Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 review: Fast but too expensive
- Great performance
- Solid build quality
- Attractive aesthetic
- Good keyboard and touchpad
- Battery life is merely adequate
- Chassis is large and heavy
- Too expensive in the CX5 configuration
When it comes to budget laptops, price is paramount. Compromises are unavoidable, but a cheap laptop can strike a nice balance at the right price.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C536 is a good example of such a device. I liked the 14-inch, 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 for its attractive price despite a few weaknesses. Asus has a larger model, the Chromebook Flip CX5, that’s similarly designed but offers a 15.6-inch display. Sometimes you just want more screen real estate, and so we decided to see if the larger model offered the same value.
My review unit was the high-end Chromebook Flip CX5 with a Core i5-1135G7 CPU and 16GB of RAM, at an $830 price that’s just outside of budget territory. You can also configure a C536 version (yes, the same model number as the 14-inch) with a Core i3 and 8GB of RAM for a much more palatable $569. While the Core i5 version is extremely fast, the Core i3 14-inch model is a much more solid value. Barring some significant discounts, that makes this Chromebook difficult to recommend.
The Chromebook Flip CX5 is the spitting image of the Chromebook Flip C536 14-inch — and that’s a good thing. It sports an “immersive white” aluminum lid that’s treated with an electrostatic coating to give it a ceramic-like look and feel and a white plastic chassis bottom, both of which combine to contrast nicely against the black interior. The Obsidian black keyboard deck uses an in-mold roller process that gives it a soft touch that’s comfortable when typing.
The angles are minimalist, but the color scheme pops and gives the laptop its own distinct look. I find the Chromebook Flip CX5 more attractive than some other 15-inch Chromebooks, such as the Acer Chromebook 15, which has a more traditional silver aesthetic.
The build quality is mixed, with a keyboard deck and bottom chassis that demonstrate no flexing, but a lid that bends a little too easily under pressure. It’s a bit more solid than the Chromebook Flip C536, which wasn’t as rigid all around. The Chromebook Flip CX5 is easily equal or superior to other budget 15-inch laptops, including the Acer Chromebook 15 and the Windows 10-based Acer Aspire 5.
The hinge is a bit tight, requiring two hands to open.
It’s also more expensive in my review configuration. Asus even went to the trouble of subjecting the Chromebook to the MIL-STD-810H series of tests for military-grade reliability, demonstrating some confidence in the laptop’s build quality.
The hinge is a bit tight, requiring two hands to open, but it supports the Asus ErgoLift feature that props up the rear of the laptop for a better typing angle as well as increased airflow. The hinge holds the display firmly in place through its four 2-in-1 modes — clamshell, tent, media, and tablet.
The Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 is a large laptop — 14.08 inches by 9.48 inches by 0.73 inches — due in part to its thicker top display bezel and massive bottom chin. It’s not so large compared to the competition, though, such as the HP Chromebook 15 that’s 14.11 inches by 9.69 inches by 0.7 inches. The Flip CX5 is a bit heavier at 4.3 pounds compared to the HP’s 3.99 pounds. This is a laptop that will fit into your backpack, but you’ll know it’s there, and it’s going to be awkward to use in tablet mode with the optional Asus active pen.
Connectivity is adequate. You’ll find a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, and a 3.5mm audio jack along the left-hand side, and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, HDMI connection, and microSD card reader along the right-hand side. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 perform wireless duties.
Chrome OS isn’t a very demanding operating system, and so the 11th-gen Intel Core i5-1135G7, 16GB of RAM, and 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) equipping my review unit were more than enough to elicit outstanding performance. In fact, it might be a little overkill.
In the Android Geekbench 5 app, the Chromebook Flip CX5 managed 1,190 in single-core mode and 4,151 in multi-core mode. That beats many Chromebooks, including the Asus Chromebook Flip C536 14-inch, which scored 1,209 and 2,849 with its Core i3-1115G4. I ran the Speedometer 2.0 web benchmark, and the Chromebook Flip CX5 hit 163, more than the Chromebook Flip’s 158 and the overall fastest Chromebook we’ve tested.
The Chromebook Flip CX5 handled everything I threw at it. I could open as many Chrome tabs as I wanted and run as many Android apps in the background as I needed without anything slowing down. That’s due to the combination of the CPU’s speed and a large amount of RAM. I doubt that I’d ever need to put the Chromebook Flip CX5 to a task that it couldn’t handle. I even tried Asphalt 9 in very bulky tablet mode, and while it was unwieldy, it ran smoothly.
The 15.6-inch display has Full HD resolution, which I find less sharp than I like. And it’s in the old-school 16:9 aspect ratio that’s not as good for productivity as today’s taller displays. I couldn’t use my colorimeter to test the display,and Asus didn’t provide any specifications, so all my opinions here are subjective.
