In the fall of 2022, Google put together a launch of 3 cloud gaming-focused Chromebooks: one from Acer, one from Lenovo, and one from ASUS. We’ve either unboxed or reviewed the Acer and Lenovo variants of this new take on the large-screened Chromebook, but up until now, we’ve not talked much about the ASUS attempt. And to simply be frank about it, there’s a good reason for that: it’s not very good.
The ASUS Vibe CX55 Gaming Chromebook isn’t a bad device per se, but it is very much a half-hearted attempt to join in with what Acer and Lenovo attempted with their gaming devices. Before we get into why I’m so ho-hum on this Chromebook, let me define what this entire ‘gaming Chromebook’ thing is about in the first place. Simply put, gaming Chromebooks are filled with some of the fastest hardware you can get in a Chromebook right now, but that isn’t really the point.
Instead, these devices are built with some nifty additions that make them a bit more geared for gaming. And we aren’t yet talking about the coming Steam gaming that will be happening on devices like these. Instead, when we mention gaming, it is more about cloud gaming than anything at this point. Services like XBOX Cloud Gaming, Luna and (most-importantly) NVIDIA GeForce NOW all work incredibly well on these Chromebooks thanks to those additions.
The main attraction is the high-refresh rate screens. Acer and Lenovo come equipped with 120Hz displays while the ASUS Vibe CX55 pushes things a bit further with 144Hz refresh rates. Lenovo and Acer both added RGB keyboards to the mix as well and all three have anti-ghosting keyboards that allow for multiple simultaneous key presses to register all at once for more intense gaming scenarios.
All in all, the formula works to not only provide a great cloud gaming experience, but a very solid overall Chromebook experience as well in devices like the Acer Chromebook 516 GE that I’ve praised many times over here at Chrome Unboxed. If you take a well-built Chromebook, add a superior screen, top-notch keyboard, great speakers, and fast internals, you should end up with a fantastic experience. And while that is generally true with Acer’s attempt, it just isn’t quite working for the ASUS Vibe CX55.
Where ASUS missed the on-ramp
Here’s the problem in a nutshell with the ASUS Vibe CX55: it rehashes too much while missing the boat on the additions I just talked about above. Let’s first discuss the rehashed parts of this Chromebook. If you’ve seen, held, or looked at the ASUS Chromebook CX5 that was introduced at CES 2021, you know exactly what to expect. To be fair, it actually has the chassis of the AMD-powered variant of that same device (CM5) with the all-black look and orange surround around the ASDW keys.
Either way, this is clearly the exact same body as those two Chromebooks and that fact alone gave me a bit of pause. Don’t get me wrong: the ASUS CX5 was/is a fantastic device that I really love. The keyboard and trackpad are great, the speakers are some of the best ever put in a Chrombook and build quality is quite nice. The only thing I really knocked the CX5 on was the dimness of the display at a paltry 250 nits.
And all of this holds true for the ASUS Vibe CX55. The screen is still dim, the keyboard/trackpad feel the same, and the speakers are still an absolute treat to listen to. And while those things are nice, the rest of the CX5 came along for the ride, too, including the internals. While the other two gaming Chromebooks are using 12th-gen Intel silicon, this Vibe CX55 is still rolling with 11th-gen processors. That’s not to say it is slow, but it is a bit strange to see a “new” Chrombook launched late in 2022 with 18-month old processors on board.
Additionally, the keyboard – while great to type on – didn’t get an upgrade to RGB to match the other two devices from Acer and Lenovo. Instead, it is still just a simple backlit keyboard that doesn’t really add to the, erm, Vibe of this particular device at all. And then we have to talk about this screen.
While on paper it looks like ASUS went above and beyond, the truth is far less sexy. First up, GeForce NOW has a dedicated setting for 16:10 QHD 120Hz displays now, likely no coincidence as both the Lenovo and Acer gaming Chromebooks are outfitted with that exact sort of screen. The ASUS, however, is still 16:9, 1080p, and an odd 144Hz that isn’t yet fully supported by any cloud gaming services.
On top of that, the 144Hz doesn’t look the part at all. I actually had to run a test to verify the refresh rate, and while it does clock in at 144Hz, it sure fools me. When I move objects around on the Acer or Lenovo gaming Chromebooks, I can absolutely tell we’re dealing with a 120Hz screen. Everything looks so buttery-smooth and animations take on a life in ChromeOS that you didn’t know they had. With the ASUS panel, none of that is true. With tons of ghosting on the display, I’d bet most people looking at this display would have no idea that it is anything different than the 1080p panel that was in the previous CX5.
And all that leaves a bad taste in my mouth at a jarring price of $699. Yes, this device has a touchscreen and a convertible hinge, but as I’ve made the case for, in a Chromebook like this neither are really necessary. When I can still buy the Acer Chromebook 516 GE for $549, there’s no reality where I’d pick this Chromebook up. Where the Acer 516 GE adds helpful parts to the ChromeOS experience, the ASUS Vibe CX55 feels like it was an afterthought. Put plainly; if you are looking for a device that can be a great Chromebook and a great cloud gaming device, you should check out the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, instead.
While get what they were trying to do and I’m not wildly disappointed in ASUS on this one, I was really hoping for something better than a repackaged device for this gaming Chromebook effort. I know they had a bunch of the CM5 chassis likely lying around, but slapping a sad 144Hz screen on it and calling it a ‘gaming Chromebook’ feels a bit disingenuous at best and a bit misleading at worst. For now, steer clear of this one. There are too many great Chromebooks on the market and a couple great gaming-focused ones to really give this one your time. Hopefully ASUS has something better up their sleeve 2023.