- Flashy, white exterior
- Rigid chassis
- 300 nit anti-glare screen
- Fast internals
- Comfy backlit keyboard
- Diverse I/O
- Trackpad is jittery
- Trackpad is not set in well
- Some surfaces feel cheap
- No touchscreen
- Sharp edges on some spots
It’s time for another Chromebook Plus review. One by one, we’re tackling them all, and If you haven’t yet watched or read the others, you can check them out here. The gist of Chromebook Plus in a nutshell is this: create a solid hardware baseline for new Chromebooks that helps facilitate a great user experience across the board. While hardware specs alone don’t 100% translate to user experience, Google has done well with this first batch of Chromebook Plus devices in delivering a universally-great experience across the board, and that includes the device we’re talking about today: the ASUS CX54.
This is a good-looking Chromebook
Right off the bat, you’ll notice this Chromebook. It’s white, it’s angular, and it doesn’t look like any of the other Chromebook Plus models at this point. Though that all-white chassis is plastic, it is firm and rigid, making the outer portions of this Chromebook one of my favorite features. If it were gray or navy blue, it would look a lot like most other ASUS Chromebooks. But this white color looks sweet and I’m glad ASUS chose to add this bit of flair.
But the chassis isn’t perfect. Some of the seams are a tad bit sharp, and though it looks nice, the plastic used on the lid and the keyboard deck is not textured at all, and it feels a tad bit cheap to the touch. It’s no a deal breaker in the least, but there are better tactile plastics out there for sure, and the ultra-slick surface is a bit of a turn off.
And speaking of the keyboard deck, this one comes with a great backlit keyboard that performed very well for me during my testing period. There’s plenty of travel and feedback, and I was very accurate the entire time I used the CX54. My only gripe here comes back to ASUS’ gray key caps that look fine when the backlight is fully off or fully on, but not anywhere between. I’ve complained about it before, and the same goes here: you’ll need to adjust it to either extreme each time you open the lid.
While we’re at it, I’ll go ahead and give you my only other big gripe with this Chromebook: the trackpad. I found it to be unnecessarily jiggly when moving the cursor on-screen. While not unusable, I felt the usual precision I’m used to from Chromebook trackpads was missing here. Part of that is likely the plastic used for the surface, which I found to be nowhere near as good as glass and less smooth than most other plastic or mylar trackpads.
But the other issue was the wobble in the physical click mechanism. Like we’ve seen with other Chromebooks in the past, the trackpad isn’t quite seated in place where it should be, and that means you get a tiny bit of movement before you actually get the trackpad down to the physical click mechanism. It just feels janky and cheap and really shakes overall confidence in the trackpad when it is needed. Hopefully this isn’t true of all units, but it was definitely there on ours.
A fantastic screen
Above all of that sits a great non-touch screen that hits 300 nits of brightness, has an anti-glare coating, and generally performs quite well. The colors are punchy, and with the glare being handled by the matte finish, the 300 nits gets by in most lighting situations just fine. It’s a standard 14-inch 16:9 screen though, so if you were hoping for one of those more-spacious 16:10 screens, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The camera above that screen is quite good, too, coming in at 1080p with the standard Chromebook Plus temporal noise reduction, background blur and lighting corrections ready for use in any app. The details on this camera are quite good and even shooting a selfie with it doesn’t look half bad. Kudos to ASUS for getting this part very right. And pairing this screen and camera up with a decent pair of stereo speakers, you have a device that is pretty great for video calls, but maybe not the best for longer video watching sessions. For that, I’d recommend a set of earbuds for sure.
Fast and well-connected
Like many of the Chromebook Plus models out there, the CX54 comes packed with ports, giving you a couple USB Type C ports, two Type A ports, a full-sized HDMI port, and a headphone/mic jack. You won’t need a docking solution unless you simply want to clean up your cable management at the desk. Also like other Chromebook Plus models, you have the 12th-gen Intel Core i3-1215U, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to round things out. Again, like other Chromebook Plus models, it’s all the speed you’ll need in a Chromebook with roughly 10 hours of battery under normal circumstances.
So, should you buy this one? When all the Chromebook Plus models get the experience right, why would you pick this one over the others. For one, the MSRP is pretty good. It sits at $399 most days, and that is on the low end of the Chromebook Plus spectrum. But there are constantly deals on devices like the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5i that get it below $400, and on a basic level, that’s a better overall Chromebook. Similarly, the Lenovo Slim 3i is better all around than the ASUS CX54 and it dips below $400 from time to time, too. Neither of those are very flashy though, and that’s what the ASUS CX54 really has going for it. If you prefer your Chromebook Plus with a bit more visual flair, this one could be the better choice for you. After all, each of these Chromebook Plus devices are pretty great to use in most situations, so if you’re into the all-white chassis of this one, I’d say go for it and you won’t be disappointed.