I've been using the Samsonite Centric suitcase for several years, and it has all the qualities you need in a solid carry-on bag

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  • The Samsonite Centric 20" Hardside Expandable Luggage is a high-quality carry-on suitcase at an excellent price.
  • It features a durable and scratch-resistant shell, multi-directional wheels, and a handy expansion option.
  • However, it doesn't come with many extras, such as additional internal organization or a USB port.
  • Read more: The best carry-on luggage

A solid and reliable carry-on is an essential piece of luggage for any traveler. Key factors that make a carry-on suitcase standout are size, weight, durability, and how easy it is to pack. As a travel editor, I've tested numerous carry-ons over the years, including for our guide to the best carry-on suitcases. 

The Samsonite Centric 20" Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels beat out the competition and is my top overall pick as the best hard-side carry-on bag you can buy. I've used this suitcase on trips ranging from lengthy international vacations to quick weekend getaways and found that it excels when it comes to function, durability, and ease of use. Plus, it comes in at an excellent price point for the quality. After several years of use, this suitcase continues to impress me.

Design and specs

The most important factor when it comes to a carry-on is that it fits in an airplane's overhead bin. After all, if you get to your seat and discover that your bag won't fit, the whole point of packing a carry-on has been defeated. 

While this bag is specifically noted as being 20 inches in height, it's important to understand that measurement actually refers to interior packable space. The overall height of the exterior of the bag actually comes in at 22 inches, including the wheels, when I measured it. Luckily, this is still well within the FAA sizing regulations and, in my experience, this bag easily fits on nearly all international and domestic flights, with the exception of tiny jumper planes. 

The hard-side suitcase is made out of high-quality polycarbonate. The twill texture is scratch- and scuff-resistant with a slightly shiny finish. This bag weighs 7.5 pounds, which is pretty average in terms of carry-ons and it's easy enough to lift into overhead bins. Standout details also include rubberized grip under the top and side handles for extra comfort when lifting the bag, smooth silver zippers that are easy to grip and pull, and a TSA-approved lock.

The four multi-directional wheels are also excellent. They are quiet and the suitcase rolls in front of you, beside you, or behind you on almost any surface easily. However, they are not as functional on thick carpet as some of the best wheels I've tested on other bags. That said, I haven't come across too many instances during my travels when I actually needed to pull the bag on thick carpet, so that has not been a significant issue.  

The Samsonite Centric Hardside carry-on is available in three colors: black, orange, and teal.

What it's like to use

I've been using the Samsonite Centric Hardside Carry-On for several years, and its best quality is how well it has held up over that time. While there are a few scuff marks visible if you really get up close to inspect the bag, they are minimal. There are no serious scratches or dents to speak of and from afar, the bag still looks practically new.

As previously mentioned, the wheels are a breeze on most surfaces and make the suitcase very easy to roll on and off the plane and through crowded airports. The adjustable handle is a good height, but it does wobble a decent amount and could be sturdier. 

While 20 inches of interior space may not sound like a lot, I've been able to easily pack a week's worth of clothes in this carry-on for longer trips. The interiors don't offer any fancy perks, but the mesh zipper pocket and strong buckles are sufficient for securing clothes, shoes, and packing cubes in place. The handle poles do take up some space on one side of the bag, which can make laying clothes totally flat a challenge. However, if you pack smartly you can build yourself a base with smaller items and lay additional clothes flat on top of that.  I like to pack shoes and items that need extra securing on the side with the mesh zipper, and bulkier items like sweaters on the opposite side so I can pull the buckles tight to help compress them.

This suitcase also has the option to expand by unzipping extra zippers on the outside. While I don't recommend using the expandable option if you know you'll be on smaller planes, I do like the versatility it allows. I've used the expandable option on longer international and cross-country flights when I know the overhead bins will easily accommodate the bag even at a slightly larger width. It is also a nice feature for travelers like me who tend to always pick up a souvenir or two and need extra room for them on the trip home.    

What makes the Samsonite Centric Hardside carry-on stand out

The value of this bag is what really sets it apart. The materials are of good quality and highly durable and will last for years. While many high-end suitcases easily come in closer to $300 or more, this suitcase starts around $150 and frequently can be found on sale for under $100, making it an excellent value.

While this suitcase doesn't come with many bells and whistles, it has everything you need for a good, sturdy carry-on and comes in at the right price.

The cons

The biggest downside of the Samsonite Centric is the adjustable handle. While it's held up fine over the past few years, it is very wobbly and much less sturdy when compared to the handles of other high-end suitcases.

This carry-on is also a pretty standard weight at 7.5 pounds. While it hasn't been an issue for me, if you have trouble lifting carry-ons or tend to overpack and worry about every last ounce for the weigh-in required on some flights, you may be better suited to a lightweight carry-on option. 

This suitcase is also fairly bare-bones and doesn't come with any extras like a USB port or extra interior organizers. 

The bottom line

There are seemingly endless options when it comes to carry-on suitcases, and undoubtedly there are other hard-side options on the market worth considering, including the Rimowa Essential Lite ($490), the Away Carry-On ($225), and the Tumi International Carry-On ($750). However, as you'll notice, nearly all of those will cost you significantly more. If you're looking for a suitcase that will last a lifetime or that comes with lots of extras, these suitcases might better suit your needs. 

But for a quality bag that is durable and will last you several years without breaking the bank, the Samsonite Centric 20" Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels is tough to beat. This suitcase has all the qualities you need in a solid carry-on, including plenty of packing space, a durable and scratch-resistant shell, excellent multi-directional wheels, an expansion option, and the right dimensions to fit in almost any overhead bin. 

Pros: Excellent price for the quality, durable, scratch-resistant, wheels easily, expandable

Cons: Handle wiggles a decent amount when fully extended, slightly heavier than other options available 

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