Asus C302 - a rather biased review

So I got myself a new toy computer, a Chromebook to be precise. It’s my first non Macbook computer in 5 years. Hardware-wise I’m a massive Mac fan, but hardly use any Apple services or software products, apart from the OS and a few apps. Instead I’m deeply tied to the Google ecosystem. A Chromebook might be a logical choice then.

The device I got is the brand spanking new Asus C302, unveiled a few weeks ago at CES. It cost me 650 pounds and is one of the most expensive chromebooks on the market, with the exception of the Pixel or the new Samsung offerings.

I would like to share my first impressions about it, and figure out whether it’s a good buy or I’ll be writing it off as Yet Another Stupid Purchase.

What I need it for

I got this little thing for a particular reason. My main development computer is a 15” Macbook Pro - the one with the emoji bar and the utter lack of ports four absolutely genius USB-C ports. While it’s quite light and practical, and awesome for all my development needs, I wanted something even simpler, less expensive, mainly for travel. I travel to a lot of conferences and events and anything that allows me to pack even lighter I consider awesome. I also wanted a “proper” laptop, as I don’t really believe in tablets.

A logical choice would be the little Macbook, but I didn’t feel like spending 1200 pounds for that. Sorry but not sorry. So I saw this and felt yes please.

The boring stuff specs

Screen: It has a 12.5” 1080p display that rotates all the way back, allowing me to use it as a laptop, a tent (/), in-bed Netflix machine (laptop with the screen forward and keyboard facing down), and a tablet. Of course, it also has a touch screen.

Internals: My lappy has 8GB of memory (upgrade from 4GB which is the base model sold at Amazon) and 64GB of built in flash storage and the Intel m3 processor. Processor can be upgraded to a m7, which isn’t really necessary according to the perf comparisons I’ve seen. The RAM seems a good idea for obvious reasons because Chrome seems to be a memory hog.

Ports: It has 2 USB-C ports you can charge it with. For some reason it only outputs video to my external monitor from the right one. I need to contact ASUS for clarification on this. It also has a SD card slot (lol), and a headphone jack (apparently that’s useful information now). Keyboard is nice, backlit with long key travel, just the layout is all weird (for a Mac user I suppose).

What it seems to be good at

It’s portable AF. Light, slick, with decent build quality. I’ve had my share of shitty plastic laptops before getting a Mac. This looks fine and feels good.

It runs Android apps in tablet mode. Android apps are cool. Touch screen works. I like the fact that I can use my Android OnePassword and Skype on the phone. With my Android knowledge I’ve started thinking of building tablet apps that can be used nicely on the Chromebook.

Display is good enough. Not perfect, but good enough. The lack of pixels gives you extra performance. Some people prefer a 3:2 display but I’m not too fussed, as I mostly use it in laptop mode.

I don’t need to think about the battery. Batteries are supposed to last and this one seems to do a good job. Works all day with light use (unless you run Skype in which case it’s your damn problem and you should’ve known better).

Chrome apps with a working offline mode are sweet. It’s not just an online machine anymore, which is nice.

I like it for writing. The “lack of features” is also good for avoiding distraction. I’m writing this review on it, using the editor called Text - a Chrome app that runs in offline mode. I still need to find my favourite writing software for it. Or build it.

Netflix and Amazon Video work fine. It’s also better to watch it in bed than a Mac, because of the versatility that only a flippable display can offer.

I can charge my Mac, Pixel phone and this Chromebook with the same charger. What a time to be alive. Luddites should embrace the future, it’s bright.

It’s quite easy to setup a VPN connection. That functionality is built in and just work nicely.

I need to check, but it’s possible that I might be able to avoid stowing it in the overhead compartment on a plane if I have it in “tablet mode” and pretend the keyboard on the back doesn’t exist. We’ll see in a few weeks.

It doesn’t try to force me to use Safari, Apple Maps, or iTunes. I like the Chrome focus.

##What sucks

I miss Deckset - my presentation software that only works on Mac. Still haven’t found a good replacement for it. I guess I’ll try Slides or Google Slides for my next talk.

As I mentioned, I have no clue whether the external display not working on the left USB port is by design, or ASUS being shit. I need to speak to a support person to confirm.

It makes a weird noise. A PC noise. Weird clicky-rasky noise like something hasn’t been put together properly. It’s annoying if using it in silence, but I might learn to ignore it.

The verdict

So far I think it’s great. Definitely worth the money. I still need to try it out abroad, use it for my talks and give the offline mode a proper trial.

I also think that Chrome OS is a valid computing platform for most people. Definitely not development, but regular usage should be fine. I’m also doing some Javascripty stuff at work currently, so I’ll see how that fares in a few weeks when I try it out for some of that.

The future seems bright, and red, yellow, green and blue, with a hint of Material design.