The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 is the best compact Chromebook for workers. It earns that title with solid performance, a terrific keyboard and a versatile bend-back design. The 2-in-1 design will become even more useful when the system gets support for Android apps later this year. Starting at $449 (reviewed at $499), this is pricier than your average Chromebook, but the Flip C302's well-rounded feature set makes it worth the money.
The Flip C302CA looks a lot like the original Chromebook Flip released in 2015, only larger. The new model boasts a 12.5-inch display, rather than the diminutive 10-inch screen on the old model. You also get a larger, more comfortable keyboard that doesn’t feel cramped to type on.
I dig the Flip’s MacBook-esque silver design, which looks handsome and feels really sturdy. It’s commuter-friendly too, weighing in at 3.2 pounds and measuring 0.6 ounces. That’s slightly slimmer than either Dell’s Chromebook 13 (3.2 pounds, 0.7 inches) or Lenovo’s ThinkPad 13 Chromebook (3.2 pounds, 0.8 inches), making the Asus Chromebook a tad easier to slide into your work bag.
The Flip C302’s left edge includes two USB-C ports, which can both be used for charging the system or for fast data transfer and connecting newer USB-C accessories.
The right edge includes a microSD card reader, which lets you expand the system’s 64GB of internal storage. There’s no full-size USB port, though, so you’ll need to pick up an adapter to attach accessories like a simple USB thumb drive. It’s not a huge deal on a Chromebook, since the platform focuses mainly on cloud storage for documents, but it could be a hassle for some workers.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Chromebook Flip without the folding, 180-degree hinge. You can use the system like a regular laptop or flip the screen back to use it like a tablet. Since it weighs more than 3 pounds, you won’t want to carry the system around like an iPad, but the functionality will still come in handy for showing off a presentation or simply browsing the web on the couch. It will be even more useful when support for touchscreen Android apps arrives later this year.
The Flip C302CA boasts a crisp, colorful display. The 12.5-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel screen cranks out crisp text and vibrant images. I watched the HD trailers for "Kong: Skull Island" on the Flip, and the vibrant red and gold-tinted mist that drifted over the movie’s monster-infested island really caught my eye.
It’s nice and bright too. The display topped out at 292 nits of brightness, which outshines rivals like the Dell Chromebook 13 (270 nits) and ThinkPad 13 Chromebook (257 nits). That makes the Asus Chromebook easier to use outdoors or in direct sunlight.
I could type all day on the Flip C302’s keyboard. The system boasts a generous 1.6 millimeters of key travel too, which is in line with what we look for in a work laptop's keyboard. Plus, the keys feel springy and responsive, with good tactile feedback on each stroke.
One Chromebook quirk that workers should be aware of is the fact that the Delete key is replaced with a lock button, which logs you out of your Chromebook profile if you hold it for a few moments. You can still get the Delete key function by pressing Alt+Backspace, but it’s an awkward change for touch typists to get used to. This is an issue on all Chromebooks.
Like any other Chromebook, the Flip C302CA runs on Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system created by Google. If you’re not familiar with the platform, here’s a few things you need to know. First, you can’t run software made for Windows or Mac computers on Chrome OS – at least not without using clunky virtualization apps. If you rely on a particular piece of software from those platforms to do your job, then the Flip C302CA isn’t a great choice.
The second thing you need to know is that Chrome OS is focused mostly on web apps – and there are plenty of good ones. That includes full-fledged versions of Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint programs. And if you want to edit documents offline, Google’s Docs, Sheets and Slides work without an internet connection.
But you won’t be limited to web apps for long. Newer Chromebooks such as the Flip C302CA are slated to get full support for Android apps later this year (an exact date for the update hasn’t yet been announced). That’s right – the same apps you use on Android phones will also work on this laptop.
The inclusion of Android app support will go a long way toward making Chrome OS a viable platform for work, since it will greatly expand the platform’s software library. Check out our list of the best Android apps for business to get an idea.
The Chromebook Flip C302CA is far from the longest-lasting Chromebook we’ve tested, but its battery life isn’t bad. It ran for a solid eight hours and 52 minutes on our battery test, which beats the eight-hour ultraportable laptop average. On the other hand, competing systems lasted longer, including the Thinkpad 13 Chromebook (9:08) and especially the Dell Chromebook 13 (13:25).
Everyday business tasks are no problem for the Flip C302CA. My review system came equipped with an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor with 4GB of RAM, a configuration that let me divide my attention between about a dozen apps – including one streaming HD video – without any hiccups. I edited a large spreadsheet in Google Slides, then switched to browsing the web without any slowdown.
Asus sells the Flip C302CA in two different hardware configurations. The entry-level model will run you $449 and comes with a Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
Workers will be a lot better off with the model featured in this review, though, which offers a speedier Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. That configuration will give you better multitasking performance.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA is already a pretty compelling option for basic productivity, with a crisp 12.5-inch display, solid performance and a versatile folding design. And it’s only going to become a better work machine when it gets full support for Android apps later this year.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad 13 Chromebook is another strong option, providing faster performance, a full-size USB port and a roomier display, which makes split-screen multitasking more comfortable. But it lacks the Flip C302CA’s fold-back design, making it the less versatile work system by far. That’s why the Flip C302CA is our favorite compact Chromebook for work overall.