I was able to get my hands on a review unit of the Asus Chromebook Flip (C100P). It is another Chromebook with the new Rockchip series processor, but uses a unique form factor with it. Is the Chromebook Flip a worthy purchase for schools to consider?
- Rockchip 3288-C 1.8GHz Quad-Core processor
- A 10.1" IPS 10-finger touchscreen display with a 1280x800 resolution
- 2GB or 4GB of RAM
- 16GB SSD
- 2x USB 2.0, 1x Micro HDMI, 1x MicroSD slot
- HD webcam with integrated microphone
- Dual-channel integrated audio
- Wireless 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1
- Height: .6" x Width: 10.6" x Depth: 7.2" and weighs 2lbs
- Battery rated for 9 hours of use
Overall Build Quality:
I am going to start off by saying that the Asus Chromebook Flip is one of the most aesthetic designs for a Chromebook in this price range. It is not a rugged device, but it is very thin and light. Asus also uses a number of design choices that makes it seem more expensive then it really is. The Chromebook Flip is encased in aluminum metal with the hinge cover being encased in a matching plastic. The trackpad and keyboard are also made out of plastic. The screen is very similar to a 10" tablet and is able to flip back 360 degrees. This allows for a number of different modes of use as seen below.
Borrowing from tablet designs, the Chromebook Flip also has physical power and volume buttons on the side of it.
There are also dual speakers on the bottom of the device that sounded pretty good for the price point.
I did not notice it at first, but the Chrome logo on the lid has a very faint lighting in the center of it when the display is active. I am not sure what the point of it is in it's current design, but it could have been a nice touch if it was brighter and lit up the entire Chrome logo.
The Asus Chromebook Flip uses the Rockchip 3288-C processor. It is an ARM based processor that is designed specifically for Chrome devices. The Chromebook Flip with 2GB of RAM scored a 7014 when I ran the Octane benchmark on it. In my usage of the Chromebook Flip, it worked just as well as other Chromebooks using the Rockchip processor. It is pretty much on par with Chromebooks that are using Intel's Bay Trail processors. Even with only 2GB of RAM, I was able to do a number of tasks without an issue and was able to have 6-7 tabs running before I started to notice any slowdown. Having more RAM would help with that. The Rockchip processor also allows for a longer battery life and fanless design, which is great in a school setting.
The screen on the Chromebook Flip is a 10.1" IPS touchscreen display with a 1280x800 resolution. Where that resolution can sometimes be an issue on a tablet of this screen size, I did not have an issue with it on the Chromebook Flip. I found the color depth and overall viewing quality to be much better than most Chromebooks in this price range due to it using an IPS screen.
Unfortunately, the screens on touchscreen Chromebook models are usually much more expensive to replace. The way this one is designed will also be more difficult to repair in the event of a breakage. We will talk more about that later on in the review.
Chrome OS Touchscreen Experience
Before using the Asus Chromebook Flip, make sure it has the latest Chrome OS update installed. When initially using the review unit, it was somewhat buggy with the touchscreen and screen rotation. After applying the latest stable release to it (43.0.2357.130), the Chrome OS experience on the Chromebook Flip greatly improved and was a pleasure to use. I did still encounter a minor bug once in awhile after the update though with the login screen alignment. It seemed to happen if I flipped the screen while Chrome OS was still booting up. After logging in though, the screen is aligned correctly so it is not a big issue if it does occur. I have no doubt this will be fixed soon in a future Chrome OS update.
The on-screen keyboard was easy to use and very responsive. Doing a right-click on the touchscreen is as simple as holding your finger down for a few seconds on the item you want to right-click on.
Using pinch-to-zoom gestures on sites such as Google Maps also worked very well.
Even using a stylus worked really well on sites such as A Web Whiteboard. The stylus I used was the Adonit Jot Pro.
As expected, the keyboard and trackpad on the Chromebook Flip are a little smaller than other Chromebooks due to the smaller form factor. Both were still good to use though and I had no issues with them.
Asus did make a slight change to the Chromebook Flip keyboard. The power key on it has been replaced with a screen lock key instead. This was likely done due to the physical power button being on the side of the Chromebook Flip.
