Chromebook Flip C436 review: ASUS missed the sweet spot

Gallery: ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 review photos | 11 Photos

In use

Every time I write about a convertible Chromebook, I have to preface things by saying that I find very little utility in flipping a relatively large and heavy device around into tablet mode, so how well that works has little bearing on my evaluation. That said, the Chromebook Flip C436 has a strong and smooth hinge, whether you flip the screen all the way around or just use it as a laptop. And the recent release of Chrome OS 81 actually makes that tablet experience better with some new gestures and UI tweaks. Tablet mode has long been a sore spot for Chrome OS, with plenty of lag switching apps and moving through the UI, but it’s actually pretty smooth on the C436.

More important is how the C436 performs as a laptop — and with the powerful hardware on board here, this was one of the best Chrome OS experiences I’ve ever had. The $799 base C436 comes with a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. That’s more than enough Chromebook for most people, but the $999 model I’m testing steps up to a Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. In both cases, ASUS is using Intel’s more powerful U-series processors rather than the low-power Y series chips found in the previous Flip. That means better performance, but also the fans kicked in regularly, even if I wasn’t pushing things too hard.

ASUS Chromebook Flip C436

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Even that base model represents a big upgrade over the 2019 Flip, which had an m3 processor and a relatively paltry 4GB of RAM. Unsurprisingly, the $999 Flip C436 I used had no problem keeping up with my workflow, which isn’t terribly processor-intensive.. I usually have a couple Chrome windows going with six to 10 tabs in each, and then a host of Chrome apps in their own windows. Those include Todoist, Keep, Hangouts, Telegram, Trello, Tweetdeck and Slack; I also usually stream music with the Spotify or YouTube Music Android apps. The C436 has the same processor as the Galaxy Chromebook, but double the RAM. This meant I basically never hit any slowdowns or hiccups.

Last year’s Flip was a computer I could throw in my bag if it was charged and not have to worry about the battery running out, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for the Flip C436. I got a good nine hours of work time on the older Flip with its m3 processor, but this year’s model only lasted about six hours in my testing. That’s not terrible, but far from the exceptional performance I got out of the older Flip or Google’s Pixelbook Go. When running a playback test of an HD movie downloaded to the Flip’s local storage, it lasted seven hours and 55 minutes before shutting down. That’s not bad, but overall the laptop falls far short of ASUS’s estimates. 

The competition

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Throughout this review I’ve been comparing the Chromebook Flip C436 to the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. As of this writing, the Flip C436 configuration that I reviewed is priced the same as the Galaxy Chromebook and has the same processor and a 360-degree hinge. Samsung’s offering has less storage and RAM, but it’s smaller in every dimension and lighter, as well. But probably the biggest differences are the 4K screen and stowable stylus, two things you can’t get on ASUS’s model. There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy Chromebook, but its terrible battery life means it’s hard to recommend. 

Naturally, Google has a few models worth considering. 2017’s Pixelbook was a great computer when it launched, but it still costs $999; it’s a bit difficult to recommend a laptop that’s well over two years old at this point. It’s very well designed and can run Chrome OS well, but unless you really want a convertible form factor, Google’s Pixelbook Go is probably a better choice.

The Go doesn’t have a 360-degree hinge, but it does have a newer processor than the original Pixelbook. The Go is an all-around great Chromebook, with an excellent keyboard and long battery life. The base $649 model only has Intel’s m3 processor and 64GB of storage, but that’s probably enough for most people; spending $849 steps things up to an eighth-generation Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That’s still less than the $999 Flip C436 I tested but again, it should be more than enough for most. 

If these models are all too pricy, consider the ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 from 2019. The company says it’ll still be selling it, though it’s been out of stock in my recent searches. The processor isn’t as powerful, and it has less RAM and storage, but it still offers a great screen, keyboard and better battery life than the C436. With a price point just over $500, it’s a solid option.

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