For a few years, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 has been one of the best Chrome OS devices around. Its MacBook-like design, great keyboard, Android app support (though that came a few months after release), good screen, and sub-$500 price point made it a great computer for many. I should know — it was my main laptop for over a year.
The C302 has been due for an upgrade for some time, and Asus has finally given it a sucessor. The Chromebook Flip C434 is Asus’ new flagship Chromebook, with an updated design and a larger screen. It’s also more expensive; while the C302 started at $500 for a Core M3 CPU and 4GB RAM (and now goes for ~$470), the entry-level C434 with an m3 CPU and 4GB RAM is $569.99. The model with 8GB RAM will set you back $600.
The C434 is a worthy successor to the C302, but it has different tradeoffs compared to the previous model — along with a higher starting price.
Design and hardware
The most drastic change going from the C302 to the C434 is the design. The MacBook aesthetic and large screen bezels are nowhere to be seen on the C434, replaced with something that looks far more like Asus’s lineup of ZenBook Windows ultrabooks. It uses a sandblasted aluminum finish, with silver edging around the hinge cover and touchpad.
The screen is the main design improvement. While it still has a 1080p resolution (not that a 14″ laptop needs anything higher), the surrounding bezels have been drastically reduced. The display looks more like a Dell XPS or MacBook Pro, and gives you more room for productivity. The webcam is still situated at the top.
Another improvement on the C434 is connectivity. There are still two USB 3.0 Type-C ports on each side, both capable of charging, but Asus has added a single Type-A connector this time around. It’s going to be a while until the original USB connector goes the way of FireWire, so this is a welcome improvement in my book. There’s also a headphone/microphone combo jack and a microSD card slot.
The hinge mechanism, which Asus calls ‘ErgoLift,’ is an interesting feature. Opening the laptop causes the keyboard to be raised at a slight 3° angle, instead of being flat. However, this means that two of the four rubber feet don’t fully make contact with the desk/table, which can cause the laptop to slip around a little bit on some surfaces.
Another downside to this new design is tablet mode. While the C302 was very comfortable to use and hold as a tablet, the combination of the larger screen and the gap between the keyboard and display means this Chromebook Flip isn’t very good at… flipping.
The internal hardware is where things get complicated. Just like the original C302, Asus is selling multiple variants of the C434 with different hardware. The processor can be an Intel Core m3-8100Y, i5-8200Y, or i7-8500Y, and you can have either 4GB or 8GB of RAM. There are also three options for storage: 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB (all eMMC). For reference, I’m testing the m3 model with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage.
I did notice two hardware-related bugs on the C434. First, whatever sensor is in place that determines if the C434 is in tablet mode or laptop mode sometimes doesn’t work correctly. For example, when I open the Chromebook from sleep, it occasionally takes a few seconds for the keyboard to be activated. Also, when connected to the hotspot on my OnePlus 6T, the Wi-Fi occasionally disconnects (even when the phone is right next to the laptop), and I haven’t experienced that issue with any other device I own.
Keyboard and trackpad
I’m not a massive fan of the C434’s keyboard. The layout is good, with decently-sized keys and backlighting support, the keys themselves aren’t very clicky — they’re mushier than the keys on my Dell XPS 13. That being said, you’ll probably get used to it after a few days, and at least the keys (probably) won’t fall out of the computer.
The trackpad is also a bit underwhelming. It’s large enough for comfortable use and gestures, but I would have liked to see Asus copy Apple’s gigantic touchpads. Clicking feels a little hollow, but again, you’ll get used to it after a while.
Speakers and display
As previously mentioned, the display is probably the most drastic change from Asus’ previous Chromebooks. It’s a large 14″ glossy 1920×1080 IPS panel, with good viewing angles and a decent level of brightness. The small bezels also make the C434 feel more premium, and the webcam is (thankfully) still situated above the screen.
The speakers on the C434 aren’t bad at all. They can get very loud — I usually kept the volume at ~20% — but there is noticeable distortion on the higher levels. The speakers are downward-firing, but I didn’t really mind.
Performance and battery life
The m3-8100Y in the base C434 is a minor improvement over the older m3-6730 that shipped in the C302. They both have 2 cores/4 threads and a 14nm lithography, but the 8100Y has faster base (900 MHz vs 1.10 GHz) and turbo (2.20 GHz vs 3.40 GHz) frequencies.
It’s still a 5W TDP processor, which allows the C434 to be completely silent, but it won’t match the performance of Chromebooks with 15W TDP chips (like the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14, Acer Chromebook Spin 13, and Google Pixelbook). If you’re interested in benchmarks, my m3 C434 scored 3591 for single-core performance and 6950 for multi-core performance in Geekbench 4 (full results here). On Speedbench 2.0, the laptop scored an 82.
Technical talk aside, the C434 is a very fast and responsive computer. I don’t push my laptops very hard, but the 4GB model handled my usual workload (usually just 5-20 Chrome tabs and a few Android apps) like a champ.
Battery life is also very good. Asus says the Chromebook should last “up to 10 hours,” but in my testing, that’s closer to 8 hours at 60-80% brightness. This varies quite a bit depending on what is currently running, so keep in mind that your usage could be wildly different from mine.
Should you buy one?
Yes. The Asus Chromebook C434 is a good laptop, with solid performance and a premium design. While it’s not as powerful as other modern premium Chromebooks packing 15W Intel CPUs, the C434 undercuts most of those by $100-200. For example, the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 with a 15W Core i5-8250U and 8GB of RAM currently costs $744, while the 8GB RAM C434 comes in at an MSRP of $600.
I am disappointed that Asus is still sticking to 4GB of RAM on the lowest-end model. Even though Chrome OS is generally lighter on memory usage than Windows or macOS, RAM prices have dropped to the point where there’s not much of an excuse anymore to go with 4GB.
There are several variants of the C434 available worldwide, but in the United States, we have a 4GB RAM model and an 8GB model. Both have the same Core m3 processor and 64GB of storage. Availability of the 8GB version is limited at the moment (the Amazon listing is from a third-party seller who is jacking up the price), but that should hopefully improve in the coming months.
Buy it if:
- You want a premium-feeling Chromebook.
- You can’t afford a Pixelbook.
Don’t buy it if:
- You’re picky about keyboards.
- You need to run performance-intensive workloads (like dozens of tabs or large Linux apps) on a regular basis.
- You already have the Asus C302 (unless you really want Linux apps).