There’s room for improvement on the screen and sound, but this is one speedy and versatile big-screen Chromebook
- Great design that minimises bulk
- Speedy and efficient
- Good battery life
- Screen lacks brightness and colour depth
- Audio is powerful and spacious, but harsh
Big-screen Chromebooks have never exactly been all the rage. The original Chromebooks were designed to be thin and light, and, since then, the leading Chromebooks have tended to follow a similar path. Even today, the leading models – the Acer Chromebook Spin 713, Google’s Pixelbook Go, Asus’ own Chromebook Flip C436F – all sit in the 13in to 14in size range.
Yet, now that Chromebooks have become a credible device for work and study, I reckon there’s a gap in the market for a great big-screen option. When you’re multitasking and you’ve got your browser open on one side of the screen and Google Docs or Sheets on the other, it really helps to have some extra screen real estate, especially if you’re trying to work all day in comfort.
This makes the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 an intriguing proposition. It sits towards the premium end of Asus’ Chromebook range, with a choice of 11th-gen Core i3 and Core i5 processors and a slick, convertible design but it’s still very affordable by laptop standards. Plus, while it’s still relatively thin and light, it has a full-sized keyboard and trackpad and a big 15.6in 1080p touchscreen display.
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Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500) review: What you need to know
The new supersized model in the Chromebook Flip family, the CX5 is a 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook built around a solid core spec and a 15.6in Full HD 1080p NanoEdge display.
Asus currently sells two variants in the UK: one with a Core i3-1115G4 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and one with a Core i5-1135G7, 8GB of RAM and a 256B SSD. Asus also manufactures a version with a Core i7-1165G7 and a 512GB SSD, but this wasn’t available in the UK at the time of writing.
To bolster the CX5’s convertible credentials, Asus also bundles a stylus pen, giving you the chance to use the pen to navigate apps and the OS while the device is in tablet form and make notes and annotations on your documents. You can even use it with Google’s excellent handwriting recognition.
Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500) review: Price and competition
The two models sell at £599 and £749, putting them nearer the high end of the Chromebook market but not up against premium business-grade Chromebooks such as the Dell Latitude 7410 Chrome or the HP C640 Chromebook Enterprise.
Instead, the biggest rivals are the HP Chromebook Spin C713, which has a smaller, squarer 13.5in screen, and the 13.3in Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5i. If you’re looking for something of a similar size, your best bets are the 15in Acer Chromebook 315 or the 17in Chromebook 317, but both have slower Intel Pentium processors and half the RAM and storage of the base CX5. It’s not exactly a fair fight.
Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500) review: Design
With its newest line of Chromebooks, Asus seems to be ditching its old MacBook-style aluminium and silver plastic chassis for something a little more distinctive, with a white, powder-coated aluminium lid encasing a toughened glass, NanoEdge screen and a very solid-feeling polycarbonate body with what Asus calls an “obsidian velvet” texture around the keyboard.
If the name is over-egging things slightly, it’s certainly firm, comfortable and silky-smooth. The design and the materials put this way ahead of Asus’s more budget-level Chromebooks and I’d rather work on the Flip CX5 than on some all-aluminium premium Chromebooks I’ve tested. With the three-sided NanoEdge display and an 81% screen-to-body ratio, it’s reasonably compact for a 15.6in model and just under 36cm in width. It weighs 1.95kg.
As with every Asus Flip model, the lid folds back through nearly a full 360 degrees, giving you the standard clamshell mode of a regular laptop but also a tent mode that’s great for watching videos and playing games, and a tablet mode for drawing, taking notes and casual browsing on the sofa. The hinge is smooth and really solid, despite the size of the display, and the machine is well balanced so that it never feels wobbly or as if it’s about to tip off your lap.
Connectivity is what I’d expect from a higher-end Chromebook, with a single USB Type-C port, a USB-A 3.1 port and a 3.5mm audio jack on the left-hand side, with a second Type-C, an HDMI output and a microSD card slot on the right-hand side. You will, of course, need one of those Type-C ports for charging, but you’ve still got one free for a hub, docking solution or external SSD. You’ve got Bluetooth 5.0 onboard for a mouse and headset, not to mention Wi-Fi 6 for your network and internet connection.
Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (5500) review: Keyboard and touchpad
To be honest, I haven’t always been impressed by Asus’s Chromebook keyboards. The action has often felt a little loose and sloppy, too low on tactile feedback and with too much bounce in the deck. The keyboard on the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 is different. The keys have a decent 1.4mm key travel and the action feels tight, consistent and thoroughly conducive to fast typing.
