The new 10-inch Asus Chromebook Flip confidently follows in the footsteps of its 12-inch big brother. Replacing the 2015 model, the laptop impresses with a similar, compact and versatile design and $299 (£349) price. AU pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but pricing converts to AU$375.
With access to the Google Play Store in beta mode, the Asus is more useful than its predecessor. It can install and run most Android apps, although some work better on the bigger laptop screen than others.
It has a new processor designed for Chromebooks that run Android apps. Don't mistake this for a higher-end Chromebook with a mainstream Intel CPU, but it still runs apps and performs other basic Chrome OS tasks fast and smoothly enough for it to be a great travel-friendly laptop that kids can also enjoy.
The Asus Chromebook Flip's petite and lightweight dimensions make it easy to travel with. Yet, it still feels solid and looks stylish, thanks to its all-metal and glass design.
The brushed aluminum chassis and black keyboard keys give it a MacBook-esque look when open, though the Chrome logo on the lid (and the lowercase keyboard) is a dead giveaway.
The laptop has a 360-degree hinge that allows the keyboard to completely fold over to prop up like a tent, flip over like a stand or completely turn over to transform into a tablet.
Chrome OS revolves around Google's Chrome web browser, but with the addition of the Google Play Store, the laptop becomes more like an Android device. Now, imagine a processor within a processor that's solely dedicated to powering apps. That's a simple way of describing what's inside of the Asus Chromebook Flip C101PA. It's the same SoC (system on a chip) found inside the $350 Samsung Chromebook Plus.
The ARM-based Rockchip 3399 CPU consists of a dual-core Cortex-A72 and a quad-core Cortex-A53 with a separate coprocessor that's designed specifically for Chromebooks running Android Apps. The processor runs alongside 4GB of RAM. It only has 16GB of internal storage, making the MicroSD card expansion slot an essential feature for those interested in downloading many apps.
Performance isn't the fastest, but it's still a good performer, especially for a budget Chromebook. Apps ran smoothly and launched relatively fast, as long as there weren't many apps or windows open in the background.
I was able to have about eight tabs open in Chrome, including a streaming HD video, with Instagram, Slack and Spotify apps open in the background before slowdown and lag started. Most cheap Chromebooks can do about a third of that activity before significantly slowing down.
Propping the laptop into a stand or tent makes it easy to watch video without that pesky keyboard getting in your way. Screen resolution isn't high, but HD video still looks sharp with life-like colors.
The screen was brighter than I expected and had good viewing angles. Occasionally, glare on the glossy screen caused visibility issues in bright environments.
The laptop's speakers were surprisingly loud, though quality suffered at high volumes. Audio sounded unattractively harsh and tinny when pushed to the max.
The laptop charges via USB-C and Asus estimates nine hours of battery life per charge. In our testing it lasted seven hours and 36 minutes.
Since it's such a small laptop, the touchpad and keyboard felt cramped. However, the keys are well-spaced considering the tight parameters and travel well. Kids will feel right at home using the keyboard, but anyone with large hands might feel awkward.
Though the Asus can be used as a tablet, I wouldn't recommend it. When the screen and keyboard fold over to transform into a tablet, the edges flare out and dig into your palms, making it uncomfortable to hold. It's fine if set on your lap or a table, but I wasn't able to hold it as a tablet for more than a few minutes before switching to another configuration.
The Asus is a good bargain if you're interested in a very compact laptop for casual use. If you don't mind spending extra, the 12-inch Asus Chromebook Flip isn't that much more expensive, yet it features a bigger, sharper screen, a backlit keyboard and better performance.