Chromebooks were set to take the world by storm a few years ago but that has not been the case for various reasons.  That has not stopped manufacturers from continuing to produce some decent Chromebooks that allow users to purchase decent hardware that can do nearly as much as a laptop running Windows.

Asus sent us one of their newest Chromebooks, the CX34 Flip, to test out and put through its paces.  Having been a Windows user almost exclusively for the past 5 years or so, and someone who works in the Microsoft OneDrive environment, it was certainly going to be a test.

In the end it turns out that I’m sold.  I don’t need a Windows laptop to survive and functioned just as effectively within the Google Chrome world.

Hardware and design

The Asus Chromebook CX34 Flip sports a 12th Gen Intel i3 chipset with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage and of course, it runs Chrome OS.  The combination of the i3 chipset and 8GB of RAM is not the most powerful combination on the market but it was able to fly along without missing a beat no matter how many tabs or windows I had open.  This combination most likely allowed the impressive near 10 hour battery life that I achieved while using the Asus CX34 Flip.

With the Flip designation the Asus Chromebook CX34 Flip allows the user to flip the keyboard underneath the display giving a tablet-type experience.  Enhancing the tablet experience is a stylus that is garaged inside the left-hand side of the Chromebook.

The stylus is nothing special but allowed me to use the Chromebook as a tablet comfortably with the battery lasting around the 30-40 minute mark but charged back to full in under a minute.  

The CX34 Flip has ports galore including a full-sized HDMI port, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C posts which support display and power deliver (the Chromebook is charged through these) a single USB Type-A port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card reader.

The HDMI port and the USB Type-C ports were both able to project the display onto my 38-inch desktop monitor, with Chrome OS able to mirror or extend the displays.  This did not affect the operation of the Chromebook at all.

The display is a 14-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10 glossy touch screen display which was able to go bright enough in any situation I put it in that allowed me to view the display comfortably.  Above the display is a 720p HD camera which was acceptable, but it still amazes me that manufacturers do not make 1080p standard – this is 2023, not 2003.  At least the webcam had a manual privacy cover to give you that piece of mind that you are not being spied upon.

The keyboard is a full-sized backlit keyboard which was clickier than I am used to but after a short learning curve I felt comfortable typing on it for long periods of time.  

The two hinges connecting the keyboard section of the Chromebook to its display are 360 degree ErgoLift hinges which allow for smooth movement and can hold the display at any angle you choose.  When using the stylus with the laptop open to around 120 degrees there is some wobble in the display/hinges but that is to be expected of any laptop when pushing on the display.  A hinge without some wobble would likely result in a very difficult-to-open Chromebook. My advice – stick to simple touch if the Chromebook is not open to 180 or 360 degrees.

The battery is a 63WHrs, 3-cell Li-ion battery which Asus state should be good for 10 hours of usage on a full charge. I can say that they are not being generous enough with that figure as I used it and used it and used it and only had to charge it once. While what I was doing on it was hardly compute-intensive the battery seemed to outlast anything I have in the Windows variety.

Software/Chrome OS

Chromebooks run Chrome OS which is basically just the Chrome browser that everyone installs after opening a new Windows PC.  This allows you to get all your usual saved Chrome browser passwords, extensions etc all onto the Chromebook automatically just by signing in using your Google account.

It has been a while since I even tested, let alone used a Chromebook extensively and Google has made quite a few enhancements to it since then.  New features I noticed, and loved, included the Screen Capture tool, a Phone Hub to link your phone to your Chromebook, and let you access your phone and respond to your SMS messages, check your battery, or even locate your phone if you need. 

This very close relationship with Android allows you to easily share files from the Chromebook to your phone and vice versa using Nearby Share. Very handy for those who send a lot of files via their phone apps.

A big advantage of Chromebooks these days is their ability to run Android apps.  Simply install the app from the Play store and you can use it as you would on a tablet or phone.  This includes e-readers, games and more.  Now be warned that you may run into some apps that do not function perfectly, but I had no issues with those I used.

If you want to run programs like you would on a Windows PC, these days there is usually an online version that allows you to have nearly all, if not all of, the functionality of a Windows program.  Of course, with Microsoft Office programs you will need to use their Office 365 online versions which are not as good but nearly all of you will be able to get away with that or switch over to Google documents.

There is the big difference.  No longer can you directly access your Microsoft OneDrive files through the file explorer on the Chromebook.  Now you need to just use the browser version, which is very annoying but certainly doable.  I tend to do a lot of my Uni work in OneDrive so just pinned the OneDrive browser site so I could access it and work directly from it using the online options. 

For those who are Adobe photoshop folks Adobe do have an online editing tool in beta at the moment but I’ve been using Photopea instead for a while now and find that it allows me to do everything that I needed to do in Photoshop.  Those requiring other programs such as video editing you will be able to find an online version

Sounds perfect

The Asus Chromebook CX34 Flip sounds perfect and if I was very particular about my devices I would be buying one right now as I am in the market for a new portable laptop at the moment.  It has a touch display, a stylus, a 360-degree hinge along with Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi 6E and a full-sized backlit keyboard.  Personally though I just want a smaller display and a thinner and lighter device – keep the rest of it though (although you can have some of the ports back including the HDMI port).

Should you buy it?

A lot of people are put off by the price of Chromebooks — while they are cheaper than high end Windows laptops, there are normally lower end Windows laptops cheaper. Chrome OS is totally different. You do not need high end specs to run it effectively and most of you will be able to do pretty much everything you could hope for on a Chromebook.

The Asus Chromebook CX34 Flip has a really nice touch display with an included stylus that works really well. The display flips around to become a tablet with the ability to run Android apps on it making this formfactor even better. The keyboard and touchpad are full sized and pleasant to use with the battery lasting longer than you could ever need in a single session.

For a vast majority of folks out there this Chromebook is perfect. You can do so much on it and you do get great value for money with the build quality solid — much more solid than you’d expect for a laptop with a RRP of $1,399.

While not cheap, for a Chromebook, if you are in need of a touchscreen Chromebook with stylus then this is one you should be considering. It will be going on sale at JB Hi-Fi soon for RRP $1,399.