With the Asus Chromebook Flip and the Chrome-on-a-stick Asus Chromebit, Google is spreading its OS to more devices. Available this spring for $249, the Chromebook Flip will have a touch screen that rotates 360 degrees. The $100 Chromebit, coming this summer, will let consumers enjoy Chrome OS on their HDTVs.
The $249 Asus Chromebook Flip resembles low-cost Yoga-like notebooks, such as the HP Pavilion x360 and the Toshiba Satellite Radius 11. It has a 10.1-inch IPS display and an all-metal chassis, and weighs just less than 2 pounds. To keep costs down, the Chromebook Flip will be powered by a Rockchip 3288 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC flash memory; a higher-end version with 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD will also be available. It will have 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, and will get up to 10 hours on a charge.
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The addition of a touch screen is a bit unusual -- to date, only the Chromebook Pixel and the Acer C720P have been the only Chromebooks with such a feature, and with good reason. For one, a touch screen adds a bit of an expense to what's otherwise a budget system. Second, the Chrome OS isn't optimized for touch, so the benefit of a touch screen isn't yet apparent.
The Asus Chromebit has the same internal components as the Chromebook Flip (Rockchip 3288, 2GB of RAM, 16GB eMMC memory) but will compete with the various Android sticks that also cost less than $100. The Chromebit, slightly larger than a standard thumb drive, will have an HDMI port on one end, and a USB 2.0 port with which to supply it power. It will connect to the Internet via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and to peripherals through Bluetooth 4.0BR/EDR/LE.
Asus isn't the only company entering the Chromebook arena. Both Haier and Hisense have announced 11-inch Chromebooks, available through Amazon and Walmart, respectively, for $149. Both devices will be powered by the same Rockchip 3288 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB eMMC flash storage as the Asus systems.
The Hisense should get up to 8.5 hours of battery life, and the Haier up to 10 hours. Both will come with HDMI and two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot, 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0. So, on the face of it, the Haier looks to be the better deal, as it lasts longer on a charge. Either way, $149 for a Chromebook is a bargain, and will put even more pressure on Microsoft to encourage OEMs to launch budget Windows notebooks.