The Flip C214 is easily the best entry-level Chromebook in the Indian market today.
After years of playing second fiddle to Windows laptops, Chromebooks are finally having their moment in the sun. As per data released by Canalys, Chromebooks recorded the highest growth in shipments in the PC market globally during Q1 2021. For a product like this, that is often lost in translation, a 275 percent year-on-year (YoY) growth is, just phenomenal. The same research firm pegs Chromebooks continued to outperform the rest of the PC product categories, also, in the second quarter.
So, why is the Chromebook flying off the shelves during a pandemic? The reason is very simple. As it turns out, it was cut out for it.
It is not surprising then, that Asus wants a piece of the pie. Gauging customer interest and pent-up demand, the Taiwanese brand has launched not one, not two, not three, but six Chromebook models in India. All at the same time. These Chromebooks – Chromebook Flip C214, Chromebook C223, Chromebook C423 (touch and non-touch variants) and Chromebook C523 (touch and non-touch variants) – may cater to different use-case scenarios but they have one thing in common. They are very, very aggressively priced starting as low as Rs 17,999.
The Flip C214 which is the priciest of the lot costs Rs 23,999. It does a couple of more things that are unique to this model to justify the price jump obviously, but the real star of the show is Chrome OS, an operating system built by Google. Same as the other five models. It is important to bring this up front and centre because this operating system is what’s going to be key in deciding whether or not you’d want to buy any of these laptops. The hardware, the look and the feel, they are all secondary.
So, let’s just talk a little bit about Chrome OS first.
Chrome OS is a web-first OS designed primarily to run web applications. A significant portion of tasks you’d want to achieve on it, can be performed inside the Chrome browser itself. By extension, most of your data will reside in the cloud which will also make it accessible across multiple devices including smartphones and tablets with a Google account.
It is also possible to download and install Android apps on it from the Play Store. It goes without saying, it works best with Google’s own apps and services. Think Gmail, Meet, Docs, Drive, Photos and YouTube. But that’s not to say that third-party apps like Word and Photoshop don’t work well on it. Because they do.
Can you use a Chromebook without internet? Yes, you can, but the experience isn’t going to be ideal. You’ll need internet at least at some point of time to be able to make it all work seamlessly. Offline access isn’t recommended. Which brings us to the most important question. Who is this for?
Chromebooks are designed primarily for students and the reason why they’re getting so much traction today, is because they enable a hassle-free experience during online classes, relative to say a Windows machine. Almost everyone has a Google account. Most Google apps and services are free to use. Even better if you’re familiar with an Android phone because then you’ll be right at home with a Chromebook. They’re like a one-stop-shop for all your needs – right from video calling to document sharing and editing, to calendar, to mail, it’s all there under one roof.
But even more importantly, working on a Chromebook is easy. There may be a bit of a learning curve if you’ve used Windows, but it’s no rocket science like say running macOS. The setup is straight-forward. Boot-up times are nearly non-existent. And the thing updates automatically in the background giving you space and time to do what you intend to do with it – learn and collaborate. An entry-level pricing, like the one that Asus is charging for a Chromebook like the Flip C214, makes it more accessible. Do keep in mind that there are more powerful and more expensive Chromebooks too, though for some reason, brands – including Asus – remain shy of bringing them to India.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the Flip C214. The first thing to know about it, is the build quality. It is built and stylised like a tank. With its round rubber bumpers and reinforced hinges, this laptop meets the US military-grade durability or MIL-STD-810G standards. It has a spill and tamper resistant keyboard that Asus claims is rated for 10 million keystroke lifespan. Despite all this, it’s very light and compact and easy to carry around.
Asus has made this thing for the long haul which is impressive especially considering the price. Design and durability are often left as an afterthought in many ultra-budget laptops. It’s nice to see Asus making a conscious effort to bring change to this market. Visually too, the Flip C214 stands out as one-of-its-kind. The cherry on the cake is that, it is also a convertible laptop which means it can be propped at multiple angles so it can easily transform into say, a tablet when needed. This makes it an even more attractive proposition, more bang for your buck if you will.
Moving on, the Flip C214 has an 11.6-inch 16:9 touch-screen display with an HD resolution – a staple for this kind of laptop. I do wish the bezels were smaller and resolution a tad higher, but all in all, it’s a likable package with ample brightness and satisfactory viewing angles. Mostly, you’ll be using this laptop indoors so it’s safe to say, it should get the job done.
The same is true about the core hardware. Under the hood, this laptop has a dual core Intel Celeron N4020 processor paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB eMMC 5.1 storage which is further expandable by up to 2TB via a micro-SD card slot. That’s plenty for the kind of workload this laptop is designed for and it works well inside that realm. The 50Wh battery inside this laptop is rated to deliver up to 11 hours of usage on a single charge. Battery life is easily one of its biggest highlights. The laptop charges over USB Type-C.
Connectivity options on the Flip C214 include 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C (up to 5Gbps, DisplayPort, and power delivery support), 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A (up to 5Gbps), and an audio combo jack. It supports dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5. This laptop comes with a 720p webcam and another 5MP “world-facing” camera with autofocus for clicking photos in tablet mode. Rounding off the package are dual speakers that offer decent sound.
Asus Chromebook Flip C214 final thoughts
The Asus Chromebook Flip C214 is easily the best entry-level Chromebook in the Indian market today. It offers terrific value making it a compelling option for Windows users as well. Let’s face it, most Windows machines at this price are usually sluggish and have a boring design. Then there’s the versatility part. No Windows machine at this price is as versatile either.
But what I like most about a Chromebook like the Asus Chromebook Flip C214 is that it has a very clear target audience. It is not trying to be a jack of all trades. Rather than the hardware itself, it’s more about what it stands for. It’s a window of opportunity for students. A great enabler. It’s about time, more people start talking about it.
Pros: Solid build quality, Compact form factor, 360-degree hinge, Chrome OS simplicity, Good battery life