Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 review: Duet redux

You can lean on its kickstand, but not on its CPU

Overall, the Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 is a decent package. It is a 10.5-inch tablet with a magnetically attached fabric cover and kickstand. its $389.99 As tested, that means it costs a lot less than all types of convertible Chromebooks. I’m not the first to make this comparison, but it’s the slightly more expensive and slightly fancier version of the $269 Lenovo Chromebook Duet that impressed me so much last year.

I think the CM3 is a little worse buy than the Duet for most people who are looking for a secondary device or a small Chromebook for a student. The CM3 offers some noticeable benefits over the Duet, but I’m not sure they’re worth the $100. While features like a dual-folding kickstand, a garaged stylus, and a headphone jack are nice, none of them are as central to the device’s user experience as its processor. And while $269 is an acceptable price to pay for a tablet with a MediaTek chip, $389.99 is pushing it.

With all that, I don’t have many problem With this Chromebook. It’s in a slightly weird place.

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My test unit includes 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, a 10.5-inch 1920 x 1200 display, and a MediaTek 8183 processor. A 64GB version is listed $369.99 Too. 64GB isn’t a lot of storage (and there’s no microSD card slot for expansion on the CM3), so my config is what I’d recommend most people go for.

The most important thing to understand about the CM3 before buying is the size. It’s small, with only a 10.5-inch screen. It brings benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, it’s fairly thin and portable, at just 0.31 inches thick and 1.1 pounds (2.02 pounds with keyboard and stand attached). This is something that I could easily keep in my purse.

The Asus Chromebook does away with the detachable CM3 camera.

The Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 is at a slight angle to the far left of the camera.

Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 Opens from the right.

Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 is visible from the right, open.

Oh look, a port!

On the other hand, the 10.5-inch screen is tight for a desktop OS like Chrome OS (though it’s bright enough to use outside, and I appreciate that it has a 16:10 aspect ratio – 16:9 would be unbearable for me. in this size). But it was too small for me to use comfortably as a working driver. I had to zoom out far enough to be able to see everything I needed in my Chrome window.

This also means there’s only so much space for the keyboard deck, which is also cramped. The touchpad, in particular, is small. However, the keyboard itself is more spacious than the Duet; It has a surprising amount of travel and a satisfying click. While the smaller keys are a bit of an adjustment, none are small enough to be unusable.

Small doesn’t mean cheap, and the CM3’s build is pretty sturdy overall. The palm rest and detachable keyboard deck feel pretty plastic, but the tablet itself is aluminum (with “diamond-cut edges,” per Asus). The magnetic cover is made of a woven fabric and looks similar to the cover of the Chromebook Duet. The cover is included with the price of the CM3, which isn’t the case with some detachables (like Microsoft’s Surface Go line).

A USI stylus resides in the upper-right corner of the chassis. It’s firmly in, so you’ll need a nail to get it out. It’s small and not my favorite stylus I’ve ever used, but it’s there and works. The Duet supports a USI stylus, but it doesn’t come with one, so that’s an advantage the CM3 brings.

The main way the CM3 is unique to other detachables is that its kickstand folds up several ways. That is, you can fold it tall when you’re using the tablet as a laptop, or you can flip the tablet vertically and fold the kickstand horizontally. It’s a cool feature I haven’t seen before, and it works. I was never worried that the CM3 was falling in any direction.

On the other hand, for horizontal positioning the only real use case I can think of is video calls where you don’t need to attach a keyboard and are fine with having the camera on the side of the screen. You can have your own idea, but I would prefer to use an iPad or dedicated tablet for these purposes and keep the camera in the right place.

My unit had a bit of fraying on the sides of the keyboard deck, which was disappointing to see even on a new device at this price. The kickstand cover also slipped off the tablet a few times while I was adjusting the height, which isn’t something that’s ever happened to the Duet.

In terms of convertibility, the CM3 packs a two-megapixel front-facing camera as well as an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera. Both cameras give surprisingly fair pictures. I didn’t get too washed out when I had a video call outside, nor was I too grainy in dim light. That said, the dual-camera setup is another cool-sounding feature that probably isn’t the most practical: The rear camera isn’t big enough for any kind of actual photography, and the best use case is probably for snapping photos. Whiteboard in the classroom. The CM3 also took a few seconds to swap between cameras (for example, it’s not nearly as fast as the swap on the iPhone), so it wouldn’t have saved me a ton of time if I just whipped up a phone.

Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 closes up with the camera facing up.

Look closely, and you can see the crease running from both sides.

Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 Keyboard, seen from above.

A magnet on the top of the keyboard attaches to the bottom of the tablet, raising the deck slightly off the ground.

CM3’s MediaTek MTK8183 is a hybrid chip primarily used in Android tablets. (It’s a different MediaTek chip than what was in the Duet last year, but uh, similar to Amazon’s new Echo Show 8 smart display.) It’s far from the most powerful processor you can find in a Chromebook, but that’s by design. is. Battery life is going to be a high priority for many users considering a device as portable as the CM3.

In fact, the battery life is excellent. I used an average of 12 consecutive hours and 49 minutes running the CM3 through my regular workload of Chrome tabs and Android apps, including Slack, Messenger, Twitter, Gmail, Spotify, and the occasional Zoom with the screen on medium brightness. Calls Involved – Over an hour I clocked in over a couple of hours with the same workload. That’s already a heavy load, which many people want to put through the CM3, so you can get even more time between charges. The 45W USB-C adapter juiced the CM3 up to 40 percent in an hour, making it much faster than Duet’s 10W charger.

However, battery life doesn’t freeze, and the CM3’s performance was a mixed bag. It works fine in Chrome, for example, when swapping tabs and resizing windows, as well as with other Google services like Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, and Meet (and it’s a free 12-month service). Comes with a 100GB subscription to Google One for the remainder of this year). Gaming is fine too. flipping legends and Demon Whether the CM3 was plugged in or running on battery, both were smooth and stutter-free.

I also think Chrome OS’s tablet mode, which supports CM3, has gotten pretty cool. It uses Android-esque gesture controls that can help flatten the learning curve for new Chromebook users. Swiping up brings you to the home screen, for example, and swiping right swaps between webpages. You can access a version of Chrome specifically for tablets, which allows you to easily open, close, and rearrange tabs with drag, swipe, and big buttons. It’s not the same as using an iPad, but I think it’s a smoother experience than Windows Tablet Mode (especially in Chrome).

All you have to do is toggle the keyboard on and off to switch in and out of tablet mode. This takes a second, and my windows don’t always go back to the way I arranged them when I turn the keyboard back on, but it’s a smooth affair overall.

But the CM3 didn’t perform well at everything I needed. Sometimes when I was trying to use Slack or Messenger on a stack of Chrome tabs, something would freeze. Zoom calls were possible—that’s more than can be said for some budget Chromebooks—but I ran into lag between audio and video inputs. Slack froze and crashed frequently, and Spotify also crashed several times.

Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 Open, angled to the left.  The screen displays a cartoon cityscape on a pink background.

Access all kinds of Android apps through the Google Play Store.

Photo editing was where I really ran into trouble. Lightroom was basically unusable on CM3 and there were just a few things running in the background. I tried editing a batch of about 100 photos and could only get a few in a row before the program crashed. I tried going to Google Photos, which eventually crashed and ended up doing everything in the gallery. Of course, not everyone will be editing photos on their Chromebook or making it as difficult as I was pushing it, so it’s a matter of figuring out your own needs.

Talking about Zoom meetings, dual speakers are fine for Zoom calls but not much. The songs I played had a stronger percussion than I’d sometimes hear from laptop speakers, but it sounded thin and thin overall. Looks like the microphone was working fine and I didn’t have any trouble picking up my voice on calls.

This was a tough product to score. I think the CM3 is a great device. And it offers some advantages over the Chromebook Duet that justify spending a bit more on it. If I was looking for this type of device I would probably buy it on Duet for the keyboard alone. The versatile kickstand, built-in stylus, and decent build quality are good benefits too.

But “if I were looking for this type of device” is doing some of the heavy lifting in that sentence. I’m not looking for a MediaTek device, and there’s a reason I’m not. Battery life is impressive, sure, but it just isn’t enough horsepower for the workload I needed. And if you’re someone whose needs are well suited to this low-powered processor (and there are many such in the world), I really think $389 is on the very high end of what you’ll spend.

Sure, the CM3 has a (just fine) stylus, a funky folding kickstand, slightly better battery life, and an extra port. But it’s equal to or slower than doubles in most works I’ve tried, audio is poor, and it’s thick and heavy. Given all this, I don’t believe the benefits of the CM3 are worth $100 for most people shopping in this category.

Photography by Monica Chin/The Nerdshala

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