Chromebooks are intended to be cheap, light laptops for all your Web browsing needs – consequentl they tend to be less expensive, underpowered devices. The Asus Chromebook C300 falls right into that category at $189 for a basic model with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of memory, and an Intel Celeron processor.
Still, since Chromebooks basically only run the Chrome Web browser, they make good use of these internals. The Asus Chromebook C300 in particular is one of the cheapest Chromebooks you can get, but is it even worth that much?
Let’s find out. And stick around till the end to find out how you can win one of your own!
- Price: $189 at Amazon
- Processor: Dual-Core 2.16 GHz Intel Bay Trail-M Celeron N2830
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 16GB eMMC
- Screen: 13.3in, 1366px by 768px (720p)
- Dimensions: 13in (330mm) x 9.1in (230mm) x 0.9in (23mm)
- Weight: 3.08lbs (1.4kg)
- Battery life: Asus-rated 10 hours
- Ports and plugs: 1 headphone jack, 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 HDMI port, 1 full-size SD card reader, Kensington lock slot, AC power port.
- Extras: 100GB of Google Drive storage for 2 years
Powered by the Bay Trail-M Celeron processor, the C300 isn’t the most powerful computer in existence, but it is certainly good enough for most activities. The Chromebook boots up in mere seconds, and is ready to use as soon as you sign in. Shut the lid, open it again, and it’s working instantly. Coming from a traditional laptop, it feels like magic.
Keeping a few tabs open was no problem, but if you’re one to horde tabs, the C300 might get on your nerves a bit. With more than 8 or so tabs open, they would begin to crash from a lack of memory, being replaced by the (albeit hilarious) “He’s dead, Jim” message.
If you can keep your tab situation under control, most other tabs work well. I could get work done in Google Docs, watch videos on YouTube, and scroll through Facebook and Tumblr with no problems.
The only consistent issue I found was playing videos on non-YouTube websites. They often lagged to the point of being unplayable, even when YouTube videos were streaming just fine.
Speakers and Audio
They’re loud. That’s all you need to know.
For such a cheap computer, that’s actually quite surprising. They sound tinny as most laptop speakers do, but they reach an impressive volume that many other laptops can’t match.
There are two speakers on the bottom left and bottom right of the device. It’s curved so that if your C300 is on a flat surface, the sound bounces off the table and comes up at you. Despite the odd position of the speakers, they manage to be loud enough no matter what.
Chrome OS is also smart enough to recognize when you put your headphones in and lowers the volume automatically so you don’t hurt your ears, which is more than can be said for Windows 8 laptops.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Typing on this keyboard, I ran into a problem I haven’t on other laptops or Chromebooks: the keys sometimes didn’t register if I didn’t press fully in the center of the key, which made me miss letters every once in a while. At first I thought it was just my typing, but after typing just fine on several other devices, I had to conclude that it was the C300’s keyboard.
Aside from that, the keyboard was otherwise alright. It has the typical Chromebook setup, which means that there are no function keys; instead, there are volume keys, brightness keys, and the like.
The caps lock key is also replaced by a search function, but in the ChromeOS settings, you can change this back to caps lock or multiple other functions.
The trackpad is smooth and large, and it worked well for me. There’s no right-click on the right side, so you’ll need to double tap to right-click. But scrolling functions and pinching to zoom all worked well without issues.
Fingerprints. So many fingerprints.
The C300 is very plastic, but the black plastic on this model is particularly prone to fingerprints. During my time with it, the top was pretty much always covered in fingerprints. That kind of ruins the brushed metal look that Asus seemed to be going for.
If you can get past the fingerprints, it feels well built. The plastic is solid and doesn’t creak, but it’s certainly not high-end metal.
It also comes in a variety of colors including red, light blue, and yellow, but the unit we reviewed was plain black.
At about 3lbs for a 13″ device, it’s comparably light to other devices in its class. It was a breeze to carry around in a backpack, and it felt sturdy enough that I wasn’t worried about it getting damaged.
It also has a pretty full range of ports on it, despite its low price. You can hook it up via HDMI to a TV (which worked surprisingly well for me), use USB 3.0 devices with it, or lock it with a handy Kensington Lock.
It’s also worth noting that the charger for this device looks more like a smartphone charger than a laptop charger. The power brick is a small square that plugs directly into the wall, rather than being a large rectangle that detaches from the power cable. This means less weight in your bag if you need to bring the charger around.
Asus rates this laptop for 10 hours, which I found to be an accurate assessment. Using it on and off for most of the day, I never had to charge it before going to sleep in the evening. It survived through taking notes in class, editing and writing articles, listening to music, and watching a few YouTube videos throughout the day.
It’s nice to be able to leave the charger at home and go out and get work done for a day. It makes it a perfect travel device. If you like to write away from home, you won’t have to be constrained by wherever you can find a charging outlet.
If you’ve ever read a review of a Chromebook, you’ve heard this spiel about Chrome OS: It’s great, but it’s not for everyone. If you like keeping your data in the Cloud and don’t need heavy-duty applications like Photoshop, Chrome OS might just be a great operating system for you.
Additionally, since it’s such a new system, Chrome OS isn’t prone to viruses and malware in the same way that Windows laptops are. There are still steps you can take to secure them, but they’re generally less risky to use.
There’s also the obvious ease of use: if you’ve ever used the Chrome Web browser, you essentially already know how to use Chrome OS. Since, Chrome OS is universal across Chromebooks, so there’s not much use in diving into the software here.
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is actually nearly identical in terms of specs, so you can’t really justify shelling out the extra $40 for it unless you really have some sort of grudge against Asus.
On the other hand, the Acer Chromebook 13 is only $10 more but has a more powerful quad-core Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and is rated at a longer battery life of 13 hours. We’re currently in the process of reviewing this model, and I can confirm that it has a better keyboard and less fingerprint-prone design — though worse speakers then the C300. Check back in later for that review.
Should You Buy It?
The Asus Chromebook C300 is one of the cheapest Chromebooks out there, and it manages to do that while offering substantial speakers and a (mostly) fluid experience. It’s certainly not perfect — the plastic cover loves fingerprints, and the keyboard is subpar — but it offers a lot of bang for your buck.
If it weren’t for the Acer Chromebook 13, the C300 would be a solid buy. It’s so close to being the best cheap Chromebook, but not quite.
Don’t buy it. While it is a good value for a Chromebook, it’s edged out by the slightly better Acer Chromebook 13. Only go for the Asus C300 if you really desire the loudest speakers possible, or maybe if you want a more colorful design.
Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.