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Asus' first Chromebooks play it safe

The Asus Chromebook C200 and C300 vary only in screen size, but offer full-sized keyboards, an HDMI port, and a curiously wide touchpad.

Nate Ralph Associate Editor
Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.
Nate Ralph
2 min read

The Asus Chromebook C200 James Martin/CNET

Asus joined the long list of manufacturers jumping on board the Chromebook bandwagon this week, announcing a pair of near-identical Chromebooks -- the C200 and C300. They were part of a spate of new Chromebooks Google and Intel showed off on Tuesday, at an event to usher in Intel's energy-efficient Bay Trail platform. At $250 Asus is setting its sights right in the middle of the Chromebook ecosystem -- it's a gamble that could pay off, provided that the company cuts the right corners.

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Looks aren't everything, right?

Asus didn't really take many risks here. There's a matte on the covers, which open to a full-size chiclet-style keyboard. Notebooks with smaller displays tend to sacrifice on keyboard size, so bravo to Asus for keeping this spacious. I haven't spent any time with either of these machines, but I'm a bit wary of that attractive budget price: in my experience with Chromebooks (and low-end wares in general), the first thing to go is the build quality.

Touchpads are notoriously hard to get right, but I like what I see here. It's wide -- Asus says it's comparable in size to those found on 14-inch laptops -- and supports multi-touch gestures.

The Asus Chromebook C300 James Martin/CNET

Bay Trail Inside

Things get a bit curious under the hood. I'll start with the Asus C200's 11.6-inch, 1366-by-768 pixel resolution display. It weighs 2.5 pounds, and is fairly slim, at 0.78 of an inch thick. It'll have 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage space -- you can upgrade to 32GB. The Asus C300 brings a 13.3-inch display with the same 1,366x768 pixel resolution. It has twice the RAM (4GB) and storage (32GB). It's also slightly thicker -- but still just shy of an inch thick -- and weighs 3.1 pounds.

The pair are otherwise identical. They run the same 2.4GHz Intel Bay Trail-M processor, and have a 720p HD webcam, a USB port, a USB 3.0 port, and an HDMI jack. The machines will only support 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi at launch, and will get support for 802.11ac in a future (free) software update.


Given that we have so little data on how Intel's new Bay Trail-M chipsets will perform, it's difficult to say at this point how successful the Asus C200 and C300 will be. Still, their final fit and finish will play a bit part. This is Asus' first stab at the Chromebook market, but budget prices often belie sacrifices in build quality. Consider the $300 Acer C720P: our biggest gripes (besides the limitations of Chrome OS) revolved around the low-end feel of the hardware.

The Asus Chromebook C200 will begin shipping at the end of June. Expect the C300 to follow later this year.