Last year we reviewed the Lenovo Chromebook Duet – a 2-in-1 detachable Chromebook. 12 months on and Asus has launched their own version with the Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3. The CM3 offers an extremely versatile writing and work experience which is portable and easy to use.
It runs Chrome OS which is nearly as fully functional as Windows in nearly every single way these days — it is actually more functional in some areas due to its Android compatibility. Running Chrome OS you get the benefits of the world’s most popular internet browser, which works in full desktop mode, as well as all your Chrome Extensions, Chrome Apps, passwords, browsing history and more. You also get the benefit of Android apps via Google Play.
The CM3 offers some great features and decent specs for a device that does not break the bank. It includes a 10.5 inch 1920 x 1200 glossy display which is capable of a brightness of 320 nits. Powered by a MediaTek Kompanio 500 chipset and 4GB of RAM it is available in both 64GB and 128GB of eMMC onboard storage (ChromeOS is designed to be used through the cloud so not much memory is actually required — install a few games though and the space runs out fast. There’s front (2MP) and rear(8MP) cameras, and it’s all powered by a 27Whrs battery.
Hardware and design
The tablet itself is a black rectangle with bezels that measure around a centimetre the whole way around. There are not a lot of ports on the tablet with a single USB-C port available to plug in devices or power it. The opposite side houses the power button and the volume rocker. The top right of the display houses the silo where the stylus lives. There are stereo speakers situated at the top of the tablet as well which is great for using as a laptop but not so much when using it as a tablet in portrait mode.
Underneath the tablet sit the five pogo pins where the detachable keyboard connects to the tablet. The keyboard is like all other keyboards you will find on devices such as this. There is a bit of give in the keyboard as it sits slightly off the benchtop. The keys are higher and have more travel than those on my Surface Go — Asus say they have 1.5mm of travel which does not surprise me. At first I wasn’t convinced regarding the keys themselves with the feel being a bit harsh and little cushioning. After a bit of use I have gotten used to it and have no issues using it for any work I may be doing.
The keyboard looks to be nearly exactly the same as that on the Lenovo Duet and given the compact size of the device the size off the keyboard surprises. The keys are closer together than a normal keyboard meaning less room for error when typing but in the end the keyboard is limited to the size of the tablet so is a little cramped. In saying that I was able to type consistently and accurately without any issues.
The rear cover of the CM3 is separate from the keyboard (just as for the Duet) and attaches to the rear magnetically. The rear cover doubles as a stand and has multiple hinges allowing the stand to support the tablet landscape or portrait (obviously without the keyboard when in portrait mode). The back of the keyboard and the rear cover are both a rough canvas/cloth that not only feels premium but adds a nice detail to look at.
The stylus is somewhere in between a Surface pen and a Samsung Galaxy S Pen in size and has no buttons so functions solely as a stylus. It does that well with it being big enough to sit in the hand and markup/draw accurately. The stylus is charged via a capacitive battery such that it only takes 15 seconds to charge it and will then last for 45 minutes. The stylus came in very handy marking assignments and for highlighting articles etc. I tested it out on various drawing apps as well and it was surprisingly responsive and accurate. For on the go capabilities (don’t expect studio quality) though it is perfect.
The speakers are better than the average tablet speakers but not as good as the usual laptop speakers. Similarly, the webcam is just 2MP which is good enough for basic conference calls and meetings. The storage is just 64GB or 128GB which is okay as you don’t need much storage on a Chromebook but an SD slot would have been nice for those who want more storage — especially is using it as an Android tablet and want to install games. It is difficult to plug in a USB-C thumb drive as there is just a single port and you may well be using that to charge the tablet.
Performance-wise I played quite a few games on the tablet, in tablet mode and did not have any issues with a fast-moving game — although it did take a few seconds to load the game, more than you’d see on a premium smartphone. When switching between apps on the tablet it occasionally takes a few seconds to load which could be because of the limited RAM. It always amazes me that manufacturers can put 8-16GB of RAM in a smartphone but skimp out on things such as this.
