Two things generally come to mind when I think about Chromebooks; expensive and limited in terms of what they’re capable of. After spending a week with the Asus Chromebook C302 however, my stance on Chromebooks has changed almost completely. Priced at $499, The Asus Chromebook works well for those in need of a laptop or for someone looking to get a new tablet, offering a premium product for one of the lowest prices on the market.
The Asus Chromebook has a nice, minimalistic design to it, using a design similar to Asus’ previous model, the Asus Chromebook C100. The C302 is built with an all-aluminum chassis with an anodized finish. Something setting it apart from other Chromebooks currently available is just how thin the screen is. Weighing in at only 2.6 pounds, the Asus Chromebook is both light and thin. Thanks to a magnetic clasp, the screen is able to fit perfectly against the underside of the notebook when flipped, turning it into a large tablet. When using it as a laptop, I found the 1.4mm keyboard to be extremely comfortable, and the light feature helped when it comes to typing in the dark. While the trackpad does nothing special worth speaking about, it functions well enough that I have nothing to say against it. Overall, the design of the Asus Chromebook fits in line with what you would expect from a modern laptop, but its small size and light weight build really help it to stand out.
With a 12.5 inch screen, the C302’s 1,920 x 1,080 display is sharp enough given the screen size. Colours in photos and videos are strong and text is clearly readable on the device. The Asus Chromebook C302 uses a 720p camera, which does the job well enough but isn’t perfect for taking pictures, often looking a bit grainy. On the audio side of the spectrum, flaws are a bit more noticeable. While the volume is able to be raised to high levels, the sound quality greatly decreases the higher you go. When it comes to watching videos or listening to music, headphones are recommended.
The Asus Chromebook C302 uses an 0.99Ghz Intel Core m3-6Y30 (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 2.2GHz) processor. While it isn’t the best that’s available right now, this hybrid device is far from slow. Even with multiple tabs opened and a video playing in the back, The Notebook never stopped performing smoothly. The Asus C302 also uses an Intel HD Graphics 515 graphic card, one of the weaker cards out there and not the recommended choice when it comes to graphically heavy games.
As someone who’s generally used Windows OS systems on any type of computer, I didn’t think a Chrome OS device would work well for me. I was surprised with just how streamlined everything was, however. The running joke “Google owns everything” almost feels true when using a device that runs on Chrome, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. After turning on the device, you’re asked to sign in to your Google account. From there, everything from your Gmail to Google Drive to Youtube will automatically be signed in, assuming you’re associated with these Google-owned features, of course. Notifications such as new videos uploaded to YouTube will appear in the lower right corner. This also applies to any notifications received by downloaded Android apps.
Yes, the Google Play Store is available on the Asus Chromebook C302, sort of. Unfortunately, the only way to access the store right now was to switch onto a beta channel of the Chrome OS, something that’s sure to change once all the kinks are worked out. There weren’t many major issues I ran into when using apps downloaded from the Play Store, some of the apps even work while still in laptop mode. Having the Play Store made this notebook feel like one of the best tablets I’ve ever used. I was able to swipe around on Instagram and twitter and also play a number of different mobile games on the device. Though, certain apps crashed or didn’t scale properly to fit the screen size. While an app like Twitter worked fine in portrait mode or otherwise, mobile apps generally aren’t designed for devices with a touchpad and keyboard. Do keep in mind that the Google Play Store integration hasn’t been fully implemented yet, so these issues will hopefully be worked out in the future. Even with the small flaws I found, this feature makes the C302 feel even more like a tablet than before and I can’t imagine a future Chromebook release being able to measure up without it.
The battery life for the Asus Chromebook C302 is another one of its notable features, lasting around eleven hours without charge. With apps running in the background and multiple tabs running, the C302 lasted a little over seven hours with regular use. Fortunately, the notebook only takes around an hour to charge from zero to one hundred percent.
My time with the Asus Chromebook C302 was something special. With all of the uses, it has and it’s low-cost, I’m tempted to buy one despite already owning a tablet of my own. The Google Play Store really helps to make this feel like a proper hybrid between a laptop and a tablet, and with updates released almost daily, I’m sure it will be fully functional soon. The speaker quality is my only real complaint about from what is otherwise an almost perfect device. I recommend this device for anyone even slightly interested in purchasing a Chromebook.