Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 Review

My latest video is of the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34, the second Chromebook Plus we’ve looked at since the new Plus standard was announced by Google.

The Chromebook Plus CX34 is part of Google’s initiative to define a new hardware specification, ensuring that devices carrying the ‘Chromebook Plus’ label offer more than just basic functionality. This includes mid to upper-range performance and the promise of future OS updates incorporating generative AI features, which are not available on lower-end models.

Priced at around $399, with occasional discounts bringing it lower, the CX34 is an entry-level Plus configuration featuring an Intel i3-1215U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The display, its standout feature, is a 14-inch IPS panel with a matte finish. It offers a 1080p resolution at 250 nits of brightness, delivering a satisfactory viewing experience for its price range. However, it’s important to note that it covers only about 45% of the NTSC color gamut, making it less suitable for creative professionals.

The build quality of the CX34 is decent, with a plastic body that feels sturdy enough for everyday use. The pearl white color is enhanced by a speckled finish. Although it’s not a two-in-one device, the laptop’s display can fold flat, offering some flexibility in how it’s used.

The keyboard and trackpad are surprisingly comfortable for a device in this price range. The keyboard is backlit although the backlight can sometimes wash out the keycaps in brighter settings. The trackpad is responsive and supports smooth navigation.

In terms of connectivity, the CX34 is well-equipped. It features two USB-C ports (one on each side of the laptop), USB-A ports, an HDMI output, and a headphone/microphone jack. The USB-C ports support power delivery, display output, and data transfer, although at a lower speed of 5 Gbits per second, which is adequate for a Chromebook.

The webcam is compliant with the Chromebook Plus requirements, offering 1080p resolution and operating system-level image enhancement features, such as blurring and lighting adjustments. These enhancements are compatible with various applications, including Zoom and Google Meet. However, the device lacks facial recognition and fingerprint sensors for quick unlocking.

Audio quality is average, with downward-firing speakers that provide decent stereo separation but are not exceptional, especially for music. Battery life is reasonable, with about 8 hours of usage on basic tasks like web browsing and video watching.

Performance-wise, the CX34 handles web browsing and media playback smoothly, thanks to its Wi-Fi 6 capability. It scores well on browser-based benchmarks, indicating its competence in handling everyday tasks. However, it’s important to note that streaming services like Netflix or Disney Plus should be accessed via the web browser for optimal resolution, as the Android versions on Chrome OS are limited to DVD quality.

For gaming, the CX34 is not a powerhouse but can handle Android-based games like Roblox and Minecraft satisfactorily. It also supports game streaming services like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, offering a way to enjoy high-end games without the need for powerful hardware.

In conclusion, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 represents a solid choice for those seeking a mid-range laptop. It balances performance, build quality, and price, making it a viable option for everyday computing needs, from web browsing to light gaming. While it may not satisfy the demands of power users or creative professionals, it stands as a competent and affordable option in the Chromebook market.

HP Dragonfly G4 Review

My latest video is a review of the HP Dragonfly G4 is a 13.5 inch laptop. It’s designed for portability but also checks the boxes for performance and battery life. It weighs in at 2.2 pounds (about one kilogram) and comes in a number of different configurations and price points.

In terms of pricing, the review loaner I was sent is priced at $2,279. However, HP provides a variety of customization options, so take a look at their configurator (affiliate link) and see what it might cost based on your specific requirements.

The display of this model has a resolution of 1920 by 1280, with a 3:2 aspect ratio. While this particular model does not feature a touch panel, HP offers other configurations, including some with OLED panels and touch displays.

Internally, the laptop is equipped with an Intel i7-1365U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of NVMe storage. The RAM is non-upgradable, but the storage can be replaced if needed. Battery life is estimated at around 12 hours, depending on usage and what kind of display the laptop has. The display on our review loaner is the most power efficient but lacks color calibration for creative tasks and comes in at 400 nits of brightness vs. 1,000 on some other display options.

The Dragonfly G4 features a backlit keyboard and a large trackpad that functions quite nicely. In terms of connectivity, it offers two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-size HDMI port, a full size USB-A port and a headphone jack.

The webcam on this model is notable for its clarity and the accompanying HP video control software. This software can switch between multiple webcams automatically and pipe the output to Zoom and other popular conferencing applications. This might be ideal for those who are lecturers who may need to get up and switch to a different viewpoint during a webinar. While this capability is something OBS and Vmix can do, it’s much simpler to set up and use here.

The HP video software also has an automatic keystoning feature that will look for documents placed in front of the camera and will automatically rotate them into the proper perspective.

Performance tests indicate that the laptop handles web browsing, office documents and light 4k video editing efficiently. It can also run some demanding AAA games like Red Dead Redemption 2 at around 30 frames per second at 1920×1280 using the lowest settings. So while it’s primarily a work machine it is also a decent casual gaming device too.

When tested with Linux, the laptop had some compatibility issues with the most recent version of Ubuntu, particularly with audio and the webcam.

In summary, the HP Dragonfly G4 checks all the boxes for a decent laptop: it’s lightweight, has great performance and has excellent battery life.

New Video: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 Review

Full confession: I have a thing for 12″ laptops. I was a huge fan of Apple’s 12″ Macbook that remains one of my favorite laptops of all time. The fact that Apple hasn’t made an M1/M2 version of it is downright malpractice at this point.

I liked that Mac for its convenience. It wasn’t pretty slow and didn’t have the best keyboard, but it made up for those shortfalls in its extremely light weight, portability and battery life.

I have not found many computers on the Windows side that come close to that Macbook except the Microsoft Surface Go laptops. I bought it for review a year or so ago and ended up keeping it because it’s become my go-to Windows device for the times when I need a Windows device. Like the Macbook it comes with some compromises: The Surface Go has relatively short battery life, no backlit keyboard, lackluster graphics performance, a low resolution display and a noisy cooling fan.

But the convenience and utility of an affordable fully featured (and well built) Windows laptop outweighed all of it for me.

The second iteration of the Surface Laptop Go, called the Go 2, brings a substantial performance boost in its graphical performance. While not a gaming powerhouse by any means it is able to run many modern games at 720p at or around 30 fps. In my review we were able to get Red Dead Redemption 2, No Man’s Sky, and the Witcher 3 running at decent frame rates. The cooling fan is also noticeably quieter vs. the original too.

Physically it’s the same high quality piece of hardware as before, right down to the non-backlit keyboard and low res display. But it has a fit and finish that few laptops at this price point have – it is engineered with the same attention to detail as Microsoft’s considerably more expensive devices in the Surface lineup.

Bottom line it’s not for everyone. But for those looking for a full featured Windows PC that’s small, lightweight, and functional there are not many other choices at this price point.