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Hands-on Gear Review
ASUS Flip C101PA Review
Price: $300 List | $249.99 at Amazon
Pros: Fast web browsing, portable, versatile, touchscreen adds versatility
Cons: Somewhat expensive, smaller keyboard and screen
Bottom line: Great if you want a fully functioning and portable tablet that also provides the option of typing on a real keyboard
In our opinion, the ASUS Flip C101PA is everything a tablet should be. With 4GB of RAM it offers super fast web browsing, and the touch screen interface lends a streamlined experience to that browsing. It also provides a great venue for playing mobile games, in case that is your favorite way to while away the time until your flight finally boards. The attached keyboard allows you to be fast and efficient in crafting an email or editing a Google Doc if the need arises. The fact that you get all of this in a tiny package is the reason it's our Top Pick for Portability. Additionally, the Flip was used extensively to test using Android applications within the Chrome operating system, so it will most likely excel in this capacity once those apps are more widely available on Chromebooks. If you're looking for a tablet that is super portable, but provides a physical keyboard for when you need to get some work done, the Flip is the perfect do it all device for you.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
ASUS recently upped the Flip's RAM from 2 to 4GB, which has made a world of difference. It scored an 8 in our performance testing, putting it in the upper echelon in a metric that saw scores ranging from 3 to 9. Browsing was incredibly fast through the majority of our testing. The only time we were able to induce any sort of lag was when streaming high definition video while having multiple other tabs open and trying to edit Google documents. Right now I'm using the Flip to type this in Google Docs while streaming a high definition Arctic Monkeys Youtube video, and am not experiencing any sort of lag. This performance feels like more than enough for this machine, as with its small screen and keyboard you'll probably save more intensive tasks for when you have access to a larger computer. Its battery provides a reported 9 hours of use time, and it was easily able to make it through a full work day on a single charge. The Flip provides 16GB of onboard storage, which is standard for a Chromebook. Despite its small size it still does have a micro SD card slot, so you do have the option of expanding the storage space if that 16GB feels limiting. If you decide on the Flip you can rest assured that you're not going feel limited by speed or performance.
The Flip scored a 6 in our interface and features testing. While this was towards the bottom of a metric that had scores between 5 and 9, none of the models we tested were particularly unpleasant to use. The Flip lost points largely due to its small keyboard and trackpad. The keyboard felt somewhat cramped to most of our testers and probably isn't suited for very long typing sessions. The trackpad, likewise, is fairly small, and can be somewhat annoying after a while. Although the keyboard and trackpad are not ideal, they are more than adequate for quick bouts of typing, and certainly add a more utilitarian feel to the device. The flip did gain some points for its touchscreen interface, which we found very pleasant to use, and provides all the perks of using a tablet. The touchscreen adds great functionality for simple web browsing and certain applications. We were particularly impressed with the construction of the hinge, which allows you to 'flip' the keyboard completely around and out of the way when you're in tablet mode. The hinge felt sturdy and like it would easily stand up to normal use and abuse. This robust connection very much makes the Flip feel like one solid, well integrated machine, rather than a tablet that happens to have a keyboard attached.
The Flip came out of our screen quality testing with the lowest score of 5, which was well off the high score of 9. While it was the worst performer, we did not particularly dislike its screen and it still received what we would consider an average score. It partially lost points due to the size of its screen. As nice as it is to hold and use a small tablet, looking at a 10.1 inch screen just doesn't compare to looking at a 14 inch screen. Additionally, the Flip has a screen resolution of 1280 x 800, which puts it just above the 720p high definition line. This resolution is more than enough for web browsing. However, it is noticeably less crisp than full 1080p high definition, so if you're snuggled up with your Flip close to your face watching a movie you may notice that it's not the greatest picture. For comparison, this resolution is the same as the Amazon Fire HD tablets, but much less than the iPad's resolution, which is even greater than 1080p. All in all, the Flip's screen is perfectly serviceable and nice to look at, but if you tend to put a lot of clout into resolution you may wish it was just a bit better. This would be especially true if you're used to watching HD movies on the iPad's display. Surprisingly, given its small size, the Flip does still have an HDMI port, so it would be easy to toss a movie from the Flip to a television or big monitor if such a situation arose.
The Flip earned a rare 10 out of 10 in our portability testing, putting it well ahead of the low score of 5 and locking in our Top Pick for Portability Award. This perfect score came about because the Flip is just imminently more compact and portable than we would ever expect a device with a fully functioning keyboard to be. Weighing in at just 2 pounds you can barely notice it's there when it's in a backpack or bag. Its tiny, 10.1" stature also makes it easy to carry around and allows it to fit in almost any bag. Carrying it in the hand feels barely more cumbersome than toting around a couple of magazines or a hardcover book. The Flip is the perfect companion for a long flight, city strolling, or any travelling situation where you want the option to sit down and do some efficient browsing or emailing if the need arises.
The Flip lists for $300, making it one of the most expensive models we tested. Seeing as the Flip provides top notch browsing performance in a package that can function both as a tablet and a laptop, this represents a great value for someone who will take full advantage of the Flip's versatility. If you're just looking for an ultra cheap laptop that you don't have to stress about when you're traveling, something like the ASUS 201 would represent a better value.
The Flip blurs the line between tablet and laptop without making too many sacrifices on either account. Sure the attached keyboard makes it slightly more cumbersome than a standalone tablet, but it still feels imminently portable. And yes the keyboard is fairly small, but it is orders of magnitude better than typing on a touchscreen, and is still plenty ergonomic for all but very long typing sessions. If you're looking for a versatile, portable, laptop/tablet hybrid, look no further.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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