2017 ushered in a new era for Chromebooks with a front and center focus on Android apps. As the year kicked off, we knew there were two big releases coming up, and both debuted back at CES. Leading up to that, attention was on the Samsung Chromebook Pro, but ASUS was in the background working on its own option and, spoiler alert, I think it might be the better choice…
Nomad case for Pixel 3
Hardware & Design
The ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA, with its poor branding, is the second laptop part of what I call the “third phase” of Chromebook designs. That means it has stronger specifications, most of the features you would expect, and a design which uses premium materials and has Android apps in mind.
Like the Samsung Chromebook Plus, the C302CA hits all of these notes. It offers up a metallic design which looks good, despite having a “sticky” plastic feeling. The squared off edges make the Chromebook feel somewhat thick, but it looks good and is still quite thin overall.
Along either side, you’ll find a USB-C port for charging, data transfer, and video output. While the lack of standard ports is a little annoying, personally I don’t mind on this type of device, and I do like that it enables charging the machine from either side. The sides also house a microSD card slot for extra storage, the headphone jack, and the sleep and volume buttons. It’s a simple design and I like it.
ASUS uses a 12.5-inch display on the C302CA, and it’s pretty solid. The 1080p panel has good colors and viewing angles, and brightness is great as well. It’s not as incredible as the QHD panel on the Samsung Chromebook Plus, but it’s good nonetheless.
This panel also uses a standard 16:9 aspect ratio which is nothing to complain about. While 3:2 is great in a lot of ways, 16:9 is what most of us are used to, and it makes using this machine as a computer feel a bit more natural, as well as makes content consumption more pleasing.
Software & Performance
Specifications are a bit of a weird area for this Chromebook, as ASUS has different builds depending on region. In the United States the model you’ll most likely find for sale is powered by Intel’s Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage.
On top of these specs, Chrome OS flies. Multi-tasking is excellent as the extra power from the processor and RAM enables me to have several tabs open at once without an issue. Android apps are also good for the most part, despite some minor issues here or there since, at the time of reviewing, the functionality is still restricted to beta channels.
Chrome OS & Android apps
Just like on the Chromebook Plus, Android apps round out the experience on Chrome OS. They expand on the functionality that Chrome OS already brings to the table and makes it better in many cases. For many users, having native apps for things like music playback and email are huge benefits, not to mention access to all the apps and games Android tablets already have access to.
I’ll never say it better than my colleague Abner Li did last year: Android apps on Chrome OS make it a viable competitor to the desktop OS duopoly. I use Windows 10 on a daily basis and, while I have always felt at home on Chrome OS, having access to Android apps just makes transitioning between the two operating systems easier.
Keyboard & Trackpad
The keyboard on the ASUS C302CA is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop in this form factor. I’d appreciate a bit more key travel, but overall this keyboard is good, offering a fair bit of tactility and good spacing between the keys. The addition of backlighting is also very much appreciated.
However, the same praise can’t be given to the trackpad — at all. I’m not sure what happened in the past year or so, but I’ve been noticing that Chromebook trackpads are just getting worse and worse, and the C302CA is no exception. The trackpad feels “sticky” and is just annoying to use. I’ve honestly used the touchscreen quite a bit on this machine simply to avoid using the trackpad.
One of the obvious benefits of using a laptop with a lightweight OS like Chrome OS is battery life, and the C302CA is no exception. Battery life is solid on this machine, offering up about 8-10 hours with moderate use. Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with those results.
Overall, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA is a solid machine. The only major improvement I would honestly make is the trackpad. Otherwise, it’s a great little machine that I can highly recommend to anyone. Is it better than the Samsung Chromebook Plus/Pro? In my opinion yes, but you might value what Samsung offers a bit more. At $499, the C302CA falls in between Samsung’s two models, and again, I can’t recommend it enough.