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Asus Chromebook Flip review: A classy little convertible laptop

JR Raphael | July 7, 2015
It’s surprisingly nice and immensely affordable, but a laptop this small isn't going to make sense for everyone.

(Text also appeared incredibly small on the Flip's screen by default, though that can be adjusted by increasing Chrome's zoom setting. I found 110% to 125% to be about right for comfortable Web page reading and document editing at normal laptop-viewing distances.)

And while 10 in. is a common screen size for a tablet, it's strikingly small for a laptop. The substantial black bezel surrounding the Flip's display makes it seem even smaller, because you're looking at a little rectangle within a significantly larger surface. I couldn't help but feel somewhat cramped when trying to conduct my usual work routine on the device; after a few hours of staring at words on the screen, my head started to hurt and my eyes glazed over. While I could see the system serving well for more casual computing needs, it's really just not ideal for extended periods of concentrated work.

The touch and tablet factors

Quality and size aside, the Flip's screen stands out for its touch-enabled and pivoting nature. Even when using the system in its regular laptop mode, you can touch the screen to interact -- a feature I found to be a nice (though certainly not essential) addition. Given how often we interact with touch-centric devices these days, it felt perfectly natural to reach up occasionally and use my finger to scroll through a page of text or browse through a social media stream.

Where that ability really shines is when you flip the Flip's display (see what they did there?) past the 180-degree mark and start to use the screen as a slate. While Chrome OS and the Web in general still aren't entirely optimized for touch-only interaction, there are plenty of times when such an arrangement makes sense -- like when you're reading, watching videos or taking part in full-screen video chats.

To its credit, Google has been working to make Chrome OS more touch-friendly. The Flip shows off some of those efforts, like a redesigned virtual keyboard that appears whenever you're using the device in one of its tablet modes. The keyboard even offers the option to input text by writing with your finger on the screen (something that strikes me as more of a novelty than anything in this context -- but hey, it's there if you want it).

The main Chrome OS UI also adopts some subtle touch-friendly elements when placed in a tablet mode, similar to what I observed when reviewing Lenovo's $455 convertible Yoga 11e Chromebook last year. And Google is slowly but surely bringing bits of the Android experience into the Chrome OS environment, including native integration of the company's Google Now personal assistant and the ability to run an ever-expanding (though still rather limited) number of Android apps on the platform.

 

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