I really like the power adapter and it is identical to the one used with the Asus C201 Chromebook. It is designed more like a charger for tablets or phones, which makes it very easy to fit in the front pocket of a carry case. The connector that plugs into the Chromebook is similar to a Micro USB connection, but with more of a rectangle design. I think this design choice makes it a little more durable than the typical thin connectors we see on a number of other Chromebooks.
The Chromebook Flip has a 31WHr battery in it. Asus claims that it can provide up to 9 hours of battery life. In my Nyan Cat test to gauge the battery under a heavier use situation, I found the Chromebook Flip to actually get 10 hours and 2 minutes on a full charge with the screen at a 75% brightness. So you should definitely not have an issue getting around the claimed battery life, if not more, with standard classroom use and the screen being dimmed.
I do not normally do this in my reviews, but with the Asus Chromebook Flip being a new form factor for Chromebooks, I wanted to crack it open and see how repairable it was. With the right tools, I actually found the Chromebook Flip to be fairly easy to open and a little more repairable then I initially expected. If you try to do any of this yourself, do so at your own risk.
To remove the hinge cover, you simply unscrew the 2 screws on the back of it using a screwdriver with a T5 tip.
Unscrewing those allows the front of the hinge cover to easily come off.
I did not remove the back of the hinge cover, but you should be able to do that by unscrewing the two black screws that also hold one side of each of the hinges in place. You will likely need a J000 tip for that. This picture also gives you a good look of the metal hinges.
To get inside the Chromebook Flip, you will need to unscrew the casing from the bottom of the device as seen in the picture below using a screwdriver with T5 and J000 tips.
Once you unscrew everything, the bottom casing does not come off. Like a number of Chromebooks, you will actually enter the inside of the Chromebook from the top casing (keyboard side). So you will need to use a plastic spudger to pull the casing apart by gently pulling the top casing up along the seam where the casings connect together. Once you have the top casing loose, be careful pulling it fully away as you first need to disconnect the keyboard and trackpad ribbons from the motherboard before doing so.
Like most Chromebooks, the memory and storage are soldered to the board. The keyboard will be difficult to replace by itself due to it being fastened to the top casing by a number of rivets, which will break when you try to remove the keyboard.
To easily replace the keyboard, you will likely need to replace the whole top casing it is fastened to. This keyboard design is unfortunately in most Chromebooks and is not just specific to the Chromebook Flip. You should still be able to replace just the trackpad by itself if needed.
The screen is also going to be difficult to repair compared to other Chromebooks. In checking with a person at the Asus booth at ISTE, the repair process is pretty much how you would repair a broken tablet screen. I was told the cost of a replacement screen through Asus would be $115. That does not include any shipping or labor costs if you have them repair it for you. It is too early to say if any third-party vendors will have the screen available and/or be able to do this repair for less. Another option would be to replace the whole lid of the Chromebook Flip with the screen assembled, which would not be too difficult to do. However, I am not sure you will be able to purchase a lid replacement assembled that way without just taking it from a spare Chromebook Flip you have on hand.
Other then what I mentioned above with the screen and keyboard, a number of the other parts of the Chromebook Flip seem replaceable with little to medium difficulty as long as parts are available to purchase and/or you are taking them out of another Chromebook Flip.
I really like the Chromebook Flip and feel that Asus has a huge hit on their hands with this device. I would have liked to have seen a rear camera in it given the tablet-like design, but I am still amazed at the quality of it and how well the whole concept of the Chromebook Flip works for the price point. It really shows what extra things an OEM is able to do with Chromebooks when using a Rockchip processor, while still being able to keep prices low. If you were thinking about purchasing any touchscreen Chomebooks, then the Chromebook Flip is definitely one to consider given the quality, price point, and tablet-like capabilities of it. With broken screens usually being the biggest damage from students though, just make sure you have a plan decided in advance for how you will handle screen replacements given the cost and difficulty of replacing them. If you are going to need Asus to repair the screens for you, it may actually make more sense to initially buy a number of spares to gut for assembled lids and still have other repair parts available to use as needed.
The Asus Chromebook Flip starts at $249 for the 2GB model and is now available. The 4GB model will be $279 and does not have a release date yet.