Picking out the best Chromebook isn't easy with so many great models on the market at the moment, but we'd say the HP Pro C640 Chromebook and the Asus C523 Chromebook definitely qualify. They're both fantastic laptops, but for different reasons.
Here we're going to outline exactly what you can expect from the HP Pro C640 Chromebook and the Asus C523 Chromebook if you decide that either of these Chromebooks is the one for you, which should make your buying decision a little easier.
As you would expect from two of the best laptops on the market, they both score highly in a lot of the key categories that matter – but we'll explain how they stack up in a head-to-head comparison so you can figure out which one is the right one for you.
HP Pro C640 Chromebook vs Asus C523 Chromebook: design and screen
The premium HP Pro C640 Chromebook is marketed very much as a business laptop, and it has a definite business-like air to it as well: this is a Chromebook that definitely... means business, as it were. You can see it in its clear and distinct lines, and in its unfussy aesthetic, and in the use of plain and neutral colours throughout the design. It's not an ugly laptop at all, but nor is it a particular innovative one as far as looks are concerned.
The HP Pro C640 Chromebook comes carrying a 14-inch display that you can configure with a variety of different resolutions: either 1366 x 768 pixels or 1920 x 1080 pixels, and either touch enabled or non-touch enabled. The bezels on the left and right are pleasingly thin, with a bit more chunkiness at the top and bottom to make room for the webcam and the obligatory HP logo respectively.
With a solid build quality and a smooth aluminium, it's a laptop that's going to last you, though the display can't flip over into a tent or tablet mode like the screens on some Chromebooks can. The port selection is good as well: you get a micro SD card reader, two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports and an HDMI 1.4 out socket for powering an external screen, as well as a 3.5 mm combination mic/headphone jack.
Turning to the Asus C523 Chromebook and this is much more of a value-for-money proposition, which is reflected in the design of the laptop. It's hardly a bad-looking or flimsy Chromebook, but it does come across as a bit cheaper, as you would expect given the price it's selling for. That said, the display bezels are nice and thin at the sides of the screen, and it's only above and below the display where the bezels get seriously chunky – thicker than they would be on a top-tier laptop.
The Asus C523 Chromebook actually has a bigger display than the HP Pro C640 Chromebook, measuring 15.6 inches corner to corner and running at a resolution of either 1366 x 768 pixels or 1920 x 1080 pixels, depending on your needs and your budget. As with the HP Chromebook that we're comparing the Asus model to, you can buy it with or without touch support for the display.
You just get the standard laptop form factor with the Asus C523 Chromebook, so no folding over into a tablet or tent-like shape with this laptop, and as far as ports goes you've got a micro SD card slot, two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, and a 3.5 mm jack that can take either a microphone or a pair of headphones (or both, if you've got a headset). It doesn't have the HDMI out of the HP laptop, but you can use one of the USB-C ports to run an external display, if you need to.
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HP Pro C640 Chromebook vs Asus C523 Chromebook: specs and performance
It's really in the specs that the differences between the HP Pro C640 Chromebook and the Asus C523 Chromebook start to appear, and where the relative prices start to make sense. You don't need much in the way of performance to run Chrome OS and Android apps of course, but more power helps when you're dealing with multiple browser tabs and multiple different apps at the same time.
You can configure the HP Pro C640 Chromebook with a wide range of internal components – this flexibility is actually one of the best features of the laptop. At the top end of the scale when it comes to price and performance, you can get it configured with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10610U processor, together with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage. If your needs and budget are more modest then you can scale that back considerably.
You're still going to be running the same Chrome OS software at the end of the day, but when you think about opening up some of the more advanced websites out there, and running some of the more demanding Android apps and games – not to mention having enough oomph to keep an external display running smoothly – it makes sense to go for as much internal power as you're able to afford.
The Asus C523 Chromebook doesn't offer the same level of power and performance, and has fewer configuration options overall. The best you can do here is an Intel Celeron N3350 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of internal storage (you can knock that storage all the way down to 16GB if you really don't need much of it and want to save yourself some cash).
The laptop will of course still run Chrome OS perfectly well, but you might be waiting a little longer for pages to load and for specific objects to be rendered compared with the HP laptop. It's worth figuring out exactly what you think you're doing to be doing with your Chromebook before making a purchase, and in particular how much multitasking you want to be doing in terms of opening a lot of sites and apps at the same time.
Chromebooks are built to offer lightweight computing experiences with a lot of the heavy lifting done on the web, but if you think that you might need some extra performance then it's worth considering the more advanced configuration options available on the HP laptop – though you should also bear in mind that the HP Pro C640 Chromebook is also available with some more modest internal components as well, if that suits you better.
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HP Pro C640 Chromebook vs Asus C523 Chromebook: price and verdict
There's no doubt that both the HP Pro C640 Chromebook and the Asus C523 Chromebook are two of the best Chromebooks around at the moment, but they're approaching the market from different directions: the HP model is all about that high performance and business appeal, while the Asus model is more concerned with helping you get as much Chromebook as you possibly can for your money.
If you think you're going to need some high-end specs inside your laptop – an i7 processor from Intel, say – then the HP Pro C640 Chromebook may well be the one to go for. It supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 speeds, and has an HDMI out port for easy connection to a TV or a monitor, and it features nice touches such as an integrated privacy slider for physically covering up the webcam, as well as an optional fingerprint sensor for logging in.
On the other hand there's the Asus C523 Chromebook, with that epic 15.6-inch screen. The available resolutions aren't any higher than they are with the HP laptop, so you won't be able to fit any more on screen, but everything that is on screen will be just that little bit bigger. For sitting back and relaxing in front of some Netflix or Prime Video shows, the Asus laptop might be the better option.
We haven't mentioned battery life yet, but both these Chromebooks are going to give you respectable all-day battery life. If you take either the HP or the Asus out for an entire day then you're going to need to give them a recharge when you get back in the evening, but that's par for the course these days. The HP might last just a touch longer on a single charge, but there's not much in it at all.
When it comes to pricing, you can consult the widgets embedded on this page for the most up