I have been a fan of Google’s OS and the prospects it could bring since the very beginning with the CR-48. Since then we have seen a number of Chromebook releases from many of the top manufacturers like Samsung, Lenovo, HP, Acer and ASUS. Google took it to the extreme with the Chomebook Pixel, but the price tag made it more of an elitist Chromebook offering. The average consumer is looking more so for something that has some power under the hood, great battery life and a size/form factor that fits their lifestyles and needs. It seems to be apparent that many of the current offerings out there are fairly similar in both price and specs which can leave you searching. One of the most prevalent form factors is the smaller 11.6 inch variants. Where as a 13.3 inch Chromebook is seeming to only just now start to become the next basic model. ASUS has a 13.3 offering with their ASUS C300 and it comes in a variety of colors too.
I have spent the last few weeks rocking the ASUS C300 Chromebook to see how it stacks up to the demanding needs of my connected lifestyle. The model I have been using is the more traditional black color offering. Rather then being just straight black though, ASUS went with more of a wood grain black look, maybe more so like a veneer. It does give it a nice look that helps it stand out a little from the usual black, white and silver offerings.
The physical size is larger than the smaller 11.6 model offerings since ASUS packed a larger 13.3-inch screen inside.
Dimensions: 13.0″ x 9.1″ x 0.8″ ~ 0.9″
Weight: 3.1 lbs
Looks can be an important factor, but it is what it can do and what is under the hood that makes or breaks a device for many.
Official C300 Specs of the review device
13.3-inch LED backlit HD non-glossy screen (1366 x 768)
Intel BayTrail-m N2830 2.16GHz processor
2GB of RAM
16GB onboard storage
1 x USB 2.0 and 1 x USB 3.0
1 x HDMI out port
3.5mm audio jack
a full size SD card slot
10 hour battery life
ASUS offers a few variation to this model with all the main specs staying the same. This model is the lower-end variant with 16GB storage and 2GB of RAM. However, ASUS also produces one with 16GB storage and 4GB of RAM as well as 32GB storage and 4GB of RAM variety. The remaining specs still hold true to any of the three models.
Taking a tour of the ASUS C300 exterior we find the majority of the ports to be on the left hand side. This is where the small charging port is located followed by the full-size HDMI port, USB 3.0 port, SD card slot and 3.5mm audio jack. With the single USB 2.0 port being all by its lonesome on the right hand side.
The top of the C300 we find the ASUS logo in the center with the Chrome logo in the upper corner. The ASUS logo is cut into the top with the lettering recessed. Where as the Chrome wording is just paint and the Chrome logo is a sticker inside a small recess. It isn’t the end of the world, but I was pretty fond of the emblem that Acer used on the C710 a few years ago. Not sure if many are going that extra mile anymore as I see Lenovos N20P is the same.
On the bottom of the C300 you have 4 pyramid style rubber feet. This is also where a pair of speakers are housed. The speakers are decently loud and carry sound remarkably well. While they are placed on the bottom towards the front, it almost sounds like it is coming at you from the screen. I assume this is due to the sound chambers inside that help disperse the audio around the whole device. Like any other Chromebook, don’t expect mind boggling bass, it is present, but the mids and highs along with vocals are clearly where they are tuned.
When we open up the device we see the 720p camera front and center at the top with a small silver ring around it.
The keyboard is similar to all Chromebooks with the same key layout. With the 13.3-inch screen though you get a little more roomy typing area and wrist rest then the smaller 11.6 versions. The keys are responsive, even with their low profile flat design, and I can heard/felt that I have hit a key. Basically they are springy and make a clicking sound when pressed with adequate spacing between them to make the shallow key stoke really a non issue.
Below the keyboard we see the large trackpad positioned in the center. Again, it is a little larger than those found on many of the 11.6 models due to the extra room. It never seemed to get in my way nor did my wrists or thumbs come in contact with it while I was typing. I wrote this entire review on the device. I tossed a Samsung Galaxy S4 above it for a size comparison. You can see additional keyboard and trackpad caparison images below with the smaller Lenovo N20P.
The screen is where everything goes a bit awry though. While you are getting a larger 13.3-inch LED backlit screen that has a reasonable resolution of 1366 x 768, you also get very washed out viewing angles that might force you to readjust the screens position if you decide to move slightly. This is readily visible on the vertical view of the screen, that would be the standard looking down at the screen. This is also even more obnoxious if you have the screens brightness dimmed at anything under around 50%. If you push the brightness to the 75% or better it gets worse where a 10 or 15 degree variance makes text unreadable until you re-adjust the screen. Attempting to demonstrate this in photos might not work out to demonstrate the point, but I attempted to do so anyways. The images below represent a near full tilt view of the screen and a slight looking down angle.