The online nature of Chromebook devices really comes to the fore when it comes to space. I, and most people have videos in Netflix, Stan, Google Play Movies ready to stream, as is my music in YouTube Music (let’s not get into the YTM vs GPM debate), comics stored in Comixology, while Google Play Books also stores comics and my novels, so there’s not a lot of need to store my entire library offline, just what I’m reading with the option to download other books anytime I have a connection and a need.
Asus has not skimped on the battery on this tablet with the 27Whr battery offering 12 hours of battery life. Using the laptop as a pure workhorse of working in Google Docs I was able to clock the 12 hours quite comfortably. If you need a quick top up though the excellent 45W fast-charging AC adapter will get that done for you.
Android or ChromeOS — whichever you prefer
There’s not a lot to really talk about in terms of Chrome OS. You’re by default on the Stable channel, but you can choose to live on the edge by varying degrees by switching to Beta, Dev or even Canary channel. Each is less stable than the last, so if you need your device working just stick to the Stable channel and you should be fine.
Updates for Chrome/Chrome OS are delivered in 6-week intervals, with the previous generation graduating to a more stable channel as bugs are discovered and fixed.
It’s a Chromebook so you will get updates seamlessly installed in the background, you may occasionally get a prompt to restart, but those prompts are rare. You can force updates (if there are any) by going to Settings > About Chrome OS and clicking ‘Check for Updates’ – but it’s rare you will need to.
If you have any hesitation about ChromeOS you can always practice on your Windows PC by running everything you want in Chrome browser. There are options for just about everything in Chrome. I use Photopea for a Photoshop alternative and it is damn near exactly the same. Office is now available online but of course there are Google Docs if you prefer that. Store everything in your Google Drive (or Dropbox or OneDrive — there are apps to add them into the file browser) and it is fully functional.
The big win for this tablet is the support for Android apps. Using the Play Store I was able to install all my usual apps including Moon Reader+ Pro, Asphalt (any number) plus a couple of 1942-style games. Add in any other messaging apps and you have a fully-fledged laptop/tablet and phone in one. I was unable to install Edge though — I prefer the new Edge over Chrome on my PC and laptop.
All of the Android apps worked well and considering just last year Dan found them to be finicky at times it’s a great experience. There are so many apps available that you can either install the app or just use the Chrome browser to use that service online — eg. Kayo, Netflix etc.
The fine print
Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and this Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 is no different. It is a great tablet and a decent laptop but unfortunately you pay for that. Last year’s entrant in this category from Lenovo is now half the price but it also started at around the $600 mark. The Asus Detachable Chromebook CM3 in my opinion is better than the Lenovo in that it has a stylus (but you can buy a Lenovo one for under $100) and a better/faster chipset resulting in a smoother experience which accounts for the small increase in price.
At this stage we don’t have a RRP from Asus but from the few sites I have been able to find it at it is priced at a RRP of $669 mark for the 128GB and $649 for the 64GB version. For those students out there, there is a student pricing — here. In the end it is still extremely well priced if you compare it to a Surface Go which is really not all that more functional than a Chromebook in most instances these days.
Should you buy it?
Do you often need to work on the road but don’t want to have to carry around a large laptop? Do you want an Android tablet that you can also occasionally use as a laptop? If this is you then this detachable Chromebook is for you.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well this performed as an Android tablet, able to run all apps without a single issue. I ran games of all sorts on it along with using it as an e-reader and to be honest I think instead of buying an e-reader next time I may just go for this instead. Google has really hit the ball out of the park building in Android app compatibility into ChromeOS (soon it will work in Windows 11 but we wait to see just how well that actually works).
I used it on the go to write EFTM articles while away from my office and to do various Zoom meetings — and I didn’t have to break my back lugging around a bigger and heavier laptop. The keyboard is a tad cramped and the feel of the keys is a bit harsh but it is certainly something you get used to and after a day or so of typing on it had no issues at all.
The Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 retails for around $650 for both the 128GB and the 64GB version with a variation of only about $20 between the two. Thus, it’s a no brainer to go the 128GB version. I can highly recommend this Chromebook for you and anyone who wants a good Chromebook that is portable, light and fully functional while at the same time a perfection functioning Android tablet. For more information head on over to the Asus website.