Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 review: A premium Chrome-powered portable?

Asus's latest laptop is designed around Google's Chromebook Plus platform. Designed as a premium alternative to cheaper Chromebooks, it's fairly effective but frankly unexciting.

Apr 3, 2024 - 11:50
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Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 review: A premium Chrome-powered portable?

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Two-minute review

Google wants to push its Chromebook laptops a little upmarket and to do that it's pairing up with several big brands. The latest member of this initiative is the new Asus Chromebook Plus CX34, an Intel-powered 14-inch model.

Google is calling this new class of devices "Chromebook Plus" and it's a little like Intel's Evo standard. The idea is to dictate some minimum standards of performance and features to ensure a certain level of user experience. That applies to both hardware and software.

On the hardware side, that means at least an Intel Core i3 chip or an AMD Ryzen processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1080p screen. This Asus laptop meets all that with its Intel Core i3-1215U CPU, 8GB of DDR5 memory, 256GB of UFS storage, and a 14-inch 1080p screen.

As for software, Google builds its Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps into the OS, so they all work without needing an internet connection. Meanwhile syncing both to and from Google Drive works seamlessly. Google has also built in some extra features, including webcam enhancements like background blurring and noise cancellation that work at the OS level - and will therefore work natively with any video calling platform.

The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 photographed on a tan carpet.

(Image credit: Future)

You can, of course, run most Android apps from the Google Play Store too, though the lack of a touchscreen can be problematic for apps designed to run on smartphones. More broadly, Google is making a few AI-related claims about these Chromebook Plus machines. But the hardware is nothing special in that regard, so that's a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, as a physical specimen, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34's all-plastic chassis feels mostly sturdy barring a slightly bouncy keyboard bed. The styling is pretty bland and the screen bezels are hardly minimalist. It's not exactly ultra-thin or ultra-sleek, either, and there isn't much about the design that communicates the intended upmarket vibe. 

Overall performance is reasonable from the Intel chip. But this remains an entry-level device in performance terms and we can't help thinking that Chromebooks are better suited to more efficient and cheaper ARM-powered CPUs.

It's worth noting that only the highest spec model comes with a proper M.2 SSDs. Our test system was specified with generic flash storage. And of course, the usual ChromeOS limitations that apply to all the best Chromebooks remain for those who want to run Windows applications. All of which makes this a worthy enough device that offers reasonable value. But it's not cheap enough to be truly compelling.

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Price and availability

  • How much does it cost?  $394.99 / £429 (about AU$610)
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK but not yet listed in Australia

The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 looks like good value compared with similarly-specced Windows laptops like the Lenovo IdeaPad 3. It meets the Chromebook Plus required specifications at a pretty appealing price - but the lack of touchscreen functionality is conspicuous compared to some alternatives, like the Acer Chromebook Spin 714.

Notionally, you're getting better performance than most similarly priced Chromebooks. But in practice, it's debatable how much CPU grunt matters on a device like this, and a Chromebook with a lesser CPU but a touchscreen and sleeker design like Asus's own Chromebook Flip series will arguably be preferable for many users. 

  • Price: 4 / 5

The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 photographed with the lid closed.

(Image credit: Future)

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Specs

While this is the only configuration currently available at the time of writing, Asus will be offering several other CPU, SSD, memory, and screen options. You will be able to upgrade to 10-core Intel Core i5 and i7 chips, a touchscreen, and up to 512GB of storage. However, the most significant option is arguably 16GB of RAM. That will come in handy for anyone who likes to open lots of browser tabs or indulge in heavy multitasking.

It's also worth noting that you'll need that 512GB storage upgrade to get a proper M.2 SSD. The 128GB and 256GB options make do with generic UFS flash drives with much lower bandwidth. Of course, any of these upgrades will add to the price and arguably detract from the appeal of the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34, which majors on price.

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Design

  • Slightly generic design
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Good connectivity

The whole point of Google's Chromebook Plus standard is to deliver a new class of devices that can compete directly with full-feature Windows laptops. It's a premium alternative to cheaper Chromebooks.

However, in design terms, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 has a pretty bland and basic aesthetic. The plastic chassis is sturdy enough, though the keyboard bed is a little bouncy. But the relatively large screen bezels and slightly boxy chassis don't make for a terribly slick or contemporary vibe. That design also means that this 14-inch laptop isn't especially compact, though at 1.44 kg (3.17 lbs) it is reasonably light for a 14-incher.

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The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 photographed on a tan carpet.

(Image credit: Future)
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The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 photographed on a white desk.

(Image credit: Future)
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The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 photographed on a white desk.

(Image credit: Future)

Still, with two USB-C ports, two USB-A sockets, HDMI, and 3.5mm audio, connectivity is reasonable. More of a highlight is the integrated 1080p webcam. It's a definite step above most laptop webcams, even on much more expensive machines. It also has a physical shutter for guaranteed privacy.

