Asus C200 Chromebook review: Long battery life, moderate performance

The Asus C200 Chromebook is a 2.5 pound laptop that offers up to 12 hours of battery life and sells for just $249. It’s not the fastest notebook around, doesn’t have the best screen, and some folks might find Google’s Chrome OS operating system limiting. But there’s a lot to like about this little laptop… especially given the low price.

c200 angle_01

Asus is the first company to offer a Chromebook powered by an Intel Celeron Bay Trail processor. It uses less power than the Haswell chips in some Chromebooks, but helps the Asus C200 achieve its all-day battery life while offering stronger performance than some older Chromebooks with slower chips.

The Asus C200 Chromebook isn’t perfect. It has an 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display with limited viewing angles, just 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and lacks features found on some other models such as a touchscreen display. But thanks to a good price, respectable performance for common tasks, and extraordinary battery life, the Asus C200 Chromebook is definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for a cheap, portable Chromebook.

Asus loaned me a C200 Chromebook for the purposes of this review. The company also offers a 13 inch model called the C300 Chromebook with nearly identical specs and an identical processor.

Overview

The Asus C200 Chromebook is powered by an Intel Celeron N2830 dual-core Bay Trail processor and features 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, one USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port, HDMI and audio jacks, and an SD card slot.

The notebook measures 12″ x 7.9″ x 0.8″ and weighs 2.5 pounds. The larger Asus C300 Chromebook has the same specs, but sports a 13.3 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display, measures 13″ x 9.1″ x 0.9″ and weighs 3.1 pounds.

Not surprisingly for a $249 laptop, the Asus C200 Chromebok has a plastic case, but it feels pretty sturdy, there’s not too much flex in the keyboard, and bottom is painted a metallic silver/gray color while the lid is black. The lid is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but it’s not hard to wipe clean.

Asus says the 11.6 inch model has a glossy display while its 13.3 inch Chromebook has a non-glossy screen. I’ve been using the Asus C200 to write blog posts, surf the web, and watch videos for a few days and I haven’t had many problems with screen glare.

c200 hulu

Viewing angles are rather limited though. If you tilt the screen back too far it can be hard to make out text or pictures because the colors start to fade. Side viewing angles aren’t as bad.

c200 negative

A higher-resolution display would be nice… but 1366 x 768 pixel screens are still pretty common for inexpensive Chrome and Windows laptops, so I can’t really fault Asus for choosing one for its first Chromebooks.

Some people will also probably complain that the laptop has a rather large bezel around the screen. I don’t really mind, since the Asus C200 is reasonably compact, but still large enough to fit a full-sized keyboard.

c200 lid_02

Like most Chromebooks, the Asus C200 has a special keyboard with dedicated keys for functions such as Search, Back, Forward, as well as more common functions such as volume and brightness. You can also go into the notebook’s settings and  choose to use the Search key as Caps Lock if you find you really miss having a Caps Lock key.

There are no dedicated Home, End, Page Up, or Page Down keys, but you can access those functions along with many more by memorizing a few keyboard shortcuts.

c200 keyboard

Beneath the keyboard there’s a large touchpad which supports multi-touch gestures such as two-finger scrolling.

Some folks also take issue with the idea of calling Chromebooks laptops… but that’s exactly what they are. The Asus C200 may ship with a browser-based operating system, but it’s a fully functional PC that just happens to have an operating system designed around a web browser.

Chrome OS has come a long way in recent years. It’s no longer useless when you’re without an internet connection, since there are a growing number of web apps that let you save data to local storage so you can play games or edit documents even when you’re offline. And there’s an ever-growing number of Chrome Web apps that you can use for productivity, social interaction, gaming, business, and more.

c200 front

It’s a relatively secure operating system since any web apps you install run in a sandbox so they can’t affect the operating system. Chrome OS downloads software updates automatically. And most of your data is stored in the cloud, which means that if your notebook stops working or you switch to another machine all you have to do is login with your username and password and you can pick up right where you left off — the only thing you might lose are any photos or other files stored on the notebook’s rather meager 16GB of storage.

c200 side_02

If you’re still not convinced Chrome OS is good enough for your needs, you’re not stuck with it. There’s no simple way to install Windows on the Asus C200, but you can turn on developer mode and enable support for booting from a USB flash drive or even install Ubuntu, Debian, or other operating systems in a chroot environment so they share the Linux kernel with Chrome OS, but give you a traditional desktop operating system and support for desktop apps including LibreOffice, GIMP, and even Firefox.

