One of the best Chromebooks to release this year was the ASUS Chromebook CX9. As a matter of fact, it is so good that it took the top spot in our high-end category for Best Chromebooks of 2021 and there’s little reason to think that it won’t hold that spot for quite some time. ASUS did a superb job of building a truly top-notch Chromebook in the CX9 and other than not being able to perform any convertible tricks, this device checks all the boxes.
And though it does nearly everything well, one of my favorite parts of the device is the screen. At 14-inches, it is the right size to make the 16:9 aspect ratio not feel cramped and with its tiny bezels, it puts off a modern, sleek vibe that is both very attractive and immersive. The screen is vibrant and bright, too, coming in at over 400 nits of brightness while maintaining very wide viewing angles as well.
More pixels, more problems
Sure, I like taller screens and I think something like a 16:10 aspect ratio would go a long way towards improving the user experience, here, but I can’t say enough how much I enjoy this 1080p screen on the CX9. It really is great to work from and is a stunning display on an overall stunning Chromebook.
And now it’s available in 4K! That’s great, right? The more pixel density, the better, isn’t that what they say? Actually, I’d firmly disagree. If upgrading to 4K brought along more brightness, better viewing angles or a vastly better viewing experience, I’d likely change my mind. But this upgrade to 4K does a few things that I’m not really fond of, especially when the existing FHD screen is already so good. The bump in pixels on the screen will barely make a visual difference, but it will impact a lot of other parts of the Chromebook experience in a negative way.
First, all those extra pixels have to be redrawn each and every time the screen has any animations happening. Over time, that adds up and means you’ll see degraded performance out of the same machine when you compare one displaying 1080p versus 4K. With literally 4X the number of pixels to push, you have to remember that 4K screens are basically like your Chromebook’s processor pushing 4 total 1080p displays all the time. It’s a lot more work on the CPU.
Second, all that pixel pushing harms the battery. Take any 4K Chromebook and look at the battery life. Gone are those 10-12 hour battery life estimates, and in most cases your charge will only get you about 5-6 hours or worse. Again, remember how much more work is being done just to animate that screen over and over. It takes a toll.
And for a feature that – on a 14-inch display, at least – isn’t much of a difference maker, I’d argue that those are pretty steep costs for very little benefit. And while we’re talking about cost, 4K screens always up that asking price, so not only are you losing performance and battery, you are paying more to do so. For larger screens, I get it. More pixels make a smoother image with clearer text, but for a 14-inch Chromebook, I’d advise you to save your hard-earned cash and buy a sweet backpack to keep your Chromebook from hitting the pavement.