Chromebooks have come along way from their cheap, plasticky days. In fact, most modern models are attractive in their own right. The Samsung Chromebook 2 introduced a leatherette finish, and who could forget the aluminum-clad Chromebook Pixel 2.
Meanwhile, the Dell Chromebook 11 and Acer Chromebook C740 are battle hardened for school. And even the Acer Chromebook 15 gussies up its plastic exterior with a textured finish. Now, the Asus Chromebook Flip C100 ($249 or about £160, AU$337) is looking to be the first downright stunning cloud-based laptop.
This is by far the sleekest Chromebook yet, with a completely metal shell and thin profile. The Flip also has the honor of being the one of the first fully convertible Chromebooks following the Lenovo Chromebook 11e, both of which you can use as a tablet. There has also been the Lenovo N20p, a Chromebook that could only transform into a display stand.
Internally, this Chromebook also flips the script with an ARM processor from Rockchip when practically every machine before it has used an Intel chip. Despite a few little quirks, the Flip is an excellent machine for the money, and its hybrid features push Chromebooks in the right direction for versatility.
The fully metal construction of this Chromebook is a pleasant surprise given its low, low price. In fact, an all-aluminum chassis is something you wouldn't even expect to find on most Windows laptops.
The metal shell isn't just aesthetically pleasing, it also helps make the machine feel completely solid without adding much bulk to ruin the the Flip's thin profile. As an added touch, Asus's signature chamfered edges make a return to prevent the users from cutting their wrists on the laptop's corners. It's a cue that Google really should learn from to make the would-be Chromebook Pixel 3 an easier machine to work on.
While the Flip is a compact, 10.1-inch device, Asus has fully utilized every bit of space to make way for a full-sized keyboard. Key travel feels deep despite the fact the keyboard sits on a recessed deck, which appears to leave less than 2mm of space between it and the bottom of the notebook.
I wish the trackpad were a bit bigger, but you're running into the physical limitations of the device at this point. Still, the tracking surface is large enough get from one corner of the screen to another without lifting your finger once.
More than meets the eye
The most notable new feature of the Asus Chromebook Flip is its ability to transform into a tablet and other modes. If you've ever used a Windows 2-in-1 notebook, the experience is nearly identical. The display is connected to the main laptop body with an articulating hinge that rotates a full 360 degrees for tablet mode.
This, of course, isn't the first Chromebook to feature a touchscreen, but the Flip seems to be the most optimized device for the added functionality. For example, the screen rotates depending on the Chromebook's orientation.
This enables you to set the Flip on its side for a vertical screen for reading documents and webpages. Alternatively, you could have the laptop sit on its keyboard for a simple touch-enabled display.
There's even a new virtual button on the lower right, which activates an exploded view of all your open windows and apps, plus a virtual keyboard.
The rear hinge tight enough to hold the laptop in place even if it's being propped up at weird angles. Unfortunately, the hinge is also the only plastic part of this otherwise metal machine.
There's also a noticeable gap between the three parts, which seem unsightly when you're just looking at the laptop. You also might be instinctively drawn to holding the hinge, because the gap makes it look like a flimsy plastic handle.