Performance 

The Asus C200 Chromebook is one of the first Chrome OS laptops to feature a Bay Trail processor. As you’d expect, that means it’s not quite as fast as a system with a Haswell chip, but it’s much faster than older models featuring earlier Intel Atom chips.

It also outperforms models with a Samsung Exynos 5 ARM Cortex-A15 dual-core processor including the Samsung Series 3 and HP Chromebook 11 by offering both longer battery life and faster performance.

It’s kind of tough to compare a mid-2014 Chromebook to an older model by running a bunch of benchmark tests, because every time Google pushes out a software update, there’s a chance that older models (which I don’t have on hand anymore) also get a little better.

c200 google music

That said, the graphs below show how the Asus C200 stacks up against a few other Chromebooks in terms of HTML5 and JavaScript performance. In terms of real-world performance, I was able to sit in a coffee shop all day while writing a half dozen blog posts and much of this review using nothing but the Chromebook.

The system can feel a little sluggish when running resource-intensive web apps and multitasking at the same time. So while I was able to open a dozen browser tabs and switch back and forth between then while writing articles in WordPress without problems, switching tabs and opening new tabs started to feel a little pokey if I was streaming music from Songza at the same time.

It’s not always easy to predict when the system will start to slow down — sometimes after using it for a few hours, I’ll be typing a document and suddenly notice that characters show up on the screen a second or two after I press the keys on the keyboard, suggesting that it might be time to close a few browser tabs.

c200 netflix

I had no problems streaming videos from Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Video. YouTube videos also looked great at 720p resolution. There was a bit of stuttering while watching some 1080p videos from YouTube, but since the Chromebook doesn’t have a 1080p screen, the only time you’d really want to do that anyway is if you have an external display plugged in.

While you should never expect miracles from laptop speakers, the Asus C200 has reasonably loud and clear speakers which will suffice for listening to music when you don’t have better speakers or headphones handy.

c200 dual display

There’s an HDMI port on the side of the notebook, allowing you to plug in an external display. Chrome OS lets you either mirror or extend your desktop, which means you can either use a second display as an extra workspace for additional browser tabs or to play a video in one screen while surfing the web on another or you can show the same content on both screens.

Unfortunately there aren’t quite as many options in the display settings as I’d like — for instance, the only way to turn off the notebook display while mirroring your screen to external display is to dim the screen brightness until the screen goes black.

Benches_01

In the Google Octane and Peacekeeper web-based benchmarks, the Asus C200 came out ahead of the HP Chromebook 11 and Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, but it trailed behind the Asus Chromebox and Acer C720p Chromebook, both of which feature Intel Celeron N2955U Haswell processors.

Meanwhile the Google Chromebook Pixel with an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge CPU continues to reign supreme in terms of benchmarks and real-world performance.

The same holds true in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, where lower scores are better.

SunSpider

But speed is a relative thing when it comes to a Chromebook. As mentioned above, the Asus C200 doesn’t feel quite as fast as some other recent models, but it’s good enough for basic web surfing, video watching, casual gaming, and more.

It also blows the competition out of the water when it comes to battery life… which makes it easier to accept the middling performance.

Chromebook batteries

You can thank the Celeron N2830 chip and the laptop’s 48Whr battery for the strong battery performance. The processor is as 64-bit chip with a clock speed of 2.16 GHz, Intel HD graphics, and a TDP of 7.5W.  Unfortunately you may have to put up with occasional slow downs if you expect to put the system to heavy use.

On the other hand, one benefit of the low-power chip is that the system doesn’t generate a lot of heat — and the Asus C200 Chromebook features a fanless design. That means it’s pretty much silent while operating since there are no fans, hard drives, or other moving parts to generate noise.

c200 power brick_02

On occasions when you might need more than 10-12 hours of battery life, it’s nice to know the power adapter won’t take up much room in your bag. Instead of a large power brick, Asus includes a charger small enough to hold in one hand. The adapter also weighs less than 5 ounces.

Advanced users

Speaking of heavy use, Chromebooks might be designed as user-friendly, secure systems which put the web browser front and center. But for just about as long as there have been Chrome OS laptops, there have been people trying to push them to do more.

c200 ubuntu

It’s just as easy to enable developer mode and install Ubuntu using the Crouton script so that it run side-by-side with Chrome OS on the Asus C200 as it has been on just about every other Chromebook I’ve used. Ubuntu seems to run resonably well, but the Chromebook froze every time I tried switching from Ubuntu to Chrome and then back again… until I figured out that logging out of Ubuntu completely was a safe way to switch between operating systems without locking up the computer.