You should be able to see the degradation of the text pretty clearly. It only needs to be off your direct line of sight between 10 – 20 degrees to make an impact. It is pretty noticeable the second you are more than a few degrees off a direct line to the center of the screen. It isn’t a camera issue, it is the type of screen used on the ASUS C300 which is the cheaper TN type of screen. It is non-reflective which does help in well lit environments and doesn’t give you a mirror effect as much as some of the higher-end screens out there give you. This is also one reason the ASUS C300 is able to keep its costs lower too.
I have found that if you put the brightness around 60% and the screen at nearly full tilt to provide the best viewing experience for my eyes. User results will vary based on needs and eyesight of course. While it does offer pale-ish colors and has some off-putting image washout at angles slightly off a direct view, it is still very usable for the average to above average consumer. I wouldn’t attempted to do any hard-core photo editing on it, but for all your basic browsing, writing, video call, online shopping and communication needs and things it is just fine.
The battery life advertised from ASUS put the C300 at 10 hours. I gave this a straight run through test at 60% screen brightness steaming tunes while writing this review. I switched over to YouTube and let more music stream until the the C300 went caput. It managed to keep going for a solid 9 hours. Pretty on par with their advertised life. In normal situation use, where you pull it out for a few hours at a time for emails, browsing and other basic things, I have used it off an on for three+ days. I can average the use to about 10 to 12 hours. Your battery life will vary based on the Chrome OS version you are running, to the tasks you are doing, to the brightness of the screen you prefer. In my real world use I need it to last for a few hours a night while I am down stairs with my son and for the occasional bedside browsing. Beyond that, it makes trips to the Dr offices and I have yet to be worried about it dying, even on those 4 hour Dr visits. I am quite confident that when I need to be mobile that the ASUS C300 Chromebook will be able to keep me online and connected for the better part of my day. (my days are 16 to 18 hours, not all online though)
I have been quite pleased with the performance of the ASUS C300. The battery life and screen size work well together and the larger keyboard keeps my hands from getting cramped up during long periods of typing. The keyboard feels good and I have no question if I hit a key. I am a fairly quick typist, but do still look down quite often out of habit. Whether I hit the right key or not, that is a different story. The C300 is also very light at just 3.1 pounds. It makes it extremely easy to carry, even though it is larger, it doesn’t add a substantial amount of weight to your bag on trips.
The processor packs plenty of power to keep you running the Chrome OS for all your basic functions. However, if you are a tab monster or power user, you will easily start to see some slowness and lag once you get over the 5 or 6 tab marker. Which seems to be a constant with the OS and all similarly spec’d Chromebooks in the price range. The BayTrail does help hold on to power, which is what it was design to do, but the dual-core processor just doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with the demand you will end up pushing on it. Getting the 4GB RAM model might be a better choice in those instances, but I am not certain if I could justify the additional cost associated or if the lag issues would be negated at all from the RAM increase. However, I have seen a number of people claim no lag with more tabs on the 4GB variant. If you keep things to 4 or 5 tabs everything is responsive for your average everyday tasks like writing, reading, browsing, video streaming and other tasks. Once you go over that barrier, you will see it slow up some.
The material used for the shell of the Chromebook is textured slightly on the top and feels kind of cool, but as you can see in the images, the whole thing picks up fingerprints and dust and anything else in the air it can. It can get dirty looking in a hurry.
This won’t be your go to all day every day hard working Chromebook, but it certainly is a contender for the second laptop less demanding users out there. I have no issue using it to write, read and some social networking, but when it comes down to getting a ton of stuff done at once, I will have to head back to my desktop.
When ASUS announced the C300 model back in May it carried a competitive price tag of $250 for its screens size with the larger 32GB and 4GB of RAM model going for $329.99. Since its launch they have created a set of additional colors which include Red, Yellow and Blue. They are more bright with white as the focus color on the inside around the keyboard keys and around the screen. Definitely aimed at the younger generation looking to stand out a bit more from the typical black and silver of many Chromebooks and laptops. Right now is pretty good time to pick up as ASUS C300 though as they are currently available for $179.99 on Amazon (at the time of writing this review). If you do it soon you should still have plenty of time to pick up the 1TB of Google Drive storage from Google for two years. That alone out weighs the cost of the Chromebook by $59.77 as 2 years of 1TB storage would run you $239.76 if purchased on its own. Figure in that deal and basically you are getting $60 and a Chromebook to boot. Then there is the 12 free GoGo in-flight sessions ($16X12 passes = $192) and 2 months of Google Play All Access ($9.99 x 2 = $19.98). You are almost being paid to buy one at that point.
Bumping yourself to the 32GB variant with 4GB of RAM will set you back a bit more at $299.99. Making the more entry-level 16GB with 2GB of RAM the real deal right now.