If we look back over the past few years, ASUS has had a notable presence in the Chromebook world. From standout devices like the original ASUS Chromebook Flip C100 to the fan-favorite Flip C302, the company has continued making Chromebooks that users love and enjoy using. The follow up to the C302 – the Flip C434 – was particularly interesting as it took nearly two years to unveil and really pushed things forward with a larger screen, tiny bezels, and a thin/solid frame that was a part of the overall maturation of the Chromebook platform. Notable devices that came out around that time were the Dell Inspiron 14 Chromebook, the Lenovo Yoga C630, and the HP x360 14.
When 2020 arrived and we rolled out to Las Vegas for CES, we were excited to see what ASUS’ upgrade to the well-received Flip C434 was going to be, and while it was nice on the showroom floor, our review time with this Chromebook was far from exemplary. In fact, I was almost depressed by how aggravated I was with the Flip C436 after using it for just a short time. With a high starting price, a mediocre screen, a hard-to-see keyboard, and a flimsy feel, this Chromebook was flat-out upstaged by what Samsung brought to the same show that year in the original Galaxy Chromebook.
Turning of the tide
But this year, that all looks to have changed. While there were a few hiccups in the PR cycle that had us believing there would be no new ASUS Chromebooks at CES 2021, ASUS was actually readying an announcement of not just a single new Chromebook, but a small new family of them. We laid out the specs, photos and details of the new ASUS Chromebook CX9, Flip C536 and Flip CM5 in a previous post, but there’s just more to the story than spec sheets and photos.
Simply put, it feels like ASUS is back. Back to making sharp, attractive devices, back to hitting the right strides on the spec sheet, and back to building Chromebooks that I think a ton of people are going to love. Between the three, there should be options to fit multiple budgets, screens that look great with their smaller bezels, and build materials that not only are attractive, but are made to feel great too. The fact that they call attention to the keyboard deck on both the Flip C536 and Flip CM5 tells me that they are paying attention to the feel of these Chromebooks. The fact that they included the substantial ergonomic lift in the Chromebook CX9 that you see in only high-end ASUS laptops tells me they are taking Chrome OS and Chromebooks that much more seriously.
While the Flip CM5 and Flip C536 will likely come in as mid-range Chromebooks (with higher spec options), the Chromebook CX9 will be an absolute beast for power users and creative professionals. Apart from not flipping into a tablet orientation, this device looks to nail everything from looks to features to portability. At only 2.2 pounds, it will be the lightest 14-inch Chromebook ever made and will come packing all you need for massive productivity. 11th-gen Intel processors with tons of RAM and storage (up to 2TB in some models) will marry with the 400-nit display, backlit keyboard and Thunderbold 4 for the ultimate in flexibility and power. It will likely be expensive, but it will be a beast, too.
Instead of only putting that device onto the market, though, ASUS has really presented a rounded offering this year. With AMD processors on board, the Flip CM5 will likely be the most affordable of the group, and I could see models of this Chromebook showing up for under $500 as the starting price. Sure, the higher-end configs with more RAM and storage will go up and I could see the CX9 being one of the most expensive Chromebooks ever at the top trim, but that’s the beauty of it. With all these devices and all their varying options, there’s bound to be a device and config to meet most users’ needs.
Frankly, I’m shocked at all that ASUS is doing in the Chromebook space this year, and I’m excited to see these devices and get them in hand. We have a bit to wait for the CX9 as it is slated for a Q2 release, but we’ll be seeing the Flip C536 before too long with its Q1 release schedule. As a start to the Tiger Lake Chromebook era, I don’t think I could have asked for much more from one company. Now, about that Acer device that Intel teased in their keynote…