Chromebooks are a special breed of computers, designed to be extremely simple to use, compact and good enough for basic everyday activities.
But they’re mainly created to be as affordable as possible and the Asus Chromebook C200 makes no exception: it starts at $249 (the Chromebook C200MA version, exactly the one we have here for our review).
For that you’re getting a neat looking device, fairly light and compact, a decent 11.6 inch screen, better than you’d expect for this kind of money keyboard and trackpad, and a hardware platform that’s punchy enough to handle light everyday activities. However, the C200 is powered by a BayTrail Celeron processor and not by a Haswell Celeron platform like most of its rivals, and that makes it somewhat slower and more susceptible to lag and stuttering when pushed, but also dead-silent, cool and long-lasting on each charge.
That’s the short version of this Asus Chromebook C200 review. The longer one is below and I’d advise you to keep reading if you consider buying this Asus mini laptop.
Asus Chromebook C200 video review
The specs sheet for the Asus Chromebook C200
||Asus Chromebook C200MA
||11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 px resolution, TN, non-touch, glossy
||Intel BayTrail Celeron N2830 CPU – details
||2 GB DDR3
||16 GB SSD
||Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0
||1 x USB 2.0 port + 1 x USB 3.0, SD card reader, HDMI 1.4
||12.0″ x 7.9″ x 0.8″ , 304 x 200 x 20 mm
||about 1.13 kg (2.5 pounds)
||720p camera, stereo speakers, Wi-Di and QuickSync support
Design and exterior
The C200 feels better than I was expecting from a $250 laptop. Matte plastic is used for the entire case, but there’s no reason to complain about that. The matte soft texture on the hood feels very nice to touch, although it easily catches smudges, and the Asus and Chrome logos give it a refined look.
The silver, metallic like finishing of the palm-rest is not bad either. The belly is covered by a more rugged type of black plastic and you’ll notice that there are no cooling grills here, since this C200 sports a fanless design.
The Asus Chromebook C200 – a $250 little laptop
For a laptop in this price range, the C200 definitely feels sturdy built, but its underbelly tends to somewhat creak and flex when grabbing the device firmly in hand. Other from that, there’s not much to complain about; this Asus Chromebook is light and compact, with its 0.8 inch body and 2.5 lbs total weight. Not bad.
Aesthetically, the C200 looks fine I’d say, with its Black and Silver case, but it’s not really as appealing as some of the other Chromebooks out there, like the Samsung Chromebook 2 or the HP Chromebook 11. That however is highly subjective, you might actually prefer these design lines more.
While we’re talking aesthetics, the huge sticker on the palm-rest is definitely ugly and I’d advise to peel it off carefully as soon as possible. That aside, the screen is glossy and framed by a rather thick black bezel, its hinge is big, but solid, and the palm-rest is spacious enough for comfortable daily use, but the sharp front-lip can be somewhat annoying when using this laptop on a desk.
Around the sides, the C200 packs a decent selection of ports, with 2 USB slots (only one is an USB 3.0 though), HDMI 1.4, a card-reader, a charge indicator LED, a Kensington Lock and a SIM Slot for the cellular versions.
Back to that screen, well, the 11.6 inch HD TN panel on the C200 laptop is decent. It paints natural looking colors, offers good contrast and is fairly bright for most use scenarios, for a TN panel of course. Yes, the content is going to quickly fade away when looking from sides or leaning back the display, but as long as you watch it heads-on, you should be OK.
An IPS panel would have been clearly better (it is however unrealistic to demand one in this price range) and the glairy screen’s finishing can become a concern in strong light, but even so, I’d call the C200’s display adequate for a device this cheap.
Except for the viewing angles, the C200’s screen is not bad
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on the other hand is actually very nice, with better travel and feedback that what you’d expect from a regular ultrabook, for example. There’s no back-lighting and the layout will take some time to get used to, especially if you’re on a Chromebook for the first time, as some keys are missing from this arrangement. There are no Function keys, no Home, Print-Screen, Insert or Caps-Lock, which have been replaced with standard ChromeOS commands.
Good keyboard, but the layout will take some time to get used to
However, that I can get used with. What bothers me more than anything else though is the anemic Enter key on this European layout (US layout will probably sport a longer bar Enter) and the Power button placed as the top-right key. Luckily, unlike with Zenbooks which simply go to sleep when hitting the Power Key, this Chromebook only logs off when keeping the key pressed for a whole second. Otherwise it just starts fading towards the Login screen.
The trackpad is not bad either and fairly spacious for an 11 incher. It is a bit stiff and clunky if you want to actually press it for clicks, but as long as you’ll settle for taps, you’ll be very happy with it. It also supports basic gestures like two finger scrolling or Back and Forward just fine, but I couldn’t get Two-Finger zooming to work.
Hardware and everyday use
The hardware is a bit of a toss up here and the one aspect that sets the C200 apart from many of its competitors.
Most 11 inch available Chromebooks run on Intel Haswell Celeron processors. This one runs on an BayTrail Celeron processor, which is dual-core dual-thread CPU clocked higher than a Haswell Celeron, but at the same time not as snappy in everyday use. And that could be problematic if you’ll be pushing this laptop. The Intel HD graphics embedded within the BayTrail chip is even slower than the Haswell version, and that’s going to be visible when running games. On top of that, the C200 only comes with 2 GB of RAM and there’s no word on a 4 GB version right now (the memory is soldered on the MB and cannot be upgraded, nor can the 16 GB internal storage SSD).
