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Hands-on Gear Review
ASUS C201 Review
Price: $200 List
Pros: Fast web browsing, inexpensive, nice keyboard and trackpad
Cons: Screen isn’t as nice as some other models
Bottom line: A great machine at a low price, the perfect choice for someone on a budget
The ASUS C201 is the most inexpensive model we tested that still features 4GB of random Access Memory and all of the high end performance that comes along with that. We wouldn't suggest buying any Chromebook with less than 4GB of RAM, so this fact alone makes the C201 a great value. The C201 also did well in our interface testing as it had the most responsive trackpad and one one of our favorite keyboards. Top this great performance and interface off with a fairly portable body and decent screen and it's easy to see why the C201 picked up our Best Buy Award. If you're looking for an inexpensive Chromebook and don't want to make any sacrifices in performance the ASUS C201 fits the bill.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The ASUS C201 picked up a score of 8 out of 10 in our performance testing. This put it just behind the top score of 9, and far ahead of the low score of 3. It maintained good speed even when our multiple tab test got particularly tortuous. Right now I'm streaming a high definition Taylor Swift music video (don't judge, she speaks to me) with multiple other tabs open. Even with that workload editing my Google Doc is super smooth with absolutely no lag. I also have a Google Sheets document open. Editing that is similarly smooth, but switching between sheets within the document does have a noticeable delay. It's nothing major and not particularly annoying, but we did notice some small glitches like that during our testing when the C201's tab count got higher. This is what kept it from matching the top score of 9, but we still feel its performance will be more than enough for most users. In fact, this was one of the models everyone reached for during our 'use a Chromebook for work' days at the office. The C201 provides 16GB of internal flash storage. As Chromebooks are optimized for storing things on the cloud, this is a standard amount. There is a micro SD card slot that lends the ability to expand that memory. This can be useful if you want to save some Google documents or movies to the device before a flight for offline editing and viewing. The C201 has the longest reported battery life of any of the models we tested at 13 hours. It was always able to make it through one of our 9 hour workdays with a good amount left in the tank.
The ASUS C201 was one of the top models in our interface testing. It scored an 8 out of 10, just behind the high score of 9 and significantly better than the low score of 5. We were enamored with its trackpad, which felt very responsive and easy to click. It also never got that sticky feeling that can arise when you get the extra spicy salsa with your lunch burrito and your hands start to sweat a bit. The keyboard, likewise, was responsive and the keys had a pleasant, springy feel to them. The only thing that kept the C201 from earning the top score in this metric was its size. Considering its 11.6 inch body, the C201 does an admirable job of making both its keyboard and trackpad feel large. The top scorer, the Acer 14, has a 14 inch body. This gave it a good amount of extra real estate to play with, making its keyboard design feel more full sized and its trackpad much larger. That being said the C201's keyboard does not feel cramped. We used it for longer typing sessions and full work days with no complaints or finger cramps.
The ASUS C201 was one of the average scorers in our screen quality testing. It earned a 6 in a metric that saw scores ranging from 5 to 9. While this isn't a spectacular score, it is right in line with the majority of Chromebooks, so this shouldn't particularly dissuade you if you're considering the C201. The 11.6 inch screen size will certainly feel a bit small if you're used to staring at a more traditional 14 inch laptop screen. However, more and more people are watching movies and television shows on tablets and even smartphones, so for many that 11.6 inch size will feel plenty big. The screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768, making it just slightly better than 720p. This technically is a high definition resolution and most people will probably be quite pleased with how crisp video look. However, the cinephiles amongst us that are accustomed to full 1080p high definition or greater may wish the resolution were a bit better. We also did notice some minor color aberrations when looking at videos and photos on the C201's screen. This was barely noticeable in isolation, but in our side by side comparisons it was clear that in some instances the C201 displays colors that are somewhat less vibrant and true than other models. If you wanted to connect the C201 to a bigger screen it does have a micro HDMI port. This is slightly less convenient than the more common full sized HDMI, but it still gets the job done. Overall the C201's screen is completely serviceable, unless you're looking for a top notch, fully immersive movie watching experience.
The ASUS C201 scored a 7 out of 10 in our portability testing. This worked out to a fairly good score in a metric where most models scored between 5 and 7, and a single model earned a perfect 10. At 2.1 pounds it is incredibly light. In fact, it is only a tenth of a pound heavier than the much smaller ASUS Flip. That weight is nigh unnoticeable when in a backpack or bag. The 11.6 inch body can fit in most totes and rucksacks, and definitely does not take up too much space in a carry on. If lightweight and compact are on the top of your priority list, the ASUS C201 is a great choice. If you want something even more portable and don't mind a smaller screen and keyboard check out the ASUS Flip.
With a list price of $200 the ASUS C201 is a steal. Sure, you can get some other Chromebooks for slightly less, but they all only have 2GB of RAM, which renders them nearly unusable. The C201 delivers high end performance at a very low price. This great value is what earned it our Best Buy Award.
The ASUS C201 is a high performing Chromebook at a low price. If you're looking for an inexpensive and portable secondary machine it is hard to beat. If you want something to watch movies on you might want a bigger screen, or if you want something incredibly portable you might want something smaller. However, the C201 hits a nice balance between portability and functionality, without sacrificing performance, and does so at a low price. We doubt you'll be disappointed if you decide to go with the C201.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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