Though it happened early in the year, ASUS has really outdone themselves in the Chrome OS space here in 2021. While their new Chromebooks are just now becoming more widely available, there’s no doubt that the gloves came off this year with their latest offerings. The larger CX5500 we already reviewed, the top-shelf CX9 and surprisingly-great Flip CX5400 are all examples of how great Chromebooks can be when companies decide to really think through the build materials and execution when making them. Don’t worry, our review of both the CX9 and Flip CX5400 are in the works, but as a spoiler I can tell you my initial impressions of both have carried over during our review period. They are fantastic Chromebooks!
Another ASUS Chromebook is coming, but we’re unsure why
There are a ton of Tiger Lake, 11th-gen Intel-based Chromebooks still waiting to be announced. By our count, only about a quarter of the 24 upcoming devices we’re tracking have actually been announced. That means we’re in for a bunch of these powerful, capable Chromebooks in the closing months of 2021 and devices like ‘Collis’ (the development Chromebook we’re talking about today) will likely be the norm from here on out.
Here’s what I mean. ‘Collis’ is an offshoot of ‘Copano’ – A.K.A the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5400 – and that much we know is true. It’s all over the repositories and this device shares a ton of DNA with that already-available Chromebook. As a matter of fact, so little is changed from ‘Copano’ to ‘Collis’ that there are only a handful of commits out there for this device that already looks ready to be announced.
Just copying a board as the starting point doesn’t always mean that the new device is a close sibling, but it generally does. In the case of ‘Collis’, we also have confirmation of a rotating lid (convertible), a backlit keyboard, and a built-in USI pen: all just like the ASUS Flip CX5400. Add to this the same couple email addresses attached to the commits for both ‘Collis’ and ‘Copano’ and it doesn’t take much to deduce this is an ASUS device that bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the newest Chromebooks the company has released. The bigger question is why?
A few clues, a few questions
There are a few differences with ‘Collis’ that are worth noting. The first one is the fact that ‘Collis’ looks to be shipping with a World Facing Camera. This is the type of camera we generally see on EDU devices, but not always. Samsung has shipped a few consumer-facing Chromebooks with this type of camera – generally mounted right above the keyboard – that allows users to snag photos and videos when the device is folded into tablet mode. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook and Chromebook Plus v2 come to mind right off hand.
It also looks like ‘Collis’ will remove the Thunderbolt 4 functionality that we have in the ASUS Flip CX5400 and other Tiger Lake Chromebooks. I’m not entirely sure why this would be done, but I’d have to imagine that there are some cost savings attached. Any time a new feature gets removed on a Chromebook where the processor is capable of handling it, I always assume it is to shave a few dollars off the bottom line.
These additions/removals seem to be pointing us to a device that is very similar to the ASUS Flip CX5400, just different. Losing Thunderbolt 4 seems to indicate cost savings, but adding another camera would offset that. A backlit keyboard, stowed stylus, and Tiger Lake processor don’t really scream EDU to me, though, so what is this device set to become? The ASUS Flip CX5400 comes in at $699 MSRP with the Core i3/8GB/128GB variation, so perhaps ASUS wants to make a more-affordable take on this great device.
They did this a few years back with the slightly-confusing ASUS C425 and Flip C433. Those devices took the Flip C434 vibe and cheapened things a bit to make for what I’m sure ASUS thought would be better-selling Chromebooks. I don’t know how well that worked for them, but I could see a reality where users want an ASUS product for a bit less money and don’t really want the larger CX5500. A Flip CX5400 with a few cut corners and the same overall experience could be a great play for them.
Ready to be released
These are all just speculations at this point, but one thing we know is the fact that this new ASUS device is nearing the final stages of production. Just like we see with other Chromebooks, this device has been ME-Locked, meaning it is prepared to actually start full-scale production. The ME-Lock happened for ‘Collis’ nearly six weeks ago, so ASUS could announce this one at any time now.
We’ll be keeping a keen eye out for ‘Collis’ and when it does arrive, we’ll do our best to get hands on one to test. So far, ASUS hasn’t announced anything about this device on an official level, but it shouldn’t be long. If they can ship a more affordable take on the excellent CX5400, they’d be doing what HP has clearly found success with: shipping a flagship device with cheaper iterations that follow. While many of us don’t mind spending $600+ on a great Chromebook, there are many who don’t want to spend that kind of cash. Having cheaper versions of great Chromebooks is a solid strategy to capture the part of the market that isn’t 100% sold on Chrome OS just yet, and if that is what ASUS is up to with ‘Collis’, I’ll be very interested in it.