To begin with, the display was just bright enough to use in my moderately bright office environment. I wouldn’t use it outside, certainly, and it might even struggle with brightly lit rooms. The contrast was just OK, with black text appearing a bit gray against white backgrounds. Colors were bright and seemed natural, with photos and video close to those on other laptops when I held them side by side. I did find the color temperature to be a bit off, with a greenish tint that I didn’t enjoy. The Chromebook Flip C536 14-inch display seemed better to me in this regard.
The display’s color temperature was off, with a greenish tint that I didn’t enjoy.
Overall, I found the display good enough for general productivity use. I didn’t like the greenish tint, but I did get used to it and noticed it mainly when I switched to another laptop. The Chromebook Flip CX5’s display will let you get your work done and binge the occasional video, but creative types won’t love it. And I’ll note that it’s a more attractive display at the 15-inch Chromebook Flip C536’s $569 price than the CX5’s $830.
The audio was loud and clear, without any distortion at maximum volume. Mids and highs were pleasant, but there was a distinct lack of bass. It’s good enough for YouTube video and solo Netflix shows, but for anything else, you’ll want a pair of headphones handy.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Chromebook Flip CX5 keyboard takes up a good portion of the available deck, giving it great spacing even though I thought the keys were just the tiniest bit small. I found the switches to be light and snappy, but the bottoming action was a little abrupt and made for a less comfortable experience. This was a good keyboard for a (relatively) budget device, but it didn’t rank up there with the best offered on HP’s Spectre line or the Apple MacBook.
There’s the usual wide range of backlighting that Chrome offers and most Windows 10 laptops do not, and it was consistent across its range. The keyboard was like the one on the Chromebook Flip C536 14-inch, although I found that one to have a bit more comfortable feel.
The touchpad is large enough and in a wide format. I found it to be responsive and precise, with a comfortable surface and a solid click that wasn’t too loud. It supported the full range of Chrome OS multitouch gestures without a problem. The display is touch-enabled, as is the case with all 2-in-1s, and it supports the optional Asus active pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Again, this is a large laptop for tablet mode, but prop it up on a surface and it’s usable for inking.
There’s no way to log into the Chromebook Flip CX5 without a password or PIN. That’s a bummer, but not unexpected.
There are only 57 watt-hours of battery inside the Chromebook Flip CX5, which isn’t a lot for a 15.6-inch display even at Full HD resolution. I wasn’t expecting great battery life.
During my testing, the laptop split the difference. It managed almost 9.5 hours in our web-browsing test, which is around three hours more than the Chromebook Flip 536 14-inch managed. It almost hit our preferred 10 hours, promising that you may get a full day of work out of the machine. In our video test, it hit 8.8 hours, which is less than I expected. The Asus Chromebook Flip C536 14-inch achieved around 10 hours, showing off the impact of the larger display.
Overall, I’d rate the Chromebook Flip CX5’s battery life as acceptable. It’s not the best we’ve seen, but it’s not the worst, either, and managing a working day without plugging in should be considered an accomplishment.
The Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 takes what we liked about the Chromebook Flip C536 14-inch and made it bigger and faster. It’s built a little better and offers better battery life, making it a meaningful improvement over its smaller sibling.
The only problem is the price. At $830, the Chromebook Flip CX5 is less compelling. You can buy a lot of other laptops, both Chromebooks and Windows 10 machines, for around the same money and get as good or better out of them. The Chromebook Flip CX5 gains some size and performance, but it loses some of the value. You’re better off buying the $569 version and accepting the lesser — but still more than acceptable — performance of the Core i3.
Are there any alternatives?
The smaller Asus Chromebook Flip C536 14-inch is a viable alternative if you don’t absolutely need a 15-inch display. You’ll get the same attractive look and nearly the same build quality, and you’ll spend less money.
The current crop of 15-inch Chromebooks hasn’t kept up with the Chromebook Flip CX5. I couldn’t find a large Chromebook that can match the Asus for its 2-in-1 flexibility and 11th-gen CPU. In fact, the best alternative to the CX5 is the 15-inch configuration of the C536.
If you’re willing to consider a Windows 10 machine, then you have more choices. The Lenovo IdeaPad 3, for example, offers a 15.6-inch display powered by AMD Ryzen 5000 H-series processors for a couple of hundred dollars less than the CX5.
How long will it last?
The Chromebook Flip CX5 is built well enough to last several years, or at least as long as you’ll want to continue to use the laptop before upgrading. Its components should keep Chrome OS humming along for just as long. The one-year warranty is typical and acceptable for a budget machine.
Should you buy it?
No, not for the average Chromebook buyer. The Core i3 C536 model for $569 offers more value. The one exception would be someone who’s committed to the Chrome OS platform, but does need a larger screen and better performance — such as a developer. Because of the lack of 15-inch options, the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 would be a serviceable option.
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