A pricey, premium Chromebook designed with cloud gaming in mind, the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip sports a lot of swanky features you won’t find on similar models. But it’s a high premium to pay given the limits of ChromeOS.
- Top-quality display
- Superb webcam
- Speedy and slick
- Great selection of ports
- Can’t play AAA games natively
- Mediocre battery life
- Very pricey
- Hi-res displayA bright WUXGA screen running at up to 144Hz, it’s a fabulous multi-touch display.
- Beefy processorThe 12th-generation i5 CPU combined with 8GB or 16GB RAM provides all the speed you’ll need.
- Cloud gamingThis device is made for streaming games through GeForce Now or Xbox Cloud Gaming
The idea of a premium Chromebook has always been a little baffling. The first laptops to sport Google’s ChromeOS were pitched as light, budget alternatives to the pricey PCs and Macs of the world. What they lacked in power they made for in savings, and were tailored for casual users who didn’t want flashy bells and swanky whistles.
But if high-end Chromebooks like the HP Dragonfly Pro are starting to appear more regularly, still unusual is the concept of the gaming Chromebook. That’s what the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip is pitched as, anyway. It’s not a full-blooded gaming rig, of course, but a device built for cloud gaming with a dazzlingly crisp screen.
Priced at £749.99/$769, though, it’s hardly competitively priced. If you’re first and foremost after a Chromebook and fancy playing a few games on the side, this may do you well. But if you’re more serious about gaming, or are only so casually interested that you’re not fussed about enjoying vivid visuals, let this one go.
Design and Keyboard
- 360-degree rotating screen
- A few colourful trimmings
- Hollow trackpad
Despite being pitched as a gaming device, the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip is more restrained than the angular, RGB-laden devices that dominate our best gaming laptop list. Bar the orange-accented WASD keys, and a few other orange highlights on the sides of the body, this is a pretty muted design.
Except for the screen, that is. Its hinge can be roasted 360 degrees, letting you position the screen in a tent position or upright using the keyboard as a stand. It’s an effective way of turning the laptop into a monitor, with no protruding keyboard getting in the way, allowing you to bring it right to the edge of the table. It helps that the hinges rotate smoothly, never becoming stuck or drifting from their set angle when I’ve used it.
When the screen is rotated, the Chromebook automatically deactivates the inputs of the keyboard, avoiding any accidental button presses. Combined with the touchscreen, it can just about function as a 2-in-1 laptop-tablet, if you don’t mind its hefty weight (1.8kg, which is noticeably heavier than the 1.3kg of the great Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook). I wouldn’t recommend using it solely for that purpose, but the option to hide the keyboard can be handy.
There’s the obligatory RGB backlighting, although it’s fairly muted and limited in the range of colours and lighting patterns. The keys have a reasonably short travel distance and feel distinctly less squishy than those of many other laptops. It’s comfortable and responsive, and the kind of keyboard that suits long working sessions just as well as long gaming sprees. The shortcut keys at the top are nicely wide, too, and take full advantage of the free and thankfully uncluttered space.
More jarring are the truncated arrow keys. Both the left and right arrows are half size, despite there being space for full keycaps, which can take some getting used to. Windows users who expect to regularly use the Chromebook for writing will be surprised by the omission of the DEL key. You’ll have to get used to hitting ALT + Backspace when you want to delete the character following the cursor. Again, it’s a minor gripe, but expect to take a while to adjust.
The touchpad is less impressive. Although it’s large, responsive and smooth, it also feels hollow, making an audible click each time it’s pressed. It’s not a big deal but stands out as an odd blemish among the rest of the device’s premium features.
The generous array of ports means it is easy to connect multiple peripherals. Along its sides, you’ll find two USB-C ports (handy for when you need to juice up the Chromebook and keep another device plugged in) a USB-A port, HDMI, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader, which is a rarity among modern laptops.
An excellent webcam also makes this the kind of Chromebook you can use for work calls. Although it records at only 720p, the clarity is excellent as colours pop, and it copes brilliantly in low light. Compared to the grainy camera on my Surface Laptop Go, there’s no competition.
Display and Sound
- Sky-high 144Hz display
- Extended 1920×1200 resolution
- Forgettable speakers
The Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip really shines for its display. A vivid 14-inch 16:10 screen running at 144Hz, it’s bright, crisp and outpaces many of the displays on the best Chromebooks and Windows laptops at this price point. For gaming, it’s superb – the rich hues of The Witcher 3 stand out, while the blacks and reds of Diablo 4 look suitably warm. And for casual Netflix streaming or YouTube browsing, it does everything you could want it to.
