There’s no doubt that as we enter 2022, there are a ton of great Chromebook options out there to choose from. With 10th, 11th, and 12th-gen Intel-powered options all being pretty great, more capable ARM-powered devices already in the mix with more on the way, it feels like there’s a Chromebook out there for everyone at this point. But in the middle of all the Chromebooks that are available and those that are on the way, there’s still a choice to be made if you’re looking to buy a device right now. For me, that choice has become clear and I’d like to share a bunch of reasons why the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5400 has become my everyday carry.
We unboxed this Chromebook a few months ago, so I don’t really want to get bogged down by the specs right now. To quickly review, we’re looking at a 14-inch FHD Chromebook with convertible hinges, a stowed USI pen, an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 that is fanless, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 256GB GB of NVMe storage. It’s all aluminum, it looks great, and it performs very well in all the ways you want a Chromebook to. But a lot of that can be said of a lot of Chromebooks at this point. Why is it I’ve put the Flip CX5400 in the bag?
Let’s start with the overall look of this Chromebook. With a clean, all-aluminum body, the Flip CX5400 isn’t winning any awards for breakthroughs in design, but it looks really, really nice. Closed up on on a desk, this thing just oozes quality. The seams are tight, there’s no flex to the bottom part of the chassis, and the lack of fan ports makes it all feel cohesive and thought out. The aluminum is the right texture to keep fingerprints at bay while still feeling great under the palms and chamfered edges around the keyboard polish it all off with some style. Under the palms, in the hand, in a bag, this Chromebook looks and feels great in any scenario.
Checking all the boxes
But you can’t get by on looks and feel alone. At the end of the day, a laptop is a production device that needs to perform better than it looks, and the Flip CX5400 is that sort of Chromebook. Sure, the internal specs are nice a speedy – the one we’re testing is the top spec with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of NVMe storage – but a fast Chromebook isn’t exactly the measure of greatness these days. There are tons of fast devices out there, but few pair that speed with all the other niceties you get in the Flip CX5400.
We already talked about the superb build quality, but the superlatives don’t stop there. The screen on this Chromebook is what I’d call my ideal high-end Chromebook display. It is over 300 nits of brightness (we measured it at 330), FHD (which is perfect for a 14-inch device, not adding more pixels on screen than necessary), and the colors and viewing angles are stellar. I love working on this device and screen is a big part of that. While I do love screens that hit those 400 nit levels of brightness, I’m an advocate of simply getting over the 300 mark and making sure things like color, viewing angles, and contrast are all good. This display does all those things and makes for a great experience.
Good looks, great feel, a great screen and fast performance aren’t all you need, either, and the Flip CX5400 pairs all of those with a great backlit keyboard and huge glass trackpad. The keyboard is clicky, responsive, fast and accurate to type on while the trackpad is absolute butter. The feel is great, the click is solid, and this combo makes all sorts of inputs easy and enjoyable regardless of what you are doing on this Chromebook. ASUS even made sure that with the gray keys there are no issues in seeing the characters in bright lighting, which has been a problem on other laptops with these attractive-yet-problematic gray keyboards in the past.
Now we have good looks, great power, a solid display and comfy inputs. What else is there? Well, for starters, with the rise of USI stylus capabilities on Chromebooks, some sort of pen input is a nice thing to have. Not only does the Flip CX5400 have USI abilities, it has a stowed, recharging pen as well. I’ve said it many times before, but the best pen is always the one you actually have with you. While you can opt for a nicer overall USI pen to keep in the bag to use with this Chromebook, the included pen on the Flip CX5400 is always there, always charged, and always ready to go.
And then there’s the speakers. While not the absolute best you can get on a Chromebook – that title still rests with the Pixelbook Go – these are miles better than most. That means when you’re watching some YouTube or Netfix on this great screen, the audio that goes with it won’t be terrible. While it won’t replace dedicated speakers, they provide full sound with very nice stereo separation that is great for media, gaming and video calls.
Other niceties include the built-in camera shade up top so you can be sure you’ve closed off the camera when needed, USB Type C ports on each side of the device, and a well-weighted hinge mechanism that feels solid and firm in clamshell mode and moves just as smoothly to the display, tent and tablet modes when needed.
The X factor
Look, I know I’ve just rattled off a bunch of good individual things about this Chromebook, but at the end of the day, there are others that could technically meet these same criteria. There’s one final step that has to take place, and that is the part of the experience we can’t put a technical measurement on. It’s the part that brings all the good stuff together and builds an experience, and the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5400 gets that more right than most. Specs are needed for great Chromebooks, there’s no doubting that: but getting all that good stuff to come together to make a great experience takes something else – that immeasurable thing – that undefined quality that just makes you truly enjoy using something.
The Flip CX5400 has that thing, and pairing it up to all the superlatives on offer in this Chromebook I have no issue in saying it is my go-to, favorite device in the office right now. I fully expect that place to be taken by one of the many stellar Chromebooks on the way in 2022, but for now, the Flip CX5400 is staying put in my bag and every time I get it out to use, I’m quite happy about that.