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360-degree screen hinge allows tablet-mode operation
Excellent backlit keyboard
Two USB-C ports
Supports Google Play Android apps
Keys don't lock when in tablet mode
No Thunderbolt 3 support on USB-C ports
Screen isn't bright enough for outdoor use
Chromebooks may have started life as a low-cost computing option for students or those wanting an auxiliary laptop to their main Windows (or macOS) system, but nowadays they're moving up in the world.
The £529.99 (inc. VAT) Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA exemplifies a new Chromebook development: a device that's expensive enough to rival fully-fledged Windows laptops. At this price, the Chromebook Flip C302 has to offer good build, impressive specifications and usability that can make it a user's number-one computer.
The Chromebook Flip C302 is certainly nicely built. The solid metal chassis gives it a tough outer shell, although there's still a fair bit of flex in the lid. Still, the lid's brushed finish looks classy, and there's nothing about its visual appearance that makes this Chromebook seem a lesser class of laptop.
Asus has gone for a full 360-degree rotating hinge (as the name Chromebook Flip would suggest), and this, along with the touch screen, makes the machine very versatile. We like the fact that when the Chromebook Flip C302 is in tablet mode, magnets lock the lid section down into place so it can't slip about.
In tablet mode the keys depress when they're hit rather than locking out. They are recessed so they're not vulnerable when the device is laid flat on a desk, but they are at risk when it's held in the hands. This not unusual, but I'd prefer a key-locking design.
The Chromebook Flip C302's 12.5-inch screen is quite reflective, but its full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution is good enough to work with, and I had no trouble having two document windows open side by side. If you want, you can scale the resolution right up to 2,400 by 1,350 pixels, although I found that a bit too much.
The ambient light sensor does a good job of adjusting brightness to suit local conditions, with the caveat that the screen doesn't really allow you to work comfortably outdoors. Video looks fine, and sound quality is pretty good too.
The backlit keyboard is a pleasure to use. The keys are large, with plenty of travel (1.4mm), and have a really nice springy feel. I had no trouble touch typing at my normal speed. The touchpad is wide and responsive, with effective palm rejection.
So, on the usability front the Chromebook Flip C302 passes muster -- as long as you don't need to work outdoors.
The general specifications help to justify the Flip C302's relatively high price, for a Chromebook. The Intel M3 6Y30 processor, coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage kept things moving nicely: the system didn't baulk at having around 20 Chrome tabs open at once, and generally felt responsive.
Still, that 64GB of on-board storage isn't huge. Of course, the whole point of Chromebooks is that you work largely in the cloud, but Asus does list a 128GB option on its website and there is a MicroSD card slot on one edge for adding storage; two USB-C ports can also be used to connect peripherals, including external storage. These ports don't have Thunderbolt 3 support, though, so data transfer tops out at USB 3.1's 5Gbps.
Either of the USB-C ports can be used to charge the Chromebook Flip C302, and because there's one is on each short edge the ergonomics for both charging and attaching peripherals are good.
Battery life seems good too. Asus rates the 2-cell, 39Wh battery as good for 10 hours, and I certainly managed to get through a working day without depleting it. However, I was running mainstream productivity workloads rather than in full-on media consumption mode.
Mobile users should find the slimline Chromebook Flip C302's weight of 1.2kg acceptable, and with a near-A4 footprint it should fit neatly in most bags. The vital statistics are 304mm wide by 210mm deep by 13.7mm thick.
Asus has delivered a good high-end Chromebook here -- but it is expensive. The real question is whether it does enough for the price, or whether it's worth shelling out for a full-fat laptop for all the extra application support and storage that these offer. With Android apps for Chrome OS potentially a game-changer in this respect, the Asus Chromebook C302 Flip has come along at an interesting time.