We’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first of many Intel Tiger Lake Chromebooks to ship in 2021 and I can tell you right off the bat that the device we’re looking at today – the ASUS Chromebook CX5 – does not disappoint when it comes to raw performance. Is that giving away too much right off the top? Maybe. But I’m hoping you stick around for just a bit to see why this 11th-gen Intel Chromebook is so special.
Let’s talk outside first
Right off the top, you can’t help but be impressed by the white exterior of this Chromebook. The aluminum lid and plastic bottom of the device are coated in the same type of finish, giving the entire thing a cohesive look and feel. And I absolutely love it. Things feel rigid, the plastic on the bottom side doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy, and the whole thing feels far more premium than the $569 asking price would suggest. At 4.2 pounds and 0.73-inches of thickness, you’re not going to forget about this 15.6-inch Chromebook in your bag, but that’s OK. You buy a 15-inch device to have extra space in every sense of the term, and this Chromebook makes great use of all that mass.
Around the outside of that white chassis, we have a great port selection with 2 USB Type C ports, a USB Type A port, microSD card slot, headphone/mic jack and a full sized HDMI port. You all know how much I like having that HDMI port on board, and this is just the first of many ways this Chromebook makes good use of the extra size it carries.
Crack open the fully-convertible lid and you’re met with an equally-stunning all-black interior that is finished in what ASUS is dubbing their obsidian velvet texture. Silly naming aside, this plastic finish looks great and more importantly, feels fantastic under your palms. Since we’re already talking about palm rests, let’s talk about the things you’re using while you’re resting those palms: the keyboard and trackpad. The keyboard is one of the best I’ve used with nice backlighting, great travel, and a quiet, confident click. ASUS reports 1.4mm of key travel and you can feel it. Oh, and there’s a numberpad to the right that is a tad bit on the narrow side, but nice to have when you need it. Again, this keyboard is yet another spot where this Chromebook uses it’s extra size to its advantage.
Below that excellent keyboard is a wide, glass trackpad that is great at doing all the things you need from a trackpad on a Chromebook. Gestures are smooth, tracking is accurate, and the click is just right. Because I’m very particular about my trackpad click, I did open my unit up and make some adjustments, but none of those changes have anything to do with the smoothness or size of this trackpad. I think nearly all users out there will love it right out of the box.
It’s at this point I have to point out probably my only real gripe with this Chromebook: the screen. Don’t get me wrong, I love 1080p on this 16:9 15.6-inch touch screen, and although the colors are nice and viewing angles are great, the overall brightness is a little bit of a letdown. At 250 nits, it isn’t a deal-breaker, but this Chromebook would’ve been damn-near perfect if this screen could have just crested over 300 nits. In most places, I kept it between 75% and 100% brightness and was fine, but the afternoon sun coming in the window by my desk made using this screen in the afternoons a real bummer. I understand dim panels on $300 Chromebooks, but not on $500+ models. This is a nagging issue that simply needs to go away in the mid-range Chromebook segment. 300 nits from now on, please!
A couple final notes on the screen: the bezels on the top and sides are reasonably small and out of the way – the top one does house the 720p webcam so it’s a bit thicker – touch response was great and the tent and presentation modes were particularly handy on a screen of this size for watching content on YouTube or Netflix. It is also USI pen compatible, so grab your favorite stylus and start writing or drawing to your heart’s content.
Intel Tiger Lake processors are legit
Alright, let’s talk about those internals, shall we? When this thing arrived, the absolute first thing we did after drooling all over the white-on-black color scheme was run benchmarks. And we weren’t disappointed. The numbers were absolutely gaudy, posting a 57,000 on Octane, a 165 on Speedometer 2.0 and a 147 in Jetstream 2.0. We have a post comparing it to the 10th-gen i7 and this 11th-gen Core i3 absolutely demolished that Chromebook. For reference, the 10th-gen Core i7 Chromebook had 16GB of RAM as well, and scored 42000 on Octane, 123 on Speedometer 2.0, and 106 on Jetstream 2.0. It wasn’t even a fair fight.
And need I remind you that this is the DUAL CORE i3 processor? That means the gains we’ll see in the upcoming quad-core i5 and i7 variations of these Tiger Lake Chromebooks will be just plain ridiculous. This performance leap is by far the biggest I’ve seen in a single generation for Chromebooks, and I’ve been keeping track since 3rd-gen Core processors were a thing. I can’t overstate how impressed I am at the sheer speed and performance of this CX5. With the 11th-gen Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of NVMe storage, this thing is bonkers-fast and it was a joy to use in every sense of the word. Nothing slows down, nothing drags, all your animations are buttery smooth, and the battery performs just as you’d want, giving you 8-10 hours on a charge without any real issue. The fans kicked on from time to time, were quiet and out of the way, and I never saw any throttling due to thermals while I was using it. Oh, and as expected, we have Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 on board, so connections stayed smooth and fast, too.
Before we wrap up, I have to give a quick nod to the speakers on this thing. Man was I shocked the first time I fired up a video. And just like the keyboard, the HDMI port and the fans, this is another area where ASUS took advantage of the extra space available to them in this chassis. The sound is loud, crisp, full and the type of sound I expect when wielding a Chromebook of this size. I wouldn’t say they trump the reigning speaker king in the Pixelbook Go, but they get really close. I LOVED listening to content on these speakers.
Overall, I’m just so pleased with this Chromebook. It looks great, feels great, is fun to use, and it outperforms any Chromebook I’ve ever used by a long shot. Sure, I’d like the screen to be a bit brighter, but the complete package on offer here is simply too good to get overly bothered by that. I’d reckon that if ASUS had put a bright panel in this and kept the $569 price tag, I’d be ready to label it the best overall Chromebook you can buy right now. It just gets so much right and it has me excited to see what future Tiger Lake Chromebooks bring to the table the rest of this year and very excited to be able to easily recommend picking up this CX5 if a bigger Chromebook is your thing.