The extra-high refresh rate means everything looks smooth and fluid and is exactly the kind of thing you’ll come to take for granted – you may not notice the difference jumping from 60Hz to 144Hz, but you sure will if you decide to go back. The extended resolution is a subtle way to elevate the screen above the slew of standard 1080p alternatives. The 1920×1200 resolution isn’t 4K, but those extra pixels are nothing to sniff at.
The built-in Harman Kardon speakers, however, don’t fare quite so well. They’re certainly loud, and can reach an impressive top volume, though audio usually starts clipping in the last quarter of that range.
They’re at least positioned well. Located on the bottom and running along its sides, they sound clear enough when the laptop’s keyboard is rotated out in writing position, but sound even louder when the screen is tilted backwards and the keyboard is used as a stand. Stand up the laptop in whatever position you like, and the speakers will be clearly audible.
- Very speeding browsing
- Smooth cloud gaming
- Excellent webcam
Speed is the name of the game here. The Intel i5-1235U processor running at up to 4.4Ghz, combined with 8GB of DDR5 RAM and a 256GB SSD was plenty fast for my purposes. Web browsing, video calling and general workplace tasks are all a breeze, although the 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD variety might be better for those who’ll be doing lots of multitasking and tend to leave many RAM-hogging Chrome tabs open.
That’s a generous spec sheet for a Chromebook. ChromeOS isn’t nearly as malleable as Windows and can only run apps that are supported by Android. Instead of Microsoft’s Office 365, you have Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, alongside the rest of the Google Play Store to pick through. It’s an operating system that’s best suited to casual computer users who want a straightforward device for browsing the web, looking through their emails and using office software, and aren’t reliant on extra functionality like video-editing apps or other software that’s only compatible with Windows.
It does, however, work well for gaming. At least, the cloud gaming the Chromebook is intended for. Using subscription platforms like Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, it can stream games over the web rather than running them off its internal hardware, much like how you’d watch films over Netflix.
When gaming, the biggest source of latency won’t be the Chromebook’s internals, but your internet speed. If you have a reliable, high-speed connection, expect as wonderful visuals as your streaming platform of choice can provide.
However, the screen will only really dazzle if you keep it plugged into its charger. The display will only run at 144Hz if it’s receiving juice and will otherwise drop down to a perfectly serviceable, yet not quite as impressive 60Hz. That’s a bit of a shame, given the high refresh rate is one of the main selling points of the device.
But there’s a sense Asus doesn’t want you to think of this as only a gaming laptop. The added stylus, which can be snugly tucked into the side of the device, comes in handy when you’re editing images or using other creative software packages. It’s long, light without being too thin, and charges to a full 45 minutes’ worth of juice in 15 seconds when put into its side slot. In other words, there’s little more you could want from it.
- Mediocre battery life
- Charges quickly
You can certainly pull the full 10 hours of battery life that Asus advertises, but only if you’re doing little more than web browsing. This played out in my experience and in our Netflix test, which saw this device lose around 9% of charge after streaming for one hour.
Start streaming videos, playing music, and crank up the brightness, and you’ll be looking at around five hours. I was able to get a similar run while gaming via the cloud, but try running locally installed games – of which you’ll only be able to play the most basic – and you’ll be looking at half that time.
Charging time is fortunately fast. An hour of charging replenished a little under half the Chromebook’s juice, while it took two and a half hours to fully recharge.
Should you buy it?
You want a premium ChromeOS and game streaming experience
If you know you’ll be streaming games, you can do a little better than this Chromebook.
You are more serious about gaming
Those who aren’t interested in streaming games should consider more austere Chromebooks, and those who are more enthusiastic about gaming will have more luck with a PC.
The Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip is undoubtedly a very well-designed ChromeOS laptop. Its dazzling screen, ergonomic hinged display, well-positioned speakers and solid battery life make it ideal for streaming games over the cloud, as well as a luxe Chromebook feel.
Given the limits of ChromeOS, you are still paying a premium for a device that can’t play AAA games locally. However, the gaming nature of this machine means you’re getting some features that undoubtedly enhance everyday use making it one of the best devices around for cloud gaming. The Vibe CX34 Flip also shines against its key competitor in the ChromeOS gaming realm, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, presenting higher quality hardware and a better display.
Though, it can’t be ignored that you can get more bang for your buck, whether through better battery life or native gaming performance elsewhere. For a range of options in that department consider our best Chromebooks and best gaming laptop guides.
How we test
Every laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life.
These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real-world checks, such as how well it runs popular apps.
Used as our main laptop for over a week
Tested performance in a wide range of scenarios with industry standard benchmarking tools.
We tested the screen through real-world use.
We tested the battery with a benchmark test and real-world use.
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