To keep things short, as long as you only have a few things running at the same time on this Chromebook, you’ll be fine. By a few I mean only several tabs opened. Light multitasking is possible, like watching a Youtube clip in the background while editing text or browsing, or running a movie or music while performing other basic tasks. However, having 10+ tabs or programs opened simultaneously will lead to stuttering and lag, especially if some of them are games or clips. The laptop also feels sluggish when installing new apps, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem, as you won’t be doing it everyday.
If you’re interested in benchmarks, I did run a few on this Chromebook C200 and the results are under what Celeron Haswell laptops score these days. Check them out below (the scores below are the rounded average of the number obtained after running each test 5 times).
- Sunspider 1.0.2 – 680 ms;
- Sunspider 0.9.1 – 700 ms;
- BrowserMark 2.1 – 1873 pts;
- Octane 2.0 – 6349 pts;
- Peacekeeper – 1324 pts.
Now, software wise, the C200 runs ChromeOS, a simplistic interface built around Google’s Chrome browser. You can think of it as Android for laptops: it comes with a few services preinstalled, like Gmail, Maps, Youtube, Drive, etc, and a Store where you can easily find and download new apps. However, most apps run as tabs in Chrome and they are more-or-less links towards their Web-based versions.
That severally cripples a Chromebook when there’s no active Internet connection available. Some apps can work offline and will later sync with the servers when you’ll get back online, and running videos and music stored internally is possible. But not most games (there are exceptions, like Angry Birds for instance) or other specific apps. Games for instance are rather rudimentary on a Chromebook, as they won’t run in Full screen, but as windows in the browser. And they tend to stutter badly on this C200. You will also have a hard time finding how to perform other tasks like editing photos, as the included Photo app is really limited. The same can be said about the Video playing app. MOV or MKV files run smoothly (high-bitrate 1080p clips), but VMW or MTS clips are not even supported and there’s just nothing you can do about that.
Anyway, since Chrome OS is built mostly around web-based interfaces and cloud services, most Chromebooks don’t offer a lot of storage space. This C200 is no exception and only comes with 16 GB of storage that you can use to save various types of content. You can however turn to an external HDD or SD card though, if needed.
Long story short, for the most basic of activities, ChromeOS will do just fine and the C200, with its lower powered Intel BayTrail hardware, won’t slack off. If you want a mini laptop for more serious work though, a Chromebook might not deliver, as it lacks the freedom and the software solutions offered by Windows/Mac devices.
Some of this Chromebook’s features
Noise, Heat, Connectivity and others
The BayTrail platform might not be very fast, but it does have a few benefits.
Number one, is fanless, and as a result, the C200 runs dead silent all of the time.
Number two, is efficient, with an only 7.5W TDP, which means that it runs mostly cool and can go for roughly 9 hours of real-life daily use, with Wi-Fi ON and the screen’s brightness set to 60%, which is not bad at all. Asus claims you can squeeze more out of the C200’s 48 Wh battery, and that’s true, when dimming OFF the screen and shutting down the Wi-Fi connection. Running a 720p mkv clip in the same conditions depletes the battery in a little over 6 hours though.
You’ll get between 6 and 8 hours of daily use from this mini laptop
Number three, the BayTrail platform offers support for technologies like Wireless-Display or QuickSync Video, and these might prove useful for some of you.
The C200 also sports good connectivity, with an Intel Dual Band AC 7260 wireless module, Bluetooth 4.0 and integrated cellular modems on some version.
There’s also a decent 720p webcam on top and a set of stereo speakers cut on the belly’s sides, like on many other Asus laptops, capable of pushing loud and good quality sound, again, for this class.
Thanks to the BayTrail platform, the C200 runs cool and dead silent
Price and availability
The Asus Chromebook C200 is already available in shops around the world, starting at $249 for the Wi-Fi only version, also known as the Chromebook C200MA. You might even find it discounted from time to time.
Asus also offers a slightly bigger Chromebook C300 version, with a 13.3 inch screen, more color options and pretty much the same other features as the C200, starting at roughly $250 as well.
Education versions with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage are available for both the C200 and the C300 series, scheduled to sell for $300 – $330.
Cellular models are also available in both cases and those will cost extra, though I’ve yet to find them in stores so far.
Long story short, the Chromebook C200 is quite a capable ChromeOS laptop. It looks fine, it is solid built, it offers a good screen, keyboard and trackpad for this class. It is however motorized by an Intel BayTrail-M hardware platform, and that makes it slower than most of its rivals, but also cooler, quieter and longer lasting. So there are tradeoffs you’ll be making with this one.
At the same time, the Chromebook C200 starting at $250 is perhaps a bit too expensive for its own good. In this price-range, every dollar counts, and with Acer or HP selling their units for between $200 and $230 these days, Asus will probably have to lower the C200’s price to become more competitive. We’ll see.
In the end, the Chromebook C200 could be a solid pick if you want an utterly quiet, long lasting and nicely built 11 inch machine for light everyday activities. However, if you want a faster Chromebook, a thinner and lighter one or just don’t want to spend $250 on such a machine, you’ve got other options out there, as you’ll find out from our Chromebook buying guide or from this list of the best Chromebooks of the moment. Or you might want to step up to an ultrabook or other affordable Windows laptops.
The C200 can be a good pick, but ChromeOS is definitely not for everyone
Either way, this wraps it up for now for our review. Thanks for sticking by and let me know if there’s anything you might want to add or if you have any questions about the Chromebook C200 in the comments section below.
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