My computing roots can be traced back to CP/M and an Osborne 1, so color me about as tried and true as a Mac user can be. First Mac, April 1984. Since then, I’ve owned nearly everything Mac, and most things Apple. And a few PCs and Windows PCs, along the way too, not to mention management of a few dozen Linux servers through the years.
That makes me not only experienced but curious about current trends. One that is notable is the Chromebook line, and one that has my eye is the Asus Chromebook Flip C302, recently introduced at CES and soon to hit the market. For the most part, Chromebooks– easily viewed and tried at the nearest Best Buy store– look much like MacBooks for as much as $1,000 less.
When the iPad hit the streets a few years ago I decided to see if I could accomplish all my daily chores on what was called Apple’s ‘big iPhone.’ So far, after a few years of trying, I still cannot do on an iPad what I can on a MacBook Pro. But it’s getting there and the only holdback is the daily workflow; it’s more cumbersome on the iPad than the Mac (take that, iOS file system).
That brings me to the new Asus Chromebook. This is one I want to see simply because it looks more like a Mac than most of the far less expensive Chromebook models.
No, it’s not a MacBook or MacBook Pro. It’s a $499 Chromebook with kinda MacBook-like power that is ripe for life as a Hackintosh. The Asus Flip C302 has a 360-degree hinge so it can be flipped over and used as a very thick tablet-like device with a touchscreen. Battery life is rated at 10 hours. There’s a large notebook touchpad, a backlit keyboard, and two USB-C connector ports.
The Flip C302 comes with an HD camera, a 12.5-inch FHD display with 1920×1080 resolution, and the flip portion uses the standard tent, tablet, laptop, and stand modes. The Chromebook starts with an Intel Core m3 CPU with 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD storage, but has options for an m7 and 8GB of RAM with up to 128GB SSD storage. yes, there’s a micro SD card slot. It’s required by Chromebook law. All the basics are there, too, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, stereo speakers, and all the security goodies which make Chromebooks the new darling of schools.
The new MacBook is a bit thinner and lighter, has a higher resolution display, and comes with more storage for $1,299. But no touchscreen, no microSD card, so it’s not exactly an Apple to apples comparison, yet close enough to consider.
The Asus Flip C302 was originally listed at $499 for the entry level version with 4GB RAM, Intel m3 CPU, and 32GB of storage but Asus has yet to announce full details or availability. Such is the life of a new product at CES. Remember, this is not a MacBook at half the price. It’s Chrome OS inside so there are many limitations (a Mac can run macOS Sierra, Windows 10, and most flavors of Linux– all at the same time– and has a much larger base of quality applications to choose from; (and, no, Android apps on a Chromebook don’t count) including the need to be near a Wi-Fi internet connection to be fully productive. Thank you, Google.
This is a Chromebook I want to see but it’s size, weight, and Chromebook OS make it much less of a useful computer for me than a MacBook of nearly the same size and far more expensive. My needs are not your needs, though. Many, many people can get by with far less which is why iPad sales are double Mac sales.
That brings me to a wishlist item. A MacPad. Think of it as a very small touchscreen MacBook; thin and light but running an Apple designed ARM-based A-series CPU like that found in the iPad. It wouldn’t run Windows or Linux, probably not do well with Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, but it would be competitive with Windows and Chromebook hardware at the premium end of the low end.
Would you buy one?