Now that we have the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5 review out in the wild, it is time to turn some attention to the Flip CM5 – the all-black, AMD-powered variant that launched alongside it. There’s no way to get around the comparisons between these two Chromebooks, so I’m not even going to try. The Flip CX5 and Flip CM5 share nearly everything in common apart from a paint job and the processor inside that is running the show. There’s a lot to like in this package, but there is definitely reason to be hesitant, too. Let’s jump in the box and take a look.
Much of the same
Obviously, the biggest difference on the outside is the paint job. I have to say, as much as I love the white/black look of the CX5, this all matte black CM5 is just as aesthetically pleasing. The textures are the same and the materials match the CX5, but there’s something stealthy and attractive about this blacked-out Chromebook that is unmistakably appealing. Add to that a few orange accents on the power, volume and ASDW keys and you have a Chromebook that looks unique and amazing at the same time.
Though these differences could make you think this is a very different Chromebook, don’t be fooled: everything about the outside of this device lines up directly with the CX5. The 250-nit screen is the same 16:9 1080p panel, the keyboard is the same fantastic keyframe with a numeric keypad, and the trackpad is the same, wide, glass surface we loved on the CX5. Even the speakers are the same full, loud experience you get on the Intel version of this Chromebook. From a functional standpoint, the CX5 and CM5 are identical on the outside.
It isn’t until we get inside this device that the differences begin to emerge. While the CX5 is rocking Intel’s latest 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors, the CM5 comes equipped with the AMD Ryzen 5 that we last reviewed in the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook. If you recall, the processor in that Chromebook highlighted some troubling behavior and had performance issues when not plugged in. Since that review, we’ve done some testing and our findings have been corroborated by other reports that AMD’s Ryzen chips are heavily throttled when on battery power alone. It’s a troubling revelation and one that the CM5 is not exempt from.
While we’ve not run a full battery of tests, a few benchmarks made it very clear that this device suffers from the same slow-down as the Lenovo C13 and, frankly, that’s a bummer. While not a deal-breaker, the fact that users are going to see a ~40% decrease in performance when not tethered to an outlet is a tough pill to swallow. Couple that with the fact that this device comes with the same 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage as the CX5 and runs $599 – or $30 more than the $569 CX5 – and you have what amounts to a very, very hard sell.
Oh, and don’t forget that plugged in or on battery power, the 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake processor in the Flip CX5 completely demolishes the Ryzen 5 in every way on a Chromebook. So now you have identical build, identical storage/RAM, a faster processor and lower price in the CX5 and you begin wondering what ASUS was even thinking with this Chromebook. While I’d generally say to hold out on the review, for this one I can confidently say that unless you are absolutely smitten with the all-black paint job on the CM5, you should steer clear. If the price drops $100 or more in the future, it would make a lot more sense. Right now, I’m just left confused.