- Amazing battery life
- Sturdy, sleek build
- Very portable and quiet
- Good ChromeOS experience
- Relatively weak processor
- Poor screen
- Limited ports
Quick TakeThe Asus C200M Chromebook delivers a quality ChromeOS experience, excellent portability, and amazing battery life at a good price.
Asus has achieved much success in the ChromeOS market with their highly portable Chromebox desktop PC, but the Asus C200M and its 13-inch cousin the C300M represent their first Chromebooks on the market. As the company enters the fray with its own 11-inch, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB SSD, and Celeron processor-equipped model, can the Asus C200M stand out from the crowd of similarly-specced Chromebooks? Read on to find out.
Asus’s first foray into portable ChromeOS devices is impressive to look at and hold. While it is a tiny bit thicker than the Acer C720 at 0.8 inches versus 0.75, the Asus C200M is lighter than any other 11-inch Chromebook we’ve reviewed up until now, at 2.5 lbs versus the Acer’s 2.76 lbs or Dell’s 2.9 lbs. This is due in part to the Asus C200M lacking a fan, thanks to its low-power Bay Trail processor. Overall the computer is well-balanced and easy to hold even in one hand.
A sleek black and silver body and gentle, upwards-curving chassis give this computer serious aesthetic appeal over many other Chromebooks such as Dell’s or Toshiba’s. The curves are great for holding the laptop for extended periods, and the four rubberized feet don’t get in the way of portability. The slightly glossy material for the top readily attracts fingerprints and smudges, but the bottom and bezel around the screen feature an almost-but-not-quite rough texture that makes the laptop feel less slippery when held (and seems much less smudgy, which is a boon around the screen). The top is also emblazoned with a silver Asus and colorful Google Chrome logo.
Ports and Connectivity
The Asus C200M, like many other Chromebooks, has fairly limited physical connectivity options. The device has a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, and audio headset jack. As well, it features an HDMI port for connecting an external HD monitor, and a lock port for securing the laptop (which is recommended for college students in dorms).
This Chromebook features the new wireless networking standard 802.11ac, which, while still in its infancy (it was only approved in January 2014) allows the device to benefit from 802.11ac wi-fi capable routers. This technology allows for improved data transfer speeds and greater range for use, and is backwards-compatible with a/g/n routers as well. The device also has Bluetooth 4.0 for use with wireless mice, keyboards, and other peripherals.
Display and Speakers
The 11.6-inch 1366×768 LED display of the C200M is far from HD, but that’s to be expected for the price of the device. The screen suffered from a faint but slightly noticeable ‘screen door’ effect up close, and is fairly dim even on the highest brightness setting. These are common issues with the typical Chromebook screen though, found on the Acer C720 as well, for instance. The matte finish on the screen is a nice touch, as reflections would harm the viewing experience even more.
The speakers are loud enough to fill a large room at maximum volume, but are a little bit flat, and very quiet at low volume settings. The volume needs to be turned up at least to 1/4 of maximum to hear movie dialogue or speech in YouTube videos, for instance. Classical music sounds adequate, but metal lacks much deep bass. However, for the price, and for the size of the notebook, it’s not an awful listening experience at all.
Featuring the chiclet-style “Chrome Keyboard” layout with its dedicated browser Back, Forward, Refresh, Fullscreen and Tile Windows buttons, the C200M is good for typing on. The specialized Search button, added in place of a caps lock key on Chrome Keyboards can search the web, the Chrome Marketplace, and also the Chromebook for files saved to the 16 GB SSD. Normal keyboard shortcuts such as ctrl+r for Refresh still function, too. The keyboard buttons don’t have much tactile feedback when pressed all the way, and have only average key travel length, but they are quiet and sturdy-feeling.
The smooth, silver trackpad is very comfortable and easy to use. It was almost completely ubiquitous, which is a good thing in a trackpad or other interface device. Clicking and gesturing at the edges worked well enough, and clicking didn’t take much effort. The trackpad sounds nice and strong when clicked, not hollow, flimsy or clackety.
Software and OS
Google’s ChromeOS, which is what makes a Chromebook a Chromebook more than any other feature, is a unique operating system that is very different from the standard executable-running Windows or Mac OS X. On ChromeOS, all applications, be they for web browsing, document editing, music, games or instant messaging, are run through the Google Chrome browser.
The Linux-based OS is optimized to run Chrome, and that’s it. PC executables cannot be installed or run on ChromeOS, which, while it has the obvious drawback of preventing programs like the Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office, desktop games, or even Skype from running on the machine, also keeps the computer safer. Executables are a dangerous file format, and by preventing them from running, ChromeOS keeps the computer safe from any bundled malicious code that may be embedded within these programs. Many viruses simply do not work on the Chromebook. That feature, combined with their ability to be wiped with the push of a button, means the computers are great for schools and students.
Rather than using executable applications, Chromebooks utilize the Chrome Web Store, which features many different web-based applications and extensions for the Chrome browser. From Google Docs to Hangouts, the programs available still allow for good productivity on one of these machines. Though they won’t be able to replace a dedicated PC for heavy-duty graphics or modeling work, or be able to do programming or design, a Chromebook makes a great portable secondary computer, or for those who don’t need to do the above tasks, even a primary one.