How do you ensure that your child is studying on their laptop, and not distracted by something else? Aside from putting parental locks in place, you could give them a laptop that’s just about powerful enough to do the very basics. I may not be winning any parent-of-the-year awards, but the laptop we’re reviewing feels like it's been made with just that thought process.
At first glance, the Asus Chromebook C523’s size will make you believe that this is a powerful machine, but in reality, it is anything but. It aims to be your go-to machine during these study-from-home times, and it has certainly launched at the right time. But does that make it a must-have for a student? Read on.
If the ROG laptops are the backbenchers and the VivoBooks the front benchers, the Chromebook C523 is among those comfortable sitting in the middle. It neither stands out in terms of its looks nor its performance.
Almost as if not wanting to distract students with anything, the C523 dons a platinum plastic coat with a smooth plain surface without any of the embellishments seen on Asus’ mainstream laptops. The plastic keeps the weight on the lower side, and can also hide fingerprints and a few scratches. The overall build quality is quite good, and seems capable of handling rough use.
Among the highlights of the Chromebook C523 is its 15.6in FHD display that is large enough to read all your notes with minimal scrolling, and also see your teacher as clearly as you would in your classroom. There are slim-ish bezels around the screen that make the laptop look more premium than it actually is.
The display is bright enough, but colour accuracy is not among its strengths, and this comes to the fore when watching a video or looking at photos. The glossy coating on top of the screen tends to attract fingerprints, which is unfortunate since it is quite a decent touchscreen. It is also quite reflective, so legibility goes for a toss when sitting near a window on a sunny day.
An interesting feature is the hinge that bends all the way 180 degrees so your laptop’s body and screen sit flush on a surface. As to why you would need to flatten the display all the way in day-to-day use is anyone’s guess. I come from a generation where a smooth surface like this would have served as a perfect space to play a made-up game with your desk partner. But I doubt kids these days are into such things.
Powering the laptop is an Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core chipset, which is just about capable of handling the lightweight ChromeOS with relative ease. And this is where we come to the best bit about the laptop – the OS.
The always-online operating system is quite easy to use, and it’s like running an Android OS on a laptop. Everything is optimised for the OS, including the Chrome browser, which otherwise is notorious for bringing even monster computers to their knees.
You get access to a lot of apps via the Google Play Store, but a majority of them will still give you the mobile experience. It isn’t an issue as long as you’re using the popular work and study apps. Performance is decent even with a couple of apps open in the background. So it’s best suited for a student, and even basic office work. But try pushing it even a bit, and the laptop starts running out of breath.
Despite being targeted at remote working/studying scenarios, it is disappointing to see the webcam’s performance. There is no getting away from grainy images, and you feel transported to the early 90’s era when HD was still a thing you see in sci-fi.
The biggish dimensions means plenty of space for a full-fledged keyboard. The keys are well spaced out, and it is decent enough to type on. The trackpad though feels compatibility smaller, and the touch response could have been better. You’ll be better served using an external mouse.
One thing you will not be doing while using this Chromebook is being chained to a desk near a power socket. The lightweight OS and low processing power translates into an all-day battery life. Even with multiple apps open in the background, I was able to get through an entire work day without using the charger.
The Asus Chromebook C523 has a very specific audience in mind, and it serves them well. Students, for instance, will enjoy a laptop that doesn’t feel cramped like most other Chromebooks, and parents will be happy with the price tag. For others it can serve as a secondary Android device that looks like a laptop.