Wednesday , September 1 2021
Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3

Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 review: A complete Chromebook 2-in-1 tablet package

Asus’ 10.5-inch two-in-one Chromebook builds on the best parts of Lenovo’s Duet but it needs some polish to help justify its higher price.

There are a lot of Chromebook two-in-ones available, but the Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 is the rare model that’s a tablet first and a laptop second. Instead of having an attached keyboard that flips around, this CM3 is a 10.5-inch Chrome tablet with a detachable keyboard. The design makes it easier to take advantage of Chrome’s Android app support and is generally better for entertainment, while also letting you get some work done when necessary. Overall, it’s a solid pick, especially if you’re considering it as a secondary device for mobile or casual use. 

The Detachable CM3 (there’s a Flip CM3 two-in-one as well) is also remarkably similar to last year’s Lenovo Chromebook Duet. The Duet is a 10.1-inch Chrome tablet that also includes a magnetic snap-on keyboard and a magnetically attached kickstand cover — both covered in fabric — just like the CM3. The best part of the Duet, though, is that it’s a good value with a starting price under $300. The CM3 does improve on the Duet in a few ways but also raises the price to $370. It’s simultaneously better and tougher to recommend. 

Chromebooks are laptops and tablets that run on Google’s Chrome OS. They are in wide use in education and business and, spurred by the pandemic, they quickly became crucial distance-learning and work devices. The total combined worldwide PC/Chromebook market grew over 10% year over year in 2021, according to research firm Gartner. And, although Chromebooks are traditionally less expensive than Windows laptops, there are more premium Chromebooks now than a few years ago. However, even higher-end Chromebooks tap out around $1,000. 

The rear cover’s kickstand adjusts up to 90 degrees. 

The demand for nicer, more versatile Chromebooks makes sense because Chrome OS has grown beyond its browser-based roots with support for Linux software and Android apps. Google also added multitouch gestures to Chrome OS so that devices like the Detachable CM3, Lenovo’s Duet and HP’s Chromebook x2 11 detachable are much more useful than Google’s own Pixel Slate when it was released in 2018. And they’re more affordable, too. 

The CM3 I tested is currently priced at $390 and there’s a $370 version with half the storage (64GB). It’s not available in the UK or Australia at the moment, but the price for the base model converts to £267 and AU$502. The package includes the keyboard cover, a rear kickstand cover and a USI active pen that stores and charges in a garage in the body. You also get a 45-watt USB-C adapter that charges the tablet quickly. 

The CM3’s rear cover can stand the tablet in landscape or portrait modes. 

Compared to the less-expensive Lenovo Duet, you get a bit more with the Asus. There’s the aforementioned pen, a slightly larger 10.5-inch display, a more comfortable keyboard cover and a rear cover that has both landscape and portrait kickstands. The CM3 and Duet have just a single USB-C port for charging, data and display output, but the CM3 adds a headphone jack. The Asus’ speakers also sound better than the Duet’s, though they’re still pretty thin. Neither model has a microSD card slot to expand storage, which is a good reason to spend the extra $20 for the 128GB version of the CM3.

Both the Duet and CM3 use MediaTek processors with 4GB of memory. The Asus has negligibly better performance, although I did notice less lag when doing things like opening apps and scrolling and just general navigation. For Android games, performance was just fine and, if you want to do more gaming, cloud gaming services like StadiaGeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass will work just fine. However, with 80.211ac Wi-Fi, it’s missing the future-proofing and faster speeds of 802.11ax wireless (Wi-Fi 6). The CM3 bested the Duet in battery life, though, hitting 14 hours, 15 minutes on our streaming video test compared to the Duet’s 8 hours, 10 minutes.

The fabric cover isn’t as nice as Lenovo’s.

While it seems like Asus tried to reproduce the fabric cover and keyboard of the Duet, the quality falls short. It looks nice enough, but it feels rough and, out of the box, the edges of both the covers were frayed. Also, the rear cover would not stay in place. Whenever I’d lift the kickstands — vertically or horizontally — the cover would shift out of place. It never firmly attached around the rear camera lens, either, so it constantly looks like it’s peeling away from the tablet. 

The keyboard feels cheap but works well.

The keyboard cover attaches firmly and stays connected. It’s strong enough to use on your lap, however, the weak rear-cover attachment made it unstable to use mine that way. I found the keyboard itself to be better than the Duet’s for its size alone. The extra screen space allowed Asus to make a larger keyboard. It’s not backlit, which isn’t a surprise, but it’ll get the job done for quick document edits or dashing off an email on the go. For longer typing stints, you’ll probably want to use a regular Bluetooth keyboard

One of the Detachable CM3’s perks is the included USI pen. If you’re using the CM3 horizontally, the pen’s garage is on the top right corner. You’ll need a fingernail to pull it up and out, the process made trickier because of the rear cover. The pen is small but it’s fine for quick sketches or taking notes. And if you leave it out of its garage, dropping it in for 15 seconds gives you 45 minutes of use. Also, if you want something larger, you can always buy a full-size USI pen and it’ll work instantly. There is some lag when writing and drawing, so if precise, speedy pen input is important, save up for an iPad, a Surface Pro or a Galaxy S7. 

The included stylus stashes in the body of the tablet.

What’s nice about the Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 is that you’re getting a complete package under $400. It’s not the bargain that the Lenovo Duet is, but it’s not a bad deal, either. 

With the CM3, you get a USI pen along with excellent battery life, good Chrome performance and a bigger keyboard all of which help make the CM3 a good pick for work and play. The rear cover kickstand design also adds to the bundle. It would be nice if the look and feel were more polished but if you’re looking for a full-time Chromebook tablet and a part-time laptop, this Asus is certainly worth considering, especially if it comes down in price. 

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This Article was first published on cnet.com

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