And while Asus has crammed in a full layout, complete with a numeric keypad, it’s used most of the space for the main alphanumerics, shrinking the number keys to a slightly smaller, thinner format. Opinions may differ, but I think it’s a smart compromise. The backlighting isn’t hugely bright, with more light coming through around the edges of the keys than through the characters, but it helps with typing in dim conditions and looks good against the jet black surround.
The touchpad is equally usable, with a large, smooth surface that’s ideal for Chrome OS’s two- and three-fingered gestures and navigating around the larger screen. The integral button also works efficiently, but there’s no right-click beyond the standard Chrome two-finger tap on the touchpad.
Of course, as the CX5 is a convertible, you’re likely to spend some of your time working with the touchscreen and the bundled stylus. The good news is that the touchscreen itself works brilliantly, while the stylus is a real asset, proving accurate in note-taking, sketching and light image editing.
Using it was also a reminder that Chrome OS has improved as a touch-driven OS, with better tools, strong handwriting recognition and a more flexible onscreen keyboard. A year or two ago I really couldn’t see the point, but now it’s actually a pleasure to use this way.
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Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (5500) review: Display and sound
If there’s one area where the Flip CX5 falls short of the mark, it’s the display. In isolation, it’s not bad at all. It’s a 15.6in IPS panel with a maximum brightness of 238cd/m², and it’s bright enough to use in most conditions. By the standards of £799 to £1,000 Windows laptops it’s a little on the dim side, but for this money it’s okay.
The gloss glass touchscreen helps boost contrast without adding too much in the way of reflection, too, and still images and videos look perfectly good in casual viewing. In tent mode, the Flip CX5 is fine for some light entertainment.
It’s the colours, however, that let it down. We measured sRGB coverage at just 61.6% and DCI-P3 at 46.5%, and this is visibly not a great screen in terms of colour depth or richness. Accuracy isn’t fantastic either, with an average Delta E colour variance score of 5.69, boosted by some over-egged blues and greens.
Again, this isn’t going to be a problem if you’re just watching movies or fixing exposure problems in casual smartphone apps, but for anything colour-critical, you’re going to wish you had something better.
When it comes to sound, there are some real pros and cons. On the pro side the CX5 gets surprisingly loud, and it’s got a wider soundstage than many Chromebooks; you can really place effects on a TV or movie soundtrack as coming from the left, centre or right. Movies can sound weirdly immersive, especially in tent mode.
On the cons side, the output can be harsh and wearing, and everything seems squeezed into the mid-range. The sound is at its worst in clamshell mode, sitting on your lap, where there’s quite a lot of muffling of some frequencies. Used that way, it’s better with headphones.
Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (5500) review: Performance and battery life
By the standard of your average Windows laptop, the CX5 isn’t what you’d call a powerhouse. Our review model is based on a dual-core, four-thread Core i3-1115G4 processor running at 3GHz with 8GB of RAM, and the scores on the cross-platform Geekbench 5 test are pretty underwhelming. It’s much the same with the results in GFXBench’s Manhattan and Car Chase tests.
Yet, as a Chromebook, the performance is more than acceptable. In fact, the CX5 is something of a budget speed demon. It helps that this is one of the first Chromebooks we’ve seen with Intel’s 11th-generation Core processors (there seems to be a lag of around a year before Chromebooks get the latest Intel tech), and the 3,000MHz base frequency, 4.1GHz Turbo and improved Intel UHD GPU do a lot to make up for the lack of cores.
The scores in browser-based benchmarks like MotionMark and Crxprt – 556 and 143 respectively – actually put the CX5 ahead of last-generation Core i5 Chromebooks like the Dell Latitude 7410 and IBM Chromebook Flex 5.
More importantly, it feels speedy in use with little in the way of slowdown, even when you’re editing images in an online editor like PhotoPea or working across multiple Google Workspace apps. I’d happily use this Chromebook as my daily workhorse.
The other big surprise is the battery life. Previous 15.6in Chromebooks we’ve tested have often struggled to survive for more than seven or eight hours of video playback. Even some of the better 14in machines have spluttered out after nine or ten hours. The CX5 lasted 11hrs 9mins, putting it in contention with some more efficient, smaller-screened alternatives. You could easily get a good working day out of it without a recharge.
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Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (5500) review: Verdict
It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing Chromebooks as secondary computers that you’ll mostly use casually in the living room or while you’re out on the move. The Flip CX5 shows it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s great for browsing, speedy, versatile and ideal for study and hard work. Sure, we’d like to see a brighter screen and a slightly richer sound, but what you’ve got here is great for the money. If you’re interested or invested in Google’s web-based ecosystem and you want a bigger screen, this is the Chromebook to buy.