If I were to use just one word to describe ASUS’ latest Chromebook, that word would be interesting. The way it showed up in Bluetooth listings without us having any prior knowledge of it was interesting. The official announcement that it was to launch in the UK first was interesting. The low-key, behind the scenes arrival on US turf was interesting. The way we procured our device from a local Best Buy even though it wasn’t listed online was interesting.
But interesting doesn’t always mean great, and so it is with the ASUS Flip C433. This device is equal parts great and terrible, and the fact that ASUS has taken the time to plan, manufacture, announce, and ship this Chromebook is, well…interesting. Let’s talk about why.
When you place the Flip C433 on the desk, it’s easy to be quickly impressed. The color is great, the boxy edges look good, and the overall aesthetic is quite handsome. Picking the Chromebook up, however, you are immediately aware of the heft this device carries. It is listed as 3.31 pounds and it feels every bit of that. At 0.6-inches thick, it also isn’t the slimmest Chromebook available either. But all that gets forgiven for the style points it gains back in the square look that hearkens back to the very popular ASUS Flip C302.
If all this thing had to do was sit up and look pretty, this would be a very different review. Alas, there’s a lot more to a Chromebook than a closed clamshell, so we have to move inward and see that a lot of things just fall apart. The first issue is the magnet-driven closing mechanism of the lid. I’m not over exaggerating when I say that this Chromebook is by far the most difficult laptop I’ve ever tried to open. This isn’t merely saying it requires two hands and has a stiff hinge. No, this is something completely different. Every single person I handed this to had massive amounts of difficulty trying to pry this Chromebook open, and it is only because there is some sort of magnet inside holding the lid closed.
Why in the world would ASUS choose to do this? I have no idea, but I can tell you it is one of the biggest design fumbles I’ve ever come across. I understand convertible devices will likely never have the lovely one-finger lift of the Pixelbook Go, but an activity so fundamental to a laptop shouldn’t be this hard to do. It is patently ridiculous how difficult it is to simply open up this Chromebook and get to work.
Once you do get it open, you realize that the entire bottom chassis is plastic. And not good, solid plastic. Cheap, flexible, and bendy plastic. After all the leaks and photos we saw of this device, this is the part that made me most sad. The Flip C302 was/is such a sturdy, approachable device and I thought the C433 was going to follow in those steps. Instead, ASUS has delivered one of the flimsiest frames I can remember, and the entire Chromebook is worse because of it. The whole package feels insanely top-heavy because of this choice and you cannon get around the absolute feeling of bargai-basement affordability when using this Chromebook.
On a few positive notes, the hinge is unsurprisingly great. ASUS has become very good at making quality 360-degree hinges, and the Flip C433 is no exception. Additionally, everything north of that hinge feels fantastic. Glass and aluminum make the lid feel substantial, firm, and of high quality. I suppose the bigger issue is the fact that the chamfered edges of the lid only serve to remind users how terrible the bottom half of the device is. I just don’t understand what ASUS was thinking, here.
Things get a bit nicer from this point forward, I promise. Starting with the screen, the Flip C433 gets a solid B. The colors are a tad muted and the brightness only peaks out around 180 nits, so there are definitely better screens to look at. However, I wasn’t ever put off by the brightness, colors or viewing angles when using this Chromebook until I compared it with displays that are measurably better.
With the now-familiar 14-inch measure, 1920×1080 resolution, and 16:9 orientation, this screen is best suited to work and media playback. Putting the device in tablet mode is awkward just like every other 16:9 convertible, so don’t be expecting a great tablet experience, here. With the other modes – like presentation mode – you can enjoy movies in more cramped spaces like vehicles or airplanes, however, and that’s where I think convertibles really do shine.
Keyboard & Trackpad
As we see in the ASUS C425 and Flip C434, the keyboard is 100% on-point. With great travel, satisfying click, and backlighting, this keyboard delivers just as its predecessors did. I have no issues with the keyboard apart from the fact that it is housed in the aforementioned flimsy bottom chassis. In general, I had no issues banging out articles, answering emails, and going about my work with this setup.
The trackpad is just OK, however, mashing up bits from the Flip C434 and C425 in equal parts. The surface feels like those trackpads, smooth but plastic, and the click mechanism is fine. The C433 gets the ultra-wide trackpad from the C425, so that is a win, but the flimsy chassis once again detracts from the overall experience. Set up on a table, the trackpad feels pretty decent. But put this in your lap, and the entire experience recedes into a mushy mess thanks in no small part to the wildly flexible bottom half of the Chromebook.
Ports, Speakers, Internals
I’m grouping all these together because the setup here is so familiar by this point. We’re getting dual USB-C, a single USB-A, headphone/mic jack, microSD card slot, power button and volume rocker along the edges. This is the same layout from the Flip C434 and the C425, so not much new to look at. It works well, gives users flexibility, and I really like this particular port selection for just about any Chromebook.
The speakers sound good, too, and benefit from the side-firing grill setup. In general, you get the same sound whether you are in clamshell, presentation or tablet mode thanks to the strong, full speakers that have the ability to produce sound out of the sides rather than pointing down at the desk. While they don’t come close to something like the Pixelbook Go or Pixel Slate, these speakers are definitely a high point of the Flip C433 experience.
Internally, we’re met with another similar experience in the 8th-gen Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. There will be models with up to 8GB of RAM, up to 128GB of internal storage, and up to a Core i7 processor, but we may never actually see them if older ASUS Chromebooks are anything to go by. I never ran into any performance issues in our review unit and battery lasted me easily through the day, pacing for that now-expected 8-10 hour window we expect from Chromebooks. Of all my concerns about this Chromebook, performance was never one of them.
And we come to the inevitable finale: should you buy this? This is a question full of duality, so hear me out. At the MSRP of $499 that Best Buy is asking for this, absolutely do not buy this Chromebook. There’s no way this device is worth that amount of money for any user. Right after release, however, it dropped down to $419 and became a tad bit more palatable. I still would personally not spend that kind of money on such an aggravating Chromebook, especially when there are so many other options that deliver everything the Flip C433 does and more.
Why this Chromebook was developed and shipped is honestly still very perplexing to me. With the excellent Flip C434 regularly down to $559 (and likely lower in the next few months), how can anyone justify buying the Flip C433 at $499? It just makes no sense. If the C425 was $300, the Flip C433 was $400, and the Flip C434 was $500+, I could sort of understand, but there are still too many trade-offs. If I had $400 to drop on a Chromebook, I’d be looking at something like the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2, the HP Chromebook x360 (when it hits a good sale as it does frequently), the Dell Inspiron Chromebook. Nevermind some of the newcomers that we’ll be seeing later in the year.
In that type of landscape, I just don’t understand why ASUS went to the trouble of making this device. With the difficult-to-open lid, rubbery keyboard deck, muted screen, and over-budget feel, I’m having trouble recommending that anyone go and buy this Chromebook right now. Maybe some deep discounts would change my mind, but I honestly don’t see that happening. If you like the look of this device but want something you’ll enjoy using, you should really check out our review of the Flip C434 instead.