It would be an understatement to say that ASUS’ Chromebook strategy has been a bit odd of late. When they debuted their very-excellent Flip C434 back in January at CES 2019, it seemed they had a clear vision as to what constituted a great Chromebook. The Flip C434 was and is a great example of a great Chromebook that brings nearly everything users would want to the table.
As the months wore on since then, the Flip C434 has been awarded as the year’s best Chromebook from multiple outlets and even seen pretty regular price drops from multiple retailers. As the price slid down, the number of users who considered it only rose. It honestly felt like ASUS won the year in the Chromebook space with their flagship and we only hoped we’d see another awesome Chromebook from the company around CES 2020.
Instead, we’ve had two surprise Chromebooks basically show up out of nowhere in the C425 and Flip C433. With questionable price tags, interesting design choices and odd availability, we’ve honestly been nothing but puzzled by their releases. With the Flip C434 dipping down near $500 on a regular basis, why would you release a nearly identical, mostly plastic version of the same Chromebook at almost the same price in the Flip C433? And at $399 in the C425, why release a mostly-plastic version without a touchscreen and without the convertible form factor? We honestly don’t know just yet and the holiday shopping season could see sharp discounts on both of these models, but there is a clear path forward on the more-premium ASUS Chromebooks, and it is shaping up to be a spec-sheet stuffer.
‘Helios’ – The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436
As Gabriel pieced together, the upcoming ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 looks to be a Chromebook based on the ‘Hatch’ family of devices. If we look at this commit file for ‘Helios’, we see clearly that in the model.yaml file that ‘Helios’ is set to be the base variation of ‘Hatch’ that comes equipped with a convertible form factor, stowable pen (possibly), touch screen, a 10th-gen Intel processor, and backlit keys.
What that basic file doesn’t lay out is the addition of NVMe storage in this particular Chromebook, but rest assured a variant of ‘Helios’ will be equipping the faster storage option. We can know this based on the latest commit we’ve found for ‘Helios’:
nvme: Add quirk for Kingston devices running firmware E8FK11.T Kingston NVME doesn’t resume properly from suspend-to-idle.
After resume it doesn’t get the the expected queue interrupts for command completions. With this quirk S0ix is working.
TEST=ran suspend_stress_test on Helios with kingston NVME.
Clearly, this shows ‘Helios’ being tested with NVMe storage, and as we know from previous implementations of this type of storage, its addition signals high-end internals and high-end hardware. Even if ‘Helios’ doesn’t get NVMe storage across the board, it seems there is a model variation of it that will, and that can only mean a premium design in on the way.
With all the questions around ASUS’ current Chromebook lineup, perhaps they are simply setting the stage and filling out the market with ASUS Chromebooks at every step of availability for consumers so that they can unveil a truly premium Chromebook without feeling like they have nothing to offer the rest of the market. This is clearly the path Acer has used to find a foothold in the market, so it only makes sense for ASUS to try and offer devices across the board for everyone. You can be assured we have our eyes on the Flip C436 very closely and we’ll be waiting to see what it is ASUS decides to deliver later this year or early in 2020.