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Tech Review: Asus Chromebook Flip may be the inexpensive laptop/tablet combo you’ve been looking for

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Netbooks came and went.  They marked a new generation of laptops used for on-the-go computing when you didn't exactly need a lot of "umph."  Problem was, tablets and smartphones quickly overpowered them.  Now, Chromebooks are filling the void left behind and the ASUS C100 Chromebook Flip might just be the best inexpensive Chromebook yet.  I spent the past week testing it out.

ASUS C100 Chromebook Flip

ASUS C100 Chromebook Flip

Hardware

The ASUS C100 Chromebook Flip looks and feels like a solid little laptop. It's constructed of metal and an "Appleish" feel to it.  For a $250 laptop, I was impressed.  It has a quad-core processor that is good enough to power a Chromebook and keep things moving along quickly.  The battery will last 9 hours.  It also has an HD webcam above the 10.1" WXGA screen.  The screen is good but leaves a little bit to be desired.  The 1280x800 resolution might leave you wanting more screen real estate.  Otherwise it seemed bright and colors looked good.

ASUS C100 Chromebook Flip

ASUS C100 Chromebook Flip

The highlight of the hardware is the hinge that just keeps going.  Flip the screen 180 degrees to use the Chromebook in viewing mode or flip it all the way around and the C100 essentially becomes a tablet with the full touchscreen.  This isn't the first Chromebook to have a touchscreen but it's the most affordable.  Chrome OS is designed for the finger... yet.  I think Google will continue to optimize the OS for touchscreens which will only improve the usability of the C100.

The keyboard and touchpad are exactly what you would want on this little laptop.  The nearly full-size keyboard feels spacious.  The touchpad is solid and works with two-finger mode to scroll up and down on web pages.

In the end, the C100 isn't the best of the best but it's better than you would expect for $250.

Software

Chrome OS is what it is.  It's the perfect OS for a netbook-style laptop.  It's designed for the web and the web only.  It won't run your Windows apps but Chrome OS is slowly moving into full-blown OS territory as the app store grows and Chrome OS starts supporting Android apps.  None the less, don't expect to run Photoshop or a full-blown video editor here.  The OS doesn't really support it and the processor power isn't there.  Which is fine, that's not what this is for.

Chrome OS has grown-up and feels much more polished since originally launched a few years back.  It's ready for primetime.

Conclusion

$250.  Did I say this Chromebook is only $250?  Personally I'd opt for the $300 model that ups the RAM from 2GB to 4GB but still, that's a great price.  It's thin, light and the battery will last all day.  This won't replace your desktop or existing high-powered laptop but it's the perfect in-between.  The C100 is designed for those moments when your smartphone isn't enough but you don't need to drag around the $1,000 laptop.  With the touchscreen and flip hinge, it could replace your tablet too.  Chrome OS isn't the best touchscreen OS but that will only get better.

For the price, you can't go wrong.  In my opinion it's the best Chromebook in the $250 or less category.

The ASUS C100 Chromebook Flip is available now.  In fact I found it for $230 at Tiger Direct.

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