Asus's new Chromebook Flip is a flexible, affordable notebook that's good for work and play. Starting at just $249, the laptop/tablet hybrid packs a folding design, a nice keyboard and long battery life. It can't run Windows programs, but it still looks like a worthy travel companion, or a decent choice for budget-minded business users whose computing habits are mostly limited to editing documents, checking email and browsing the Web.
Like all Chromebooks, the Flip runs on Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system designed by Google. You can't install Windows or Mac programs in Chrome OS, so the Flip isn't an option if you depend on a specific piece of software that only runs on those platforms. But with Android apps now available on the Chrome Web Store, you might be surprised by just how capable Chrome OS has become. For example, Microsoft recently released Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the platform. They're not quite as full-featured as their desktop counterparts, but they're close enough for most users.
The Chromebook Flip also packs some pretty nice hardware. It's one of the smallest and lightest convertible systems yet, weighing a scant 1.96 lbs. and measuring just 0.6 inches thick. That's good news for frequent travelers who want a notebook that won't weigh them down, and that will fit nicely on an airplane tray table. But the compact 10.1-inch display, which folds back a full 360 degrees so you can use the Flip like a tablet when you want, might feel a bit cramped, depending on your needs.
You'll also get some seriously long battery life out of the Flip. It lasted 9 hours and 19 minutes on our battery test, more than an hour longer than the ultraportable-laptop category average of 8 hours and 4 minutes. That should get you through the longest of business flights with ease.
Chromebooks aren't for everyone, but with a great combination of hardware and surprisingly capable software, the Asus Chromebook Flip looks like a steal. Check back for a full review of the Chromebook Flip soon, or read our list of the best business tablets and laptops currently on the market.