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Small wonder, little competition: Asus Chromebook Flip

World's first 10-inch touchscreen convertible Googletop

Full metal jacket

While many Chromebooks are made of cheap and nasty plastic, the Flip is a smart, all-metal affair. With its brushed metal casing, it looks and feels rather like a third-scale MacBook Air, and that is praise enough.

The screen hinge is reassuringly robust, important for something that has to hold its position in either tent, stand or tablet mode, as well as when it’s being tapped and poked in laptop form.

Asus Chromebook Flip

Stand mode. Note stereo speakers under the keyboard deck

The keyboard and touchpad are impressive feats of miniaturisation too. The latter measures a mere 85 x 45mm but is still eminently usable, and the same is true for the approximately 85 per cent sized keyboard. The Flip’s keyboard is one of the most solid I’ve ever encountered on a cheap laptop.

A brace of loud and tuneful speakers are built into the underside of the keyboard deck, making this one of the better sounding Chromebooks money can buy.

Peruse the Flip’s curved sides and you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, a micro HDMI socket, 3.5mm combo audio jack and a microSD card slot. There’s also a power switch and a volume rocker on the front left, along with a couple of status LEDs. I found the on/off button rather too easy to touch by mistake.

Asus Chromebook Flip

Two USB 2.0 ports, alas not USB 3.0. A microSD slot enables storage expansion

Wireless connectivity is handled by the 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 radios. During my tests the Wi-Fi left something to be desired when it came to keeping connected in places I know to have questionable but usable reception.

Asus has forgone Intel chippery in favour of a 1.8GHz Cortex A17 quad-core Rockchip RK3288 SoC with 4GB of RAM and Mali T764 graphics. That means what we have here is a Chromebook running on ARMv71, rather than the more common x86 architecture, the odd Exynos-powered Chromebook from Samsung and the HP Chromebook 11 being the exceptions.

Asus Chromebook Flip

Volume, power and status LEDs on left

What does this mean in the real world? Poorer performance, better battery life and some programme compatibility issues under Linux, assuming you can get it to work.

Running browser benchmarks like Google’s Octane and Mozilla's Kraken, the Flip returns amongst the lowest scores I’ve ever seen on a Chromebook. Thankfully, those results don’t actually have much of an impact in the real world. The Flip doesn't feel any slower in everyday use than the Lenovo N20p, a machine that beats it soundly in every synthetic benchmark test.

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