ASUS Chromebook Flip C302
THE PREMIUM CHROMEBOOK IS FINALLY AFFORDABLE. HATS OFF TO ASUS!
THE PREMIUM CHROMEBOOK is a concept that has existed for almost as long as Google’s notebook brand itself, and it’s one that rarely found the legs to succeed. ASUS has finally come out with a premium Flip model that matches the competition on specifications, but undercuts them on price.
At $849, it’s firmly in the laptop mid-range price point, but there are reasons for that: manufacturers are trying to drag the Chromebook market out of its seemingly permanent budget doldrums.
Like the original ASUS Chromebook C100 before it, the C302 is built from an allaluminium chassis, though, this time, it has an anodised finish rather than a brushed texture. Overall, it has a clean, no-nonsense aesthetic and it folds up into a nearly symmetrical slab of metal.
The original Chromebook C100’s long, bar-shaped hinge has been dropped for the ZenBook Flip UX360’s multi-gear, metal mechanism. The smaller mechanism makes this machine feel like less of a toy and helps it to blend in as a regular notebook.
Aside from being lighter, the C302 seems to have been specifically designed for tablet use. ASUS has come up with a clever magnetic clasp that pulls the screen lid tight against the underside of the notebook. It’s an ingenious addition that helps the 2-in-1 Chromebook feel like one solid device rather than foldable electronics, and we’re surprised that this solution hasn’t come sooner. When you’re not using the C302 as a tablet, it falls back on a solid keyboard that makes it as familiar and comfortable as any traditional laptop. The keys offer a satisfying 1.4mm of crisp key travel that we’ve missed in a world of ever-slimmer notebooks. As for the trackpad, it offers accurate tracking, but without any multitouch features apart from two-finger scrolling. There’s nothing noteworthy about it.
Intel Core M-series processors seem perfect for powering Chromebooks, as they offer more performance than your average Celeron chip while being efficient. And that’s not just us saying that: the benchmark results back us up here: Octane, 21,900; Mozilla Kraken, 1,276ms; and JetStream, 123. The Intel Core m3 processor performs nearly twice as fast as the Dell Chromebook 13 with a Celeron CPU.
Chromebooks are famous for their long battery life, and the C302 is one of the best examples of why. In fact, it’s the longest-lasting premium Chromebook we’ve tested so far and ran for 10 hours and 46 minutes on our standard local movie playback test. With our regular everyday workload, the C302 ran just shy of hitting the eight-hour, all-day battery life mark.
The display is 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD, which is all you need on a 12.5-inch screen. It’s not as sharp as the QHD HP Chromebook 13, but the lower pixel count affords two more hours of battery life — a trade-off we’ll gladly take. Photos and text look plenty crisp as is, and the Flip C302 resolves strong colours, which is exactly what we’re looking for in a companion device to flip through comics and stream videos.
Audio-wise, the Chromebook Flip’s speakers are loud, but lack much nuance to really appreciate music. There’s also a hint of tininess that limits how high you can set the volume before it’s unbearable, so use headphones if you’re looking to rock out.
This is the first Chromebook that genuinely feels as comfortable to use as a tablet as it is as a traditional laptop. Until we see the Android-Chrome OS fusion that is the Samsung Chromebook Pro with its sharper screen and built-in stylus, the Chromebook Flip is king of the Chrome OS hill.