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ASUS Chromebook Flip review: A high-quality hybrid with great battery life

sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
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8.0

ASUS Chromebook Flip

Excellent
Like
  • Great design
  • Good keyboard
  • Excellent battery life
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years
Don't Like
  • Heavy and awkward in tablet mode
  • Low-resolution 10-inch screen
  • Some will find the keyboard cramped
  • Proprietary charge connector
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

Chromebooks have developed into capable little computers that are suitable for those who are comfortable working in Google's cloud. Built on Google's Chrome OS, they offer a web-friendly, finger-friendly, app-friendly way of getting things done. It would be wrong to compare Chromebooks directly with Windows systems, as they are closer to the thin client model. However, their attractive pricing might appeal to some budget-strapped small businesses as well as their traditional education market.

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The Chromebook Flip's hinge travels the full 360 degrees, enabling tablet, tent and stand modes.
Images: Google

ASUS is not the only manufacturer taking Chromebooks seriously, but it is the first to come up with a 10-inch convertible model in the shape of the Chromebook Flip. You can work in laptop mode, of course -- as you can with Chromebooks from HP, Toshiba, Acer and Dell, using the keyboard to tap out text. But you can also swivel the screen a full 360 degrees, allowing the Chromebook Flip to also be used in tablet mode (with the keyboard flat against the body of the device) or 'tent' mode (with the keyboard face down on a table and the screen angled). The hinge works well, holding the lid exactly where it's positioned; hopefully it will remain as solid over time.

The screen isn't detachable, which makes working in tablet mode a little unwieldy. The keyboard and touchpad are disabled in tablet mode, but the keys still feel awkward and vulnerable sitting behind the screen. The Chromebook Flip weighs 890g, which is somewhat heavier than the average standalone 10-inch tablet.

The aluminium chassis not only looks great, but it also makes the Chromebook Flip very solid. The lid or the base may become scratched over time, but the case is unlikely to come to serious harm on your travels.

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The Chromebook Flip has a good-quality keyboard, although some may find the keys rather small.
Image: ASUS

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If the Chromebook Flip is to be a true workaday device, its keyboard needs to be up to the task. It has to fit into a chassis measuring 262.8mm by 182.4mm by 15.6 mm, so the keys are on the small side. There is plenty of travel, and we managed to type accurately at about 80 percent of our usual touch-typing speed. People with larger hands may find this keyboard more of a challenge though.

The trackpad is responsive and large enough to take the cursor all the way across the screen in a single sweep. Its embedded buttons click readily. We've used less satisfactory trackpads on more expensive laptops.

The touchscreen, which responds quickly to prods, gestures and sweeps, automatically rotates as you swivel the Chromebook Flip between portrait and landscape orientations.

The screen resolution is 1,280 by 800 pixels, giving a pixel density of 149 pixels per inch (ppi). That's not very high (premium 10-inch tablets offer 200-300ppi), and text can look grainy at times. The screen is also highly reflective, although viewing angles are good.

If you do a lot of document production you might find the 10-inch screen a little on the small side -- it's significantly smaller than you'll find on a traditional laptop. A wide bezel also makes the screen look rather lost when you're in laptop mode, and we wonder whether an 11-inch panel could have been accommodated. Still, when you're in tablet mode the bezel is essential for holding the Chromebook Flip without accidentally activating the touchscreen.

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Connection options include a pair of USB 2.0 ports, Micro-HDMI and a MicroSD card reader.
Image: Google

Connectivity is reasonably good. A pair of full sized USB 2.0 ports give access to external storage, and we successfully worked with files from a USB stick. There's also a Micro-HDMI port and a MicroSD card reader, plus an audio jack.

The power button and volume rocker are on the left edge of the keyboard. That's a bit of a nuisance if you're working in laptop mode, but fortunately there are also volume buttons on the keyboard. When you're in tablet mode the positioning of these controls makes perfect sense.

The Chromebook Flip is powered by a quad-core 1.8GHz Rockchip 3288-C SoC with 4GB of RAM. There is 16GB of internal eMMC storage, and as noted above, you can add more via USB sticks or the MicroSD card reader. If that's not enough, you also get 100GB of Google Drive storage space for two years.

For wireless connectivity there's 802.11ac wi-fi and Bluetooth 4.0. A 720p webcam sits above the screen, but there's no rear-facing camera for higher-resolution shots.

Sound quality through the built-in speakers is impressive -- it's certainly good enough for some music streaming while you work, and probably up to using for multimedia presentations too. We've heard worse on some fully fledged laptops. The speakers sit on the bottom of the chassis, where they seem to work fine regardless of the orientation you're working in.

ASUS quotes up to nine hours of life for the 2-cell, 31Wh battery. We found we were easily able to get through a working day on a full charge with plenty of life remaining. The downside is the proprietary charger, which you'll need to carry to keep the battery topped up.

Conclusion

ASUS has proved that, with the Chromebook Flip, a Chromebook can make a viable tablet/laptop hybrid. If your work is largely browser-based, it could prove a useful low-cost option at £249 (inc. VAT or $279 with 4GB RAM; $249 with 2GB). Potential purchasers should have no qualms about design quality or battery life, as both are superb.

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