As it turned out, this new Chromebook wasn’t just showcased by ASUS, but by MediaTek in their booth as well. While we knew devices with the new Kompanio 520 were on the way, we had no idea we’d see this one in the flesh. Recalling my reaction to it back then, I was pretty excited to be reacquainted with a $279 Chromebook that I had pretty high hopes for.
Right off the bat, the ASUS Chromebook CM14 Flip presents a pretty interesting combo of features. It’s inexpensive without needing to be on sale, it’s super-thin, lightweight, and promises very long battery life: quoted at 14 hours by ASUS. There’s a 1080p 14-inch screen that hits 250 nits, a nice port selection, and a rigid build quality that is a bit unexpected for this price range. But does it hold up to my early impressions 8 months later?
As it turns out: for the most part, yeah. The things I liked in Vegas are mostly still there, but let’s start on the outside. I’d noticed the difference in color in the Walmart listing we reported on last week, and that color isn’t just a paint job. Instead, there are some real variations in materials versus the device we laid hands on at CES. The version we saw in January had a distinctive speckled exterior that was a bit rough and grippy. I liked the feel and the look of it as it really disguised the budget nature of the CM14 Flip.
This current version, however, has a lid and keyboard deck made from a smoothed-out plastic to go along with the same textured plastic on the bottom that we previously encountered. And I don’t like it. It feels a bit cheap and picks up fingerprints like crazy. I’m unsure what the thinking was on this decision, but it’s definitely a miss. There’s supposedly a version of this Chromebook that will arrive with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, so maybe the black, textured version we tried at CES will emerge at that point.
On the landing page for this Chromebook, ASUS touts quite an array of durability achievements, too. Starting with the MIL-STD 810H rating, ASUS went a bit further with this one to showcase just how durable it is
- Port Durability Test: Tested to withstand 5,000 insertion-and-removal cycles.
- Vibration Test: Withstands 5-500 Hz physical vibrations in all directions for one hour.
- Altitude Test: Operates as normal at 15,000 feet to simulate an aircraft cargo hold and in-flight operation.
- Panel Pressure Test: Endures a 25 kg force on the lid without LCD panel damage.
- Keyboard Durability Test: Designed for a lifespan of up to 10,000,000 keystrokes.
- Hinge Test: Subjects the laptop to up to 10,000 open-and-close cycles.
Ports and speakers
CM14 Flip has a pretty solid collection of ports, too, coming equipped with a Kensington lock, 2x USB Type-C, USB Type-A, headphone/microphone, and a micro SD card slot. While one of the key features in this device that I was excited to see at this price point is not on this model (the stowed USI pen), the overall I/O on this sub-$300 ARM-powered Chromebook is quite good.
As for the audio experience, the downward-firing speakers are surprisingly impressive for a device in this price bracket. They offer decent clarity and fullness, even if the volume is only so-so. They provide more than enough sound for casual media consumption, and are far better than what you get in most Chromebooks in this price range.
A solid screen
Another intriguing aspect is the 1080p 16:9 14-inch display. While it might not be the best aspect ratio and size for tablet types of activities, it’s really great in clamshell mode and has wide viewing angles, great colors, and a respectable brightness. I thought we were told that this screen hits 300 nits, but after the unboxing I realized ASUS lists this on at 250 nits, so don’t expect a crazy-bright screen. Still, under the studio lights it looked fantastic and in standard, indoor settings it will be more than capable.
Keyboard, trackpad and webcam
Moving down to the keyboard, I was pleasantly surprised. It offers a comfortable and clicky typing experience, the keys are quiet, and the tactile feedback is far better than I expected for a device in this sort of price range. The trackpad, while plastic, is smooth, large, and has a decent click mechanism. Between the two, you’d easily be fooled into thinking you were on a mid-range Chromebook for sure.