Chromebook Asus C300

A Chromebook Compromise
The C300's pricing starts at a mere $249, so you have to expect some tradeoffs compared to a more expensive traditional laptop. For starters, the C300 comes with a relatively small amount of internal storage: either a 16GB or 32GB solid state drive (SSD), depending on the model you pick. That's because Google assumes that most of your files, like your applications, will reside in the cloud. (Conveniently, Google includes 100GB of Google Drive storage for 2 years with any Chromebook purchase.)

Also, the C300 comes equipped with a fairly meager Intel Celeron processor. That's usually not a big issue, since most of your computing will take place in the cloud on other people's servers. But for the times when you do run apps locally, you may notice a difference. That said, in our day-to-day use we had no problem with the speed of running apps, and streaming video worked just fine. The upside is battery life: We ran the C300 for almost 10 hours—including the heavy lifting of watching a streaming video—without having to plug in.

Chromebook Software

While the C300's physical attributes closely resemble a typical laptop, the lineages diverge when it comes to the software side of things. Chromebooks take a Web-centric view of the world, and in particular a Google-centric view. Click on the App Launcher (the Chrome OS equivalent of the Windows Start button), and you can open Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Hangouts. You'll also find icons for Google's online office suite apps: the the Google Docs word processor, Google Sheets spreadsheet program, and Google Slides presentation package.

But just because those icons are preloaded doesn't mean you are locked into using Google's online applications. The real beauty of a Chromebook is that you can use it to access any cloud service—accounting, CRM, storage/collaboration and a zillion other online apps. So if you prefer Microsoft Office 365 to Google Docs, point the C300's browser to it and get to work.

In addition, Google's Chrome Web Store has thousands more apps that run under the OS, including apps targeted at small businesses. No Internet connection? No problem. There are a range of offline apps—most notably Google's office-suite programs—that you can use when you don't have access to the Web.

And rumor has it that Google is working on an Android emulator for Chrome OS, which will let you run and sync Android apps on the C300 and other Chromebooks.

Will the ASUS C300—or any Chromebook for that matter—replace your office PC? Well, not yet. But you are likely to find it much more useful—and usable—on the go than a tablet, especially if you've committed your business to the world of cloud-based applications.

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