Chromebook Flip convertible opens fresh front for Asus in Chrome battle

While Asus' entrance into the world of Chromebooks was marked by a middle-of-the-road lineup, this year's offerings look more inspiring.

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The Chromebook Flip. Image: Asus
Asus yesterday announced an overhaul of its Chromebook lineup with the addition of two new models, the 201 and the Flip.

Besides a dramatic price drop, Asus' new 11.6-inch Chromebook 201 isn't all that different to its predecessor, but the new 10-inch metal Flip Chromebook gives a fresh face to last year's more conservative lineup.

Asus launched its first Chromebooks last year, when it debuted the 11.6-inch C200 and 13.3-inch display C300, with prices starting at $250.

Asus played it safe with its first Chromebooks, delivering what were two middle-of-the-road devices in the Chromebook spectrum.

The C200 offered 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage that could be upgraded to 32GB. The C300 meanwhile had 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage out of the box. The pair both offered 1366 x 768 pixel resolution display, ran the same 2.4GHz Intel Bay Trail-M processor, and boasted wi-fi support, 720p HD webcam, a USB port, a USB 3.0 port, and a HDMI jack. They also promised a battery life of 10 hours.

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This year, Asus has delivered a more daring lineup, including an updated Chromebook C201, the 10-inch convertible Chromebook Flip C100, as well as a Chrome OS computer on a stick, the Chromebit.

The updated lineup brings with it lower prices: the C201 Chromebook will start at $169 when it goes on sale through Amazon.com this May - that's about a 30 percent cut to its predecessor's starting price.

The company hasn't revealed all the specs yet, but one notable difference is that in place of Intel chips, the Chromebook C201 will run on a quadcore processor from Chinese semiconductor maker Rockchip, with 2GB or 4GB of RAM.

The arrival of Rockchip may stem from the partnership between Intel and Rockchip to produce Atom-based chips for Android devices. Asus hasn't revealed how much storage the device will come with, nor the display resolution and what ports it has.

Asus will also release the Chromebook C100 Flip, a 10-inch convertible Chromebook that, judging by the details Asus has revealed thus far, will be similar to the C201, except that the new model will offer a rotatable touchscreen. It too runs on a Rockchip quadcore processor and will be available from $249 in June 2015.

The idea with the C100 is to give an Android tablet experience but with the features of a notebook. Like other flip devices, such as the Lenovo Yoga, the touch display can be rotated 360 degrees. According to Google, it weighs less than two pounds (907g) and is 15mm thick.

Similarly, the new Chromebit will also run on Rockchip's processor and will retail for $100. It's a novel device that turns any display into a full computing device simply by plugging in the device.

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