Starting at $800, this is a sweet, stylish Chromebook that only comes up short in one way.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C436 is not your ordinary Chromebook. It's not even an ordinary premium Chromebook. Starting at $800, the ultraportable two-in-one looks and feels as good as top Windows 10 laptops like the 2020 Dell XPS 13 or Apple's latest MacBook Air. It's also one of the first Chromebooks to be co-engineered with Intel as part of its Project Athena program, which means it meets certain requirements that make it speedier than others.
The C436 has higher-end components like 10th-gen Intel Core i3 and i5 processors and PCIe NVMe SSDs for storage instead of slower eMMC flash memory. It also has a fingerprint reader, a backlit keyboard and USI active pen support with 4,096 levels of pressure (though it's not included in the box, unfortunately) -- all things you won't find on most cheaper models.
It's still a Chromebook, though. Support for Android apps and Linux tools, editors and IDEs certainly broaden what this Asus is capable of. But if you want or need to easily install and use Windows or Mac software, no Chromebook -- regardless of what you spend -- will do the trick. If this is you, consider something like Lenovo's excellent Yoga C740 or the new Air or other less expensive options.
|Price as reviewed||$800|
|Display size/resolution||14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch display|
|CPU||2.1GHz Intel Core i3-10110U|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR3 2,133MHz (onboard)|
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics|
|Storage||128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD|
|Networking||802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Operating system||Chrome OS|
So what exactly does it mean to be a premium Chromebook? Well, for starters the Flip C436's body is a magnesium alloy so it has a nicer look and feel than cheaper plastic models, and it's thinner and lighter at about 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg). To make it easier to open, Asus angled the front edge of the lid and body into a V shape to make it easier to open, but you'll likely still need a second hand to do it.
Under the lid is a fine full-HD touch display with slim bezels that help make this 14-inch Chromebook similar in size to older 13-inch ones. Color and contrast are good as is screen brightness, but not enough to get past reflections from the glossy coating. You get a big, smooth touchpad, too, with gesture support and a comfortable full-size Chrome keyboard. There's not a lot of key travel, but they do have a satisfying poppiness to them. The keys are backlit too, which again isn't typical of Chromebooks. And neither is its fingerprint reader that's at the keyboard's top right corner.
At first I thought the reader was the power button, too, but that's actually on the left side with a volume rocker along with a USB-C port and headphone jack; a microSD card slot and second USB-C port are on the right side. There are four speakers, one on each side and two at the top between the 360-degree hinges, so you have clear audio in any position and they sound decent at moderate levels.
Since the Flip C436 is a two-in-one, you can use it as a tablet, though the 14-inch 16:9 screen size makes it a little awkward to use handheld. Using it on a desk is fine though and it does support USI active pens, it's just that Asus doesn't include one.
A big part of the price bump here is the components. Inside the $800 one I tested is a 10th-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB PCIe NVMe SSD. Spend $1,000 and you'll get a Core i5 CPU, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. Most people will find the Core i3 to be more than enough for web apps and the extra processing power is good to have for Android apps, including games. Unfortunately, not all apps work still, so you'll want to verify any apps you absolutely want will run before you buy.
Also, if you're one of the many that suddenly need to use your webcam to get through the workday, the C436 has a decent one at the top of the display. Video quality from it is decent as long as you have plenty of light and a strong connection -- the C436 does have Wi-Fi 6 giving you a bit of futureproofing. There's no option for LTE, though, and that's kind of a bummer considering Chrome is at its best with a web connection.
But really the biggest issue you might have with the Chromebook Flip C436, aside from the price, is the battery life. And it's not even that it's bad. I got 10 hours, 43 minutes of life on our streaming video test. That's certainly good, but in general use you're looking at more like 6 hours of straight use depending on your display brightness and what you're doing. We're used to seeing Chromebooks run for 2 or 3 hours longer, such as Acer's Chromebook 714 that has similar specs and ran for 15 hours, 21 minutes on the same streaming test.
The C436 does charge quickly, though, getting you up to 4 hours on a 30-minute charge. Also, with USB-C ports on both sides of the laptop, you have more flexibility when you plug in and you can charge it off a power bank like Anker's PowerCore so you don't necessarily need an outlet to recharge.
Basically, if you can live with the battery life and don't mind paying $800 or $1,000 for a two-in-one Chromebook, the Asus Chromebook Flip C436 doesn't disappoint. As Chrome OS matures, the extra processing performance is certainly nice to have as is having that performance in an attractive design. This really is for full-time Chrome users, however, so if you just need something for part-time use, you've got lots of other, less expensive options.