That said, the webcam doesn't support facial recognition and there's also no fingerprint reader, so security is password-based. It's worth noting that this is a conventional laptop with no touchscreen functionality as reviewed, nor a 360-degree hinge. We're back to that basic vibe, again.

The trackpad is reasonably proportioned and there's nothing conspicuously wrong with the overall design. But the vibe is slightly dated and dreary. All of this means it's hard to get excited about the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 just based on its looks. If worthy and workmanlike is your thing, this Asus delivers. But if you're expecting Google's new Chromebook Plus platform to automatically translate into something slick and premium, you'll be disappointed.

  • Design: 3 / 5

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Performance

  • Intel CPU gets the job done
  • Screen and webcam are both decent
  • Google's AI pretensions are just that
Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Benchmarks

Here's how the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Geekbench 5:  1,458 (single-core), 4,507 (multi-core)
Mozilla Kraken (fewer is better): 
476ms
JetStream 2 (higher is better): 242
Octane 2.0: 83,372
WebGL Acquarium 30,000 fish: 45fps
TechRadar battery life test: 10h 21m

Thanks to a proper Intel Core CPU, albeit the fairly lowly Intel Core i3-1215U with two Performance cores and four Efficient, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 has the basic performance to take on full-feature Windows laptops. The question is whether it matters.

Google is promoting the offline capabilities of these Chromebook Plus devices, promising double the performance of typical low-cost Chromebooks. Google even makes a pitch for these devices as content creation machines, including video editing.

But that's pretty unrealistic, as is the AI narrative Google is attaching to these Chromebook Plus laptops. The Intel CPU is decent, to be sure, but it doesn't have any particular AI capabilities since it lacks a dedicated NPU. So, any remotely significant AI work will be done in the cloud.

The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 photographed on a white desk.

(Image credit: Future)

It's also worth noting that if you're the sort of web browser that likes to have a zillion tabs open, this 8GB model won't cut it and you should opt for the 16GB upgrade which should be available soon. As I noted earlier, you'll need to upgrade to 512GB of storage for a proper M.2 SSD as opposed to the generic UFS flash storage in this model.

But short of running out of RAM, general system responsiveness is good. Realistically, most people will use a laptop like this for web browsing and web apps, plus some content consumption. And they'll find it's well up to the task.

As for the 14-inch display, it offers decent working space thanks to 1080p native resolution. Brightness is decent at 250 nits, and the colors are reasonably vibrant. But compared to, say, a typical tablet, it's nothing special for image quality or pixel density. The integrated speakers, meanwhile, are pretty terrible. The volume levels are OK, but the sound quality is horribly thin.

That said, one of the better hardware features is the 1080p webcam. It has much better image quality than most laptops, even far more expensive machines. It also benefits from operating-system level processing, including background blur and noise cancellation, which can be applied to any video calling or conferencing application.

Overall, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 has the basic grunt to take on lower-cost Windows laptops thanks to its Intel CPU. But given that Chrome OS will run just as happily on a cheaper and more efficient ARM CPU, it's hard to see the logic in paying the Intel premium.

  • Performance: 3.5 / 5

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Battery life

The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 photographed on a white desk.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Medium-sized battery
  • But decent light-usage battery life

At 50Whrs, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 doesn't have the biggest battery. Nor do Intel CPUs have the best reputation when it comes to operating away from a wall outlet. But perhaps thanks to the efficiency and minimal bloat of the Chrome OS operating system, battery life in light usage is decent, with over 10 hours of movie playback possible.

You'll get a lot less than that if you put any real amount of load on that Intel CPU, so bear that in mind if you're planning to run demanding software. But given the modest price point, the battery life is in line with expectations.

  • Battery life: 4 / 5

Should you buy the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34?

Buy it if...

You want a sturdy, reliable, and cheap laptop
The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 doesn't look exciting. But it's well built, has a decent screen, a good webcam, and reasonable battery life.

You don't need Windows
If what you want to do with a laptop mainly revolves around accessing your Google account and apps, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 gets the job done.

Don't buy it if...

You want something sleek and slick
The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34's design is a little dated, with fairly large bezels and a boxy chassis design.

You want a movie machine
If you're looking for something to take on trips and holidays for watching Netflix in your Airbnb, look elsewhere. The Asus Chromebook Plus CX34's built-in speakers are terrible.

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Also consider

If our Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 review has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...  

How I tested the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34

  • Used for a week in place of my usual laptop
  • Office work, general web use, Android apps, media playback
  • Ran the Techradar benchmark suite

I spent a week with the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 giving it full reign over my Google account and running all my usual apps from web browsing to photo editing. Of course, there was a spot of YouTubing and Netflixing, too, plus our suite of more formal benchmarks. I also tested the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34's battery life for both general usage and light content consumption off the mains.

Along with assessing objective performance, the aim was to get a feel for how this Chromebook stands up as an all-round replacement for a conventional Windows laptop. Just how does Google's Chromebook Plus standard stack up?

Read more about how we test

First reviewed March 2024

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