Not happy with the 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage that come with the Asus C200 Chromebook? Then you’d best buy a model that comes with more… because there’s no easy way to add more to the Asus C200 Chromebook.

You can use the SD card reader to add removable storage, but the RAM and solid state storage are not user upgradeable. When I took the bottom off the case to see what’s under the hood, the only component that seemed relatively simple to remove was the wireless card, although I don’t feel much need to do that, since I’m pretty happy with the WiFi and Bluetooth performance of the Chromebook.

asus c200 no upgrade

Verdict

The Asus C200 Chromebook is a great laptop… if you can live with Chrome OS , don’t need a lot of local storage space, and value price, portability and battery life over bleeding edge performance or a great display.

I’d probably take off marks for the laptop’s relatively mediocre performance while multitasking when you can pick up an Acer C720 Chromebook for the same price or less and get noticeably more performance. Acer also offers several different configurations, which means you can opt for a model with a touchscreen display, 4GB of RAM, or 32GB of storage.

Update: There is a version of the Asus C200 with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, but it sells for $329

c200 angle_02

But none of those systems will get 12 hours of battery life.

The Asus C200 isn’t perfect… but it’s remarkable simply for being a $249 laptop that offers all-day battery life. The fact that it has a decent keyboard, weighs just about 2.5 pounds, boots up in seconds, and can run Ubuntu and other operating systems as well as Chrome OS are all kind of bonus features.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this notebook for everyone. But folks who can live with its limitations (and who probably have a better PC at home, but need something portable for use on the go), can get a lot more for $249 today than they could a few years ago.

  • ken

    It is indeed a tough sell against the C720; I don’t think for many 8-10h Vs 12h battery is enough for the lost performance. If they had allowed the RAM and SSD to be upgradable I would have forgiven all else though.

    • bp

      I agree with this. If you don’t need 12 hrs of battery life, the C720 sounds like a better buy. I would like to see some benchmarks of the C200 with 4GB of ram though to see how the two compare. I imagine it would still be a tough sell against a C720 which will no doubt continue to drop in price as it is the older device.

  • fdzimmerman

    Excellent review. I’d really like a 4 GB RAM option. ChromeOS would be fine for much of what I need, but I occasionally would need to boot Tails from USB and use Crunchbang Linux in chroot. More RAM would be helpful. The SSD size isn’t a show-stopper, given the SD card.

    How would you compare build quality with the Acer C720.

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      It’s kind of tough to say, since I sent back my Acer review unit a few months ago… but I think I prefer the build of the Asus C200… it certainly has a bigger touchpad, and I feel like the keyboard might be a bit more comfortable… although I don’t have the two side-by-side, so I can’t say for certain.

      The Asus model certainly offers better battery life.

      But the Acer C720 wins in terms of performance (it never felt sluggish), and options (you can buy models with a touchscreen or 4GB of RAM, and you can upgrade the SSD yourself).

      • fdzimmerman

        Thank you. I’m an Asus fan, but have had good luck with Acer products. Sounds like the C720P would be a better choice for me.

    • Lortivar

      There is a 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD option offered on a few sites called ASUS C200 EDU. https://plus.google.com/114584654970177301022/posts/bivWks4qhHd

  • youngcrv

    I would suspect that the 2GB of RAM is more of the culprit for your slowdowns with multiple tabs than the CPU.

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      It’s likely a combination of features. Most Chromebooks I’ve tested have had 2GB of RAM, but not all have issues multitasking.

  • bearKing

    does anyone know if you can use Primewire.ag on chrome os?

  • ILUVFREEWIFI

    Is the battery user replaceable? Looks like it’s held down by screws?

  • brian_h_kim

    “the only way to turn off the notebook display while mirroring your screen to external display is to dim the screen brightness until the screen goes black” — when i close the lid to my samsung 550 and acer c720p, the laptop screen shuts off but continues to mirror – what chrome os calls “docking mode”…

  • http://tlundberg.com Tobbe Lundberg

    Is the C200 fanless? My Samsung ARM chromebook is, and I think it’s a huge selling point!

    • Wesley Files

      Yes, it’s fanless.

      • http://tlundberg.com Tobbe Lundberg

        Thanks. That means there are no moving parts at all in this laptop. That makes it dead silent. And that is something I value very highly!

