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Review: ASUS Chromebook Flip offers best of both worlds

For most people, picking the right device for work (and play) can be difficult. A laptop offers more power and a keyboard, while a tablet offers a full-touch experience and better portability.

Enter the rise of the 2-in–1 laptop. These small, yet powerful, devices are slowly becoming commonplace as hardware manufacturers search for the sweet spot between a laptop and a tablet. Most 2-in–1 devices on the market these days are Windows-based machines, even though Windows 8.1 lacks a touch-friendly interface, which makes the ASUS all that more unique.

The new $249 Chromebook from ASUS is set to test hybrid waters. Granted it’s not the first 2-in–1 Chromebook, with Lenovo N20p claiming that title in 2014, but it is the first of its kind to offer a more tablet-like experience. Unlike other devices, the Flip allows users to fold its 10.1-inch screen nearly 360-degrees, so that it can either act as a stand or flattened laptop.

The device’s Google Chrome OS features a host interesting features, such as automatically changing its interface into a tablet-friendly layout once the screen has been rotated past a certain point. It also includes a virtual keyboard that looks similar to those found on other OS Android devices and comes complete with voice dictation and handwriting recognition.

One issue with the hybrid computer that I still can’t seem to figure out is its screen. The device’s monitor—balanced by a flippable hinge—tends to rock back and forth when touched, regardless of what you do. Although, to be fair, a shaky screen is a problem that seems to plague most 2-in–1 devices.

Originally announced back in March, The Chromebook Flip is currently listed as “coming soon” on Google’s Chrome website. Although, I expect it to launch any day now as Google (GOOG) recently started sending out review units to media last week.

After testing the Chromebook Flip for over a week, I can’t help but wonder when the company will offer users a Chrome OS tablet. I’ve used the Flip more as a tablet than laptop, and haven’t felt shorted in the experience. Also, just like all other Chrome OS devices, the Flip naturally lends itself to an education environment where its portability and weight (1.96 pounds) would be an asset.

With this Chromebook Google has laid the groundwork for a touch-only Chrome experience, and hopefully after gaining feedback from Flip users the company will use it to perfect its own version of the solo tablet. Until then, the Flip will could help ease some anxiety over what to devices to choose.