The Asus makes a good impression but the slow spec lets it down
Pros Very slim and lightGood battery lifeDecent 11.6in screenCons Dated specificationInconsistent keyboardPoor performance
Remember when all Chromebooks were cheap and sometimes cheerful laptops, aimed squarely at cost-conscious home users and even more cost-conscious schools? Well, the Asus Chromebook C233 takes us right back to 2014 when Chromebooks like the Samsung Chromebook 2 and HP Chromebook 11 were the norm, giving you something much more usable than the old Windows Netbooks for roughly the same kind of price. What’s more, it makes a decent first impression for such a bargain-basement device.
Asus Chromebook C233 review: What you need to know
The C233 is very much your classic budget Chromebook, with a low-end Celeron processor, an 11.6-inch HD screen and little in the way of extras. It’s designed for browsing, light entertainment duties and running web-based apps, though, like any modern Chromebook, it can also now run Android apps.
As it runs Chrome OS, you lose some of the flexibility and the broad application base of Windows, but you gain in incredibly quick start-up times and a lightweight, hassle-free OS with inherently strong security and trouble-free background updates. One limitation is the 32GB of onboard eMMC storage, but that’s only likely to become an issue if you install a lot of Android apps.
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Asus Chromebook C233 review: Price and competition
The Chromebook C233 is far from alone in this market, with 11.6in Chromebooks from Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo all available for around the same price. Lenovo’s IdeaPad 3 Chromebook (11in) is probably the biggest competitor, with a faster CPU but a more clunky design and a weaker screen. Another £30 to £50 will move you into 14in Chromebook territory, with machines like the Acer Chromebook 314 and HP Chromebook 14-db0003na, so that’s worth thinking about if you find the Asus too small for comfort.
Asus Chromebook C233 review: Design
As we said, the Asus Chromebook C233 makes a decent first impression for a cut-price Chromebook and comes in a sporty red finish as well as the more traditional metallic grey. It’s roughly the size of an A4 pad and very slim at just 1.73cm closed, while the weight is precisely 1kg. The all-plastic construction feels cheap, and the lid is thin and a little too flexible for comfort, but the actual build feels very solid by budget Chromebook standards, even if our review unit had developed some scuffs on the base before we got our hands on it.
Connectivity is roughly what you’d expect for a bog-standard 11.6in Chromebook, with two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C ports, both supporting DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs with a dock or adaptor, along with power delivery for charging the device. There’s also a single USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and a micro-SD card slot.
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Asus Chromebook C233 review: Keyboard and touchpad
It’s when you get to basic usability that things start to go awry. The touchpad is fine. It’s over 10cm wide with a smooth plastic finish and very responsive to swipes and taps. It’s not awkward or difficult to get the click at the front to actuate, nor does it get sticky like some budget Chromebook touchpads seem to do.
The keyboard, however, is a different story. Sure, it has plenty of travel and little off-putting flex in the centre, but the action feels very light and weirdly inconsistent, making it difficult at times to work out if it’s registered a keystroke or not. Oddly, the keyboard on the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook makes a worse first impression but turns out to be better in everyday use.
Asus Chromebook C233 review: Display and sound
By the generally low standards of budget Chromebooks and their sub-£250 Windows equivalents, the screen on the C233 isn’t half bad. Admittedly, it doesn’t look great in tests. We measured brightness at a maximum of 202.9cd/m², so it’s nowhere near bright enough for use outdoors in strong sunlight, while colour reproduction isn’t its strong suit; it can only manage a miserable 56.8% of the sRGB colour gamut and a Delta-E of 7.67 isn’t exactly brilliant.
Yet the C233 still produces a crisper image with more contrast and colour depth than, say, the Acer Chromebook 311 or the IdeaPad 3 Chromebook, and YouTube video and Stadia games look better than they have any right to on a device this cheap. What’s more, they also sound better; the output from the downward firing speakers near the front is surprisingly big, if lacking in finesse.
Asus Chromebook C233 review: Performance and battery life
Overall, then, this isn’t a bad Chromebook for the money – until, that is, you get to the performance. This one’s based on the old dual-core Celeron N3350, a dual-core Apollo Lake processor that debuted in 2016, and it feels like it’s five years old.
You won’t have any problems with a couple of tabs open running simple web-based applications but keep opening new tabs and you’ll run into waits and pauses, even with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM fitted. Across all out standard Chromebook benchmarks, from Speedometer to CRXprt to MotionMark, it’s the slowest model we’ve tested this year, and the same results were backed up by the Geekbench 5 Android CPU benchmark, where the Asus scored just 268 in single-core and 514 in the multi-core test.
Still, there’s better news on the battery front. Set to loop a video with the brightness set to 170cd/m2 and all wireless connectivity turned off, the C233 ran out of charge just 11 minutes shy of 12 hours. It might feel slow while you’re using it, but the C233 will keep on going all day long.
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Asus Chromebook C233 review: Verdict
Nobody dreams of getting a budget Chromebook, but the C223 is nearly a very likable device. It looks good, it’s light and compact and the screen is fine for the money. The keyboard isn’t great, but it’s not absolutely awful. Yet it’s impossible to ignore the slow spec or the poor performance. You can’t expect high speeds for under £200, but the C223 is just too slow to recommend.