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Whoops… totally forgot to include this. I’ve added a paragraph to the article, but yep. It’s fanless. Just to be certain I put the system on mute, played two 1080p HD YouTube videos simultaneously for a few minutes and held my ear to various parts of the laptop… not a sound.

      Of course, there were some speedbumps playing those videos, but I figured it was about as resource-intensive a task as you’re likely to attempt on a Chromebook. I also kept one video playing while firing up a game of Angry Birds. Still no sound.

  • simon

    It might actually be fanless – doesn’t look like there is one in the picture of the motherboard. If so, it could be the one to buy.

  • booch221

    Chrome is not browser based OS. It’s a Linux based OS, with a browser interface.

  • dourscot

    Excellent review. It’s a shame that more manufacturers aren’t supplying a second DIMM slot for a memory upgrade – that’s probably part of the performance difference.

  • http://opinadorcompulsivo.blogspot.com Miquel Mayol i Tur

    Why nobody makes a GNUbook, same hardware, 64bit OS, almost as secure as Chrome OS (almost the same in real life) 4Gb of RAM 32 Gb SDD for / 1/2Tb HDD for /home and 8″ to 14″ screen options.

    i am sure it will have a lot of sells at Amazon and online stores, and even at phisical ones. Brands can also name them KDEbook, GNOMEbook, XFCEbook or LXQTbook and similar. And there is a lot to configure at desktops to make it a brand experience.

  • tedus

    I just searched a little for the mentioned 4gb Version.

    There seems to be one available – for instance at ph Photo – for 329$ (out of stock at the moment).
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=asus+c200&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=

    weird thing is: if you search you also found 2gb variants called Edu.
    There also seems to be a third C200 as i found a test listing: 200MA-EDU, C200MA-DS01 and C200MA-KX002.

  • Nick

    Hey Brad,
    Can you do a side by side review . C200 Vs C720 ? Also, please tell us how are the Online word processing tools. I’m thinking of getting one but will I miss Word or Pages?

  • tfosorcim

    “…Not happy with the 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage that come with the Asus C200 Chromebook? Tough.”

    “…if you’re in the market for a cheap, portable Chromebook…”

    They–Chromebooks–are ALL cheap.

    • Hugglez

      Not all chromebooks *Points to the Pixel*

  • Ross Randall

    I think the fact that this laptop supports 802.11ac is HUGE!! I realize that many do not have an ac environment but for large organizations/school districts that do this is a big plus. I have tested the Asus against the Acer ,Toshiba, Samsung and HP and found the Asus to be very solid. This is my model of choice for now.

  • CLM3Chip

    I’m really curious what the performance comparison is between the Asus C200 and C300 models and the new Samsung Chromebook 2 models that have 8-core ARM processors. I know the new ARM processors are considered disappointing performance-wise, but I’d be interested in finding out if they are inferior (and if so, how inferior) to the Bay Trail Celeron processor. Of course, both processors don’t require fans, helping to keep the weight of the laptop down.

    • makingmark

      I have a Samsung Chromebook 2 13 inch, running the developer channel which I would think could be the most optimized performance wise except for possibility of bugs (which I haven’t experienced any of). I just ran Octane and got a score of 7102, so comparing to Brad’s test, it looks equal to the C200 on this performance benchmark. However on battery life it is definitely worse – I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting but it’s definitely not the 8-8.5 hours Samsung claims, it feels like it’s closer to 6.5.

      It’s frustrating every Chromebook has it strengths & weaknesses. I definitely want a matte screen and Asus’ power brick, but I’m sure the Samsung beats it on keyboard quality and thinness.

  • DenverD

    I have a C200 and for the $ am really pleased. This is a solid review. Question though, Can I cast my screen to a NetGear Push 2 TV WiDi receiver, or WiDi enabled Smart TV? I know there are some apps that claim to do, but I have not tried them. I have a Nexus 4 and can Miracast my screen to the aforementioned WiDi receivers. The C200 can Chromecast, so I assume it supports other casting and is based WiDi technology? It doesn’t seem like I should need a chromecast donlge if I have an alternate WiDi receiver. Does anyone know if this is true?

  • Patrick

    Does the c200/c300 have a “legacy boot” mode with SeaBios, like the Acer c720? I can’t see the “Write-protect screw” on the mainboard (like here nr 7: goo.gl/KvlFeK ). I don’t want to use crouton with the ugly boot warning.

  • that one guy. no, other guy

    I am (for some reason) unable to use the volume buttons on one of my google accounts.