The Chromebook C201 is the latest laptop from the Taiwanese tech giant Asus to run Google’s cloud-focused Chrome OS.
It doesn’t aim to rework the Chromebook wheel and, like the stellar Toshiba Chromebook 2, targets the affordable end of the laptop market .
While not terribly original, the Asus Chromebook C201 is a compelling value for money laptop – if it’s used in areas with solid internet connections.
Related: Best laptops 2015
Outside of Google’s Pixel Chromebook, Chrome OS powered laptops traditionally feature fairly unassuming, plasticy designs and low-end internals.
The Chromebook C201 is no different and features a dark blue plastic case which, outside of its Chrome and Asus branding, doesn’t feature any notable design features.
While the design does teater on dull, it ticks all the important boxes when it comes to connectivity and portability.
Measuring in at 287 x 194 x 17.9 mm and weighing 0.98 kg, the Chromebook C201 is perfectly satchel sized and light enough to carry around without breaking your back.
It’s also pretty well built. Carrying it around between meetings, the Chromebook managed to survive more than a couple of hairy situations.
These included an accidental drop onto a hardwood floor from a coffee table, as well as an encounter with the a tube barrier while I was sprinting to get the last train. In both situations the Chromebook survived mark and chip free.
Asus' latest Chrome OS laptop is also reasonably well connected by Chromebook standards. The Chromebook C201 features a microSD, micro HDMI, audio jack and two USB 2.0 ports.
Related: 8 Best Laptops for Students in 2015
Putting aside my grievances about there not being a single newer and faster USB 3.0, my only real bugbear with its design is the Chromebook C201’s use of a proprietary charging port.
The 2013 HP Chromebook 11’s use of a standard microSD charging cable was a serious selling point that made it quick and easy to top up the laptops charge. I’m sad more Chromebook makers haven’t followed suit, though with USB-C being the new vogue item, I can understand why Asus hasn’t used the older connector.
For those looking to video call or conference using the Chromebook C201, Asus has loaded it with an HD front facing web camera, which proved more than competent for chats on Skype and Hangouts during my tests.
The keyboard and touchpad proved equally competent, despite feeling slightly cheap. The plastic keyboard keys have a reactive and snappy feel and are pleasant to type on. The touchpad is also suitably reactive and picks up taps, pokes and two finger gestures hassle-free.
Screen tech is always one of the first areas sacrificed when companies create affordable devices.
This remains true on the Chromebook C201, which features a 11.6-inch 1366 x 786 HD screen. While it matches the cheaper HD 13.3-inch Toshiba Chromebook 2’s resolution, using the Asus laptop, I noticed a few issues with the screen.
For starters, colours on the display are very cool, to the point they look slightly dull and washed out. Reds are particularly washed out and lack any real dynamism. Adding to the screen’s issues, whites have a bit of a murky hue, which hints to me the screen hasn’t been calibrated very well.
I’m also a little disappointed Asus isn’t offering a Full HD option, like Toshiba does with the Chromebook 2.
That said, the Asus Chromebook C201’s screen is usable. While it’s not the sharpest, text and icons are legible and I never found myself straining to read web pages, or documents. Brightness levels, while far from dazzling are also adequate.
Viewing angles aren’t great, but being fair to Asus, the screen is on a par with most £200 laptops’ – it’s just not as good as its main competitor, the Toshiba Chromebook 2.