I've had quite a few Chromebooks come across my standing desk in the last year, and the one I miss the most is far and away the ASUS Chromebook C434. It was a 14-inch Chromebook that was compact enough to still carry when I went to the parks, the perfect size for split-screening my research when writing articles, and while it was powerful, it didn't force you to rely on USB-C hubs the way premium Chromebooks did. When the ASUS Chromebook C436 was announced at CES, it was clearly a premium upgrade from the C436, but I was still excited to see how it stacked up.
Once I got the C436 out of its box and opened up that shiny "Aerogel White" lid, though, I realized that I'd set my expectations just a little too high. That normally wouldn't be a bad thing for a Chromebook, but when that Chromebook starts at $800, it needs to wow you. And unless you're constantly running full Linux apps or dozens upon dozens of tabs, the C436 won't wow most folks enough to justify its price tag.
At a glance
Bottom line: ASUS gussied up last year's C434, but in creating the powerful Project Athena-certified 2-in-1, it sacrificed battery life and affordability at a time when they're more important than ever.
- Powerful internals
- Reliable fingerprint sensor
- Beautiful, compact design
- Wide screen brightness range
- Mediocre battery life
- Fingerprint magnet
- Expensive and elusive
ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 What shines brightest
|Category||ASUS Chromebook Flip C436|
|Display||14-inch 1080p touchscreen
85% screen-to-body ratio
|Processor||Intel Core i3 or i5|
|Radios||Wi-Fi 6 ● Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2x USB 3.2 USB-C
Audio combo jack
USI Stylus compatible
|Size||319.54 x 205.3 x 13.76mm|
|Colors||Aerogel White ● Silver|
Like its predecessor, the form factor of the ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 is one you'll either love or hate. The lid pushes up the back of the keyboard to give you a slight incline to type on, which most folks seem to love, but I'm not crazy about it because of the way it makes the laptop balance on the back edge of the lid instead of lying flat on a desk or my lap. Otherwise, it's a great 2-in-1 with a hinge that you can still pretty easily reposition one-handed without flopping around at the slightest movement. Magnets help keep the C436 closed, but you won't need two hands to pry it open.
My review unit was the more powerful i5 model with 512GB of SSD storage, and it's purred along through dozens of Chrome tabs — even during Google Meet calls, which tend to eat lesser laptops alive — and just about every app I throw at it. With 16GB of RAM (the $800 base model has 8GB) and an i5, I wouldn't expect any performance issues to arise without delving into the Developer channel, using a lot of intensive Linux applications, or dual-booting Chrome OS with another Linux system.
The sides of the C436 are sleek and sparse, with a speaker on each side — to go with the top-facing speaker bar above the keyboard next to hinge for pleasant Harmon Kardon "omnidirectional" sound — as well as a USB-C port on each side. To the left side, we see the headphone jack and the power/volume buttons, whereas the right holds the microSD slot, where a microSD card will stick out just far enough that you won't want to leave one slotted in 24/7.
Most of the time when reviewing a Chromebook, we focus on a how bright a screen can get, and no worries there — the C436 will get properly bright if you want to use it outside or like to blind yourself — but what made me go "wow" in my living room was just how dim the lower levels got. You folks know me, I love dark themes and I love dark rooms, and most Chromebooks are still too bright on their lowest setting for a pitch-black room.
The C436, however, can get properly dim for those of us who tend to type or scroll Reddit until 2:30 in the morning because we are masochistic freaks. Pair that with a backlit keyboard and you've got a perfect Chromebook for night owls and workaholics. While you may need a charger at some point during the day to top off, the C436's battery should last a full afternoon of staff meetings or if you need to ditch your home office for some time on the balcony instead.
ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 What dulls the glow
Like many reviewers, I'm not seeing the kind of battery life here that Chromebooks made their name on. My $300 Lenovo Chromebook C340-11 consistently lasts at least ten hours on a single charge, but the $1000 C436 review unit on my standing desk seems lucky to reach 8 hours on a single charge despite claiming 12 hours in its spec sheet. I'm used to seeing a discrepancy of an hour or two between the written claim and actual battery life, but it's definitely noticeable on the C436, especially once you crank up the brightness beyond my normal "I like living in a cave with some 20% brightness Hue bulbs" dimness.
Backlighting is still manual and still uneven.
Like the C434, ASUS has backlighting inconsistencies that are just embarrassing to see in a $800-$1000 laptop, Chromebook or not. Backlighting still isn't automatic, either, so be prepared to be using the Alt + Brightness up and Alt + Brightness down commands to adjust it on and off as needed. The feel of the keys is fine, not amazing but certainly fine for hours and hours of typing a day.
The bright Aerogel White that I got is very much a fingerprint magnet, but that shouldn't be an issue for most because that's the $1000 i5/512GB model, which I can't find for sale anywhere. The $800 i3/128GB model that you'll probably get if you want a premium 14-inch 2-in-1 Chromebook is Silver, just like the C434 and less likely turn your oily smudges into a faint, wonky rainbow.
ASUS Chromebook Flip C436
The ASUS Chromebook C436 is a pretty good Chromebook, and I love it on my standing desk and settling on the couch with it on my new lap desk. It never stutters outside a few Android apps that just aren't optimized for Chromebooks, it handles my workload with ease, and it's beautiful to behold. It's just too expensive to recommend outside very limited circles.
While I'm a fan of having a beefy i3 or i5 processor in a Chromebook — and having 8 GB of RAM is a luxury I wish every Chromebook had in 2020 — apart from developers and the most power-hungry of power-users, this is a Chromebook that was made to tout the new Project Athena specification more than it was tailored towards actual buyers. The fingerprint sensor is a nice upgrade and the speakers are better this go-around, but until stocks of the C434 are depleted — which might not be long the way Chromebooks have been selling out the last two months — last year's model at $550 just makes more sense for regular users who want a nice-looking, good-performing Chromebook to rely on.
Pretty powerful comes for a pretty penny.
The ASUS C436 is a beautiful refinement of one of 2019's best Chromebooks, but reaching Project Athena's lofty standards leave the price and the battery life in a tough place.
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