Chromebook displays are generally on the small side, but now larger options are finally starting to sprout up. A giant compared to its direct competitors, the Asus Chromebook C523NA flaunts a large 15.6-inch, 1080p panel. You get that crisp display along with an aluminum chassis and good performance for just $349. However, the C523NA's short battery life damages its strong value.
Asus Chromebook C523NA Price and Configuration Options
The Chromebook C523NA is available in two configurations. For $269, the base model gets you a 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768-resolution nontouch display, an Intel Celeron N3350 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The $349 model I reviewed has better specs across the board, including a 1080p touch screen, a Pentium N4200 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of flash storage.
Lightweight, slim and made of metal, the Chromebook C523NA isn't your average budget laptop. In fact, it's so convincing that I would have been kicked off the Price Is Right if I had been asked to guess the laptop's price based on its design alone.
The Chromebook C523NA's aluminum chassis distracted me from its bland appearance. A plain silver finish extends from the lid to the deck, a chrome Asus logo and colorful Chrome orb adorn the top of the laptop, and the only contrast on this machine comes from its black keyboard.
There was minimal lid flex when I applied pressure to the C523NA, which is reassuring, and even somewhat unusual for an aluminum laptop in this price range.
Without the razor-thin bezels we've seen on other laptops, the Chromebook C523 has a wide chassis, at 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.6 inches. Still, that's a good deal smaller than its 15-inch competitor, the Acer Chromebook 15 (14.9 x 10.1 x 0.8 inches). The 11-inch Dell Chromebook 5190 (12 x 8.2 x 0.8 inches) is predictably smaller than the Asus, but it's much thicker.
The Chromebook C523NA's 3.8-pound weight is nicely distributed across its frame, making it feel light. The Acer Chromebook 15 weighs a bit less at 3.7 pounds, while the smaller Dell Chromebook 5190 weighs in at 2.9 pounds.
You won't have any problems connecting other gadgets to the C523NA, thanks to its four USB ports.
Each side of the laptop houses a USB 3.1 Type-A and USB Type-C port for charging and plugging in peripherals, like a mouse and keyboard.
You'll also find a microSD card slot and a headphone/mic jack on the left side of the C523NA.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that such a low-cost laptop comes equipped with a 1080p touch-screen display. Although the 15.6-inch panel isn't the most colorful, the amount of detail it reveals puts it ahead of other budget laptops.
When I watched a trailer for the upcoming action sequel John Wick 3: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum, I could see individual drops of rain falling on our battered protagonist as he evaded the world's top assassins. On the down side, while I could read the billboard advertisements behind Keanu Reeves, the illuminated signs reflected muted color against a soaked concrete street.
The display was harsh on my eyes when I browsed some of my favorite websites. White balance was on the warm side and whites, in general, were overexposed, making some web pages appear bleached.
I wasn't surprised to discover that the C523NA's display covers only 76 percent of the sRGB color gamut. While the displays on the Acer Chromebook 15 (69 percent) and the Dell Chromebook 5190 (73 percent) are even less colorful, the Asus Chromebook failed to reach the category average (81 percent).
Conversely, the C523NA's display (231 nits) topped the Chromebook category average (221 nits) for maximum brightness, but it isn't as luminous as the 11-inch panel on the Dell Chromebook 5190 (258 nits). The Acer Chromebook 15's display peaked at a dim 215 nits.
The C523NA can also be configured with a 1366 x 768-pixel nontouch display. We recommend 1080p as a minimum display resolution, but the lower-end C523NA model may offer better battery life.
The optional touch screen is a convenient addition. However, the C523NA can only be folded flat and can't be flipped into tablet mode, limiting its versatility as a touch-ready device.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The island-style keyboard on the C523NA provides a decent typing experience.
Adequate spacing between the standard-sized keys prevented me from accidentally tapping the wrong letter. I also didn't bottom out because, despite its relatively slim profile, the laptop's flat black keys depress 1.5 millimeters (which meets our 1.5-mm to 2-mm key travel recommendation). Better yet, the key's 62 grams of actuation force allowed me to type at a quick pace, although I wish they were a bit more tactile.
I typed at 103 words per minute with a 94 percent accuracy rate on the 10FastFingers typing test. My typical averages are slightly higher, at 109 wpm with 95 percent accuracy.
I had no problems using the 4 x 2.8-inch touchpad to move my cursor around the web and execute Chrome OS gestures, like a three-finger swipe up to open all windows.
The dual speakers on the bottom of the Chromebook C523 were loud enough to fill a spacious room, but the tunes I listened to sounded thin. When I blared John Mayer's 2001 hit song "No Such Thing," the strum of the acoustic guitar was sharp and the sound of the cymbal clashes was piercing. That's a shame, because Mayer's smooth vocals would have sounded crisp and clear if the high frequencies hadn't ruined the presentation. As expected, Swae Lee's verses were nicely defined in the Ray Sremmurd song "Black Beatles," but the low end lacked weight.
My low performance expectations were proven wrong by the Chromebook C523 when it swiftly opened 15 Google Chrome tabs while I streamed an Australian Open tennis match. There was a brief delay when I loaded a pair of 1080p YouTube videos, but it didn't take long before everything was fully rendered.
Equipped with a quad-core Intel Pentium N4200 CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Chromebook C523 did a solid job in our benchmark tests. The laptop scored a 4,698 on the Geekbench 4 test, which measures overall performance. That edges out the Dell Chromebook 5190 (Intel Celeron N3450, 4,193) and nearly doubles the category average (2,469).
With an integrated HD Graphics 505 GPU, the C523 isn't meant to run anything beyond what you can download in the Play Games store. For those less-demanding games, the C523 will do just fine. The laptop displayed 500 fish at a smooth 66 frames per second on the WebGL Aquarium benchmark test. That tops the Dell Chromebook 5190 (46 fps), Acer Chromebook 15 (51 fps) and the category average (49 fps).
Chromebooks are now the most popular laptops in the K-12 market, and it's easy to see why. Chrome OS is a simple, streamlined operating system centered on the ubiquitous Chrome web browser. The interface has a familiar layout, with a task bar on the bottom and shortcut icons in the lower-right corner. The OS is secure and easy to use, making it a great fit for low-cost laptops targeted at students.
Google added Android app support to Chromebooks, greatly expanding what you can do on a Chrome OS laptop. However, there are still some compatibility kinks to iron out. I noticed those issues right away when I fired up a Snake game that took up only about a third of the Chromebook C523NA's large display. Fortunately, our touch-screen C523NA avoided some of the annoyances created by Android apps that were written for touch input.
I expect Chromebooks to last an entire school day on a charge, but the Chromebook C523NA barely makes it past lunch. The laptop powered down after just 6 hours and 30 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits. That's a poor result, considering the average Chromebook (9:04) and Acer Chromebook 15 (9:07) endured for just over 9 hours, while the Dell Chromebook 5190 (9:30) stayed powered for more than 3 hours longer than the Asus.
The 720p webcam above the Chromebook C523NA's display takes blurry, muddy pictures. My facial features were indistinct in a selfie I shot in my brightly lit apartment.
The camera also did a poor job capturing the color of my sweater, which appeared dark grey instead of forest green. The webcam is good enough for a quick chat with a teacher or parent, but you'll want an external solution for frequent use.
The C523NA's fans did an excellent job dispersing heat across the laptop's wide aluminum frame, preventing it from ever reaching uncomfortable temperatures. Even after we played a 15-minute HD video in full screen, the bottom of the C523NA heated to only 89 degrees Fahrenheit, well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. The rest of the laptop was even cooler, with the touchpad reaching only 80 degrees and the center of the keyboard topping out at 88 degrees.
Warranty and Support
The Chromebook C523NA is a lot of laptop for not a lot of money. For just $359, you get a large and detailed display, an aluminum chassis and adequate performance for everyday use. While I wish the display were more vivid, it's much harder to overlook the laptop's poor battery life.
For the same money, you can purchase the Acer Chromebook 15. This 15.6-inch laptop is extremely similar to the C523NA, but at more than 9 hours, it offers significantly longer battery life. Alternatively, the Dell Chromebook 5190 also has all-day endurance, and its rugged chassis is a reassuring feature if you're purchasing a laptop for your child.
Overall, the Asus Chromebook C523NA is a good option if you want a Chromebook with a large display, but we'd choose the Acer instead.
Credit: Laptop Mag