I am excited to be able to get my hands on the new Asus C201 Chromebook. It is one of the first batch of Chromebooks to use the new Rockchip series processor. How well does this new processor hold up to the current line of other Chromebooks and is it a good fit for schools?
- Rockchip 3288-C 1.8GHz Quad-Core processor
- An 11.6" glossy TN panel with a 1366x768 resolution
- 2GB or 4GB of RAM
- 16GB SSD
- 2x USB 2.0, 1x Micro HDMI, 1x MicroSD slot
- VGA webcam with integrated microphone
- Dual-channel integrated audio
- Wireless 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1
- Height: .70" x Width: 11.30" x Depth: 7.64" and weighs 2lbs
- Battery rated for 13 hours of use
Overall Build Quality:
The Asus C201 is not a rugged device as some recently released Chromebooks, but that is expected given the $169 price point. It has a design that is similar to the Asus C200, except it is thinner and lighter. The lid and bottom of the Asus C201 are encased in a smooth navy blue matte plastic that gives a really good look to the Chromebook. It does allow for some fingerprints, but it is not as noticeable as some other Chromebooks. The bezel around the screen is a flat matte black plastic with a very fine texture to it. The casing around the keyboard and trackpad is a lighter gray plastic that seemed to not collect any fingerprints when I was touching it.
There are dual speakers on the bottom of the Asus C201 that are decent and very loud for the price point. The hinges only go back 135 degrees, which could still allow for damage to occur to them if the lid is pushed too far back.
The Asus C201 use the new Rockchip 3288-C processor. It is an ARM based processor that is designed specifically for Chrome devices. The Asus C201 with 2GB of RAM scored a 6909 when I ran the Octane benchmark on it. In my usage of the Asus C201, I will say the processor worked better then I initially expected and is pretty much on par with Chromebooks that use a Bay Trail processor. Even with only 2GB of RAM, I was able to do a number of tasks without an issue and was able to have 6-7 tabs running before I started to notice any slowdown. Having more RAM would help with that. Like Bay Trail processors, the Rockchip is not the fastest, but it still works well in a Chromebook for what students usually use one for in the classroom. The Rockchip processor also allows for an amazing battery life and fanless design, which is great in a school setting.
The screen is a 11.6" glossy TN panel with a 1366x768 resolution instead of a matte one seen in most Chromebooks in this price range. The quality is acceptable for student use, but they do not have great viewing angles. The glossy screen is nicer to look at, but easily allows for a glare or reflection on the screen. I would still prefer a matte screen for school use.
The keyboard and the trackpad on the Asus C200 was one of my more favorite ones to use on Chromebooks in the $200-$300 price range. The trackpad is still as nice on the C201. It is very smooth and responsive to use.
Unfortunately, the keyboard was a different experience. I was not using the keyboard for long before the S key became a little "clicky" and not as responsive as it should be. For this particular situation, it could simply be the bad luck of a manufacturing defect on the unit I received. The bigger issue I had with it is that the casing and keyboard slightly bends with a key press. This occurred on the entire keyboard, but was more noticeable on the left side of it. I did a quick video from my cellphone to show you.
In addition, when I was streaming music with the audio at 50% or higher, I could actually feel a slight vibration along the keys when typing. I believe these things are more of a design issue with the C201 and not a manufacturer defect. I understand some corners may need cut on a $169 device, but it is disappointing that this seemed to happen in the keyboard area. Especially when it's predecessor had a much better experience.
I really like the power adapter for the Asus C201. It is designed more like a charger for tablets or phones, which makes it very easy to fit in the front pocket of a carry case. The connector that plugs into the Chromebook is similar to a Micro USB connection, but with more of a rectangle design. I think this design choice makes it a little more durable then the typical thin connectors we see on a number of other Chromebooks.
Asus claims that the C201 can provide up to 13 hours of battery life. In my Nyan Cat test to gauge the battery under a heavier use situation, I found the Asus C201 to get an amazing 12 hours and 26 minutes on a full charge with the screen at a 75% brightness. I think you should get around the claimed battery life with standard classroom use and the screen being dimmed.
I really wanted to like the C201. Asus did a number of things right with the C201 that I wish we would see in more Chromebooks such as the smaller power adapter, better battery life, and some of the overall design choices. It may not bother some people, but unfortunately I feel the way the casing and keyboard bends when typing is the Achilles' heel that negates all the other great things about the C201. When it comes to schools, if you are really needing a Chromebook around this price range, then the CTL J2 Chromebook may be a better option to consider. That model arrived on my doorstep today and I will have a review on it soon.
When it comes to the Rockchip processor though, I am pleasantly surprised with it's performance on a Chromebook and the affordability it allows. It also allows for some interesting form factors that we will soon be seeing with the Chromebook Flip and Chromebit devices.
The Asus C201 Chromebook starts at $169 for the 2GB model and $199 for the 4GB model.