’ll experience every day. Unfortunately, with the Galaxy Chromebook 2, you need both hands to open the lid. The ASUS Chromebook CX9 fares a bit better — you can open it with one hand, but you need to lift the lid slowly to avoid lifting the light base off the table or desk. Given the light frames on each laptop, these results aren’t that surprising.
Another key difference is the 2-in-1 functionality of the Galaxy Chromebook 2. You can fold the keyboard back entirely and use this device as a tablet. The CX9 screen actually lays flat with 180 degree rotation, but it can’t be folded completely back into a tablet form factor. This is really just a design difference, so you have to decide whether you need the 2-in-1 functionality or not. I would guess part of the rigidity advantage for the CX9 is it does need to adapt to tablet mode with a more substantial hinge.
Moving along to available ports. On the CX9, you get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, with power delivery capability. A single HDMI 3.0b port and a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. A Kensington lock slot rounds out the ports available on the sides of the device. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 features 2 USB-C ports, microSD slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The CX9 has a clear connectivity advantage. The lack of an HDMI or USB-A port is a big detractor for me on the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Thunderbolt 4 is of course the highlight of the CX9, but that’s more of icing on the cake here.
Overall, the CX9 has the better build quality and port availability. While the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a bit thinner, it’s not quite as light and has a bit of flex. The build quality battle is close, but the CX9 really takes the lead on port availability alone. The forward-thinking Thunderbolt 4 ports are awesome, but offering up HDMI and USB-A as well is a bigger deal for most consumers.
Display and audio
Brightness on the CX9’s display is every bit of the 400 nits advertised on the specs sheet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the panel gets over 400 nits in outdoor conditions. I used my CX9 outside for a short while in the Arizona sun and had no problems viewing everything on my screen.
It was pretty difficult to do extensive outdoor testing in the 115 degree heat, but I’m more than satisfied with the brightness on this Chromebook. Putting it side-by-side with my Galaxy Chromebook 2, the panels are at least equally bright. Given Samsung’s reputation for exceptionally bright displays, ASUS really accomplished something in this category. The CX9 honestly has a slight advantage which it comes to brightness, something that’s a bit shocking.
The 13.3” QLED 1920 x 1080 is undoubtedly the standout component on the Galaxy Chromebook 2. While you no longer get a 4K display like the original Galaxy Chromebook, the first-ever full-HD QLED display on a Chromebook is very impressive. It also covers 100% DCl-P3 color gamut, useful if you want to do light photo editing on your laptop. Streaming content from Netflix and playing games on Stadia is an absolute joy on this Chromebook. Vibrant colors and impressive black levels bring to life illustrated content online as well.
When you compare the devices for color quality and black levels, this is where the CX9 comes up a bit short. To my eye, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 display looks more appealing and has much deeper blacks. The CX9 also looks a bit fuzzy or at least not as sharp, when compared to the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Of course, when it comes to color profiles, preferences vary. Still, I think the display quality category (brightness aside) goes to Samsung in this battle.
Aspect ratio is another differentiator when comparing these displays. The CX9 has a fairly wide 16:9 aspect ratio, which I’m not a huge fan of for productivity purposes. The slightly taller 16:10 aspect ratio on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 actually feels quite a bit more spacious. If you edit a lot of documents or write for a living, this is a serious consideration when selecting a new laptop.
Audio quality is fairly disappointing on both the CX9 and Galaxy Chromebook 2. The speakers on the CX9 are touted as being tuned by Harman Kardon, but the sound output is fairly mediocre. They get the job done for watching Netflix or YouTube, but they don’t get nearly loud enough for me.
Samsung boasts the “Smart amp audio” included in the Galaxy Chromebook 2 on their website and promotional materials, but it’s hard to appreciate the louder amp with such poor speaker positioning. Overall, you’ll need headphones for any serious audio sessions on either of these Chromebooks.
Keyboard and touchpad
If you’re using your Chromebook for work, the keyboard and touchpad are two of the most important aspects. While writing my full reviews, I spent two weeks each with the CX9 and Galaxy Chromebook 2 as my main work laptop.
Most of my work here at XDA consists of composing articles, editing images, and interacting with team members via Slack and Asana. I used the CX9 and Galaxy Chromebook 2 for all of those tasks, but also did some light coding in Python/MATLAB and typesetting in LaTeX.
For a 13.3″ Chromebook, the keyboard on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 feels relatively spacious. Key travel is rather shallow, but that’s to be expected considering the thin and light body. I was able to type accurately and quickly on this keyboard.. Backlighting on the keyboard is fairly bright and even. I didn’t notice any substantial light bleed in my use. The black keycaps offer a stunning contrast to the red chassis, providing a very nice looking device when open as well.
The keyboard on the CX9 is simply phenomenal. Not only do the keys have the right amount of travel, you also don’t feel any mushiness due to the rigid nature of the frame. You can type on this keyboard for hours with no finger fatigue. My typing experience was incredibly fast and accurate. The NanoEdge design also lifts the keyboard up ever-so-slightly when you open the CX9. The look of this isn’t something everyone enjoys, but I think it provides a more ergonomic typing experience. Backlighting is also excellent, the darker keycaps provide for nice contrast and have excellent visibility in the dark.
At the end of the day, the CX9 keyboard is more enjoyable to use for long periods of time. I felt much more comfortable at the end of a long typing session on the CX9. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 isn’t bad, but it also isn’t a keyboard I would recommend for those writing for several hours a day on a laptop.
I’m happy to report the touchpad on the CX9 is equal to the keyboard in quality. This is one of the larger glass touchpads available on a Chromebook. The extra real estate makes UI navigation a breeze. If you enjoy a satisfying click and quality haptic feedback, the CX9 touchpad does not disappoint.
As for the touchpad on the Galaxy Chromebook 2, it’s just okay. Scrolling and gestures are fine, but the touchpad is a bit mushy on my unit when it comes to clicks. Perhaps this is just bad luck, but I’m also spoiled from using the Pixelbook Go and MacBook Pro touchpads for quite a long time. In addition, the touchpad seems a bit small for daily use.
If the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is your regular work machine, I would recommend grabbing an external mouse or trackpad for sure. Samsung also removed the fingerprint sensor in their second generation device, another bonus feature located just below the keyboard on the ASUS Chromebook CX9.
Performance and battery life
The performance on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is at least partially impacted by which model you buy. On the low end, the Celeron model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage is likely not ideal for handling high-end tasks like video editing. On the other hand, the Core i3 model I’m using has been fairly impressive at handling everything I throw at it.
With the Galaxy Chromebook 2 I ran several demanding Linux apps like GIMP, MATLAB, and Kdenlive. Basic photo and video editing are seamless. Fans rarely kick in, and were only audible when I was exporting 4K video in Kdenlive or running a demanding script in MATLAB. Navigating around the UI is of course nearly flawless on Chrome OS. No lag in laptop or tablet mode and all of the various tent modes function as you would expect.
Day to day performance on the CX9 is stellar, which you’d expect with the Tiger Lake i7 and 16GB of RAM. Running Android and Linux apps is buttery smooth on this device. I even ran very intensive Linux apps like MATLAB with absolutely no problems. The fans do kick in occasionally if you’re doing a large amount of resource-heavy stuff in Linux and have around 50 Chrome tabs open, but that’s fairly reasonable in my opinion. Even so, the fans were never incredibly loud in any of my usage the past two weeks.
I spent quite a bit of time playing several Android games, Stadia, and Minecraft, hoping to test the gaming limits on the CX9 as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I never hit a wall with the CX9. No dropped frames, no lag, no issues whatsoever. The true potential of the Iris Xe graphics inside will come to fruition when Borealis brings official Steam support to Chrome OS later this year. Until then, if you buy a CX9, you can take solace in the fact this is the first Chromebook intentionally built for gaming applications.
Keep in mind that benchmarks heavily favor the CX9 in my comparison, with a much beefier Tiger Lake Core i7 vs the 10th generation Core i3 in the Galaxy Chromebook 2 in the machines I personally own. The Core i3 model of the CX9 is a bit closer competitor to the Galaxy Chromebook 2 in this area, but I don’t have an i3 model of the CX9 on hand to test. These benchmarks also probably don’t mean too much to users just running a bunch of Chrome tabs or composing documents. On the other hand, if you want to do a lot of computing in Linux on your Chromebook or eventually play Steam games with Borealis, the $1,149 model of the CX9 is the certain winner.
Both Chromebooks have fairly similar battery life in practice. ASUS claims 14 hours on the CX9 and Samsung promotes 13 hours on the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Neither of these estimates are even close. You can safely expect about 7-8 hours of daily use if you open a large number of Chrome tabs and work in other basic productivity apps. With more demanding gaming or Linux computing with Kdenlive, I was able to get around 4-5 hours on both of these machines. The battery performance is fairly middle of the road, nothing to get excited or upset about in this category.
When it comes to bonus features, the CX9 has a clear advantage. In addition to the aforementioned fingerprint scanner below the keyboard, you also get a built-in LED NumberPad, webcam privacy shield, not to mention Iris Xe graphics inside.
All of these items work flawlessly. The fingerprint scanner is very fast, just as you’d expect. It’s very nice to have a fingerprint login option — every premium Chromebook should have biometric security. The removal of the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 (coming from the original Galaxy Chromebook) was a disappointment to me.
Let’s discuss perhaps the most unique feature of the CX9, the built-in LED NumberPad. This was a big selling point for me, since I do quite a bit of number crunching in my academic day job. It’s incredibly convenient to have a dedicated NumberPad, in such a compact form factor. The activation of the backlighting is also seamless. You can also use the touchpad itself for clicking around while doing spreadsheet work with the NumberPad. I applaud ASUS for innovation and bringing a feature many power users need to a Chromebook.
One area the Galaxy Chromebook 2 does excel at is note-taking. The 2-in-1 design is much more accommodating when taking notes with a USI pen, supported by both of these Chromebooks on the more expensive models. It’s tricky taking notes on the CX9 device. The CX9 is not a 2-in-1 convertible, but it does lay flat thanks to the hinge design. It’s still not an ideal writing experience though. The keyboard can get in the way of resting your palm when taking serious notes.
Conclusion: Which Chromebook should you buy?
The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is by far the best Samsung Chromebook out there. There’s also no doubt the CX9 is the best ASUS has to offer. Both Chromebooks have some best-in-class features. The display on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a winner for me. Not only does it look better, the 16:10 aspect ratio lends itself to easier use for work or school applications.
Aside from the display, the CX9 is the winner in several other key categories. Not only do you get newer Intel chips inside, you also get a more durable design, faster SSD storage, superior keyboard, and a much more spacious trackpad. Indeed, the CX9 also has a number of advanced features not found on the Galaxy Chromebook 2. The high-end i7 model of the CX9 is future-proof too, as we prepare for the future of Steam gaming on Chrome OS.
Both of these devices are excellent options and the Core i3 models of each should be plenty for most users. I would recommend the Galaxy Chromebook 2 if you watch a lot of media on your Chromebook and use it primarily for content consumption and light productivity. If you plan to create content, use your Chromebook as a primary work device, or want to do some serious gaming, opt for the ASUS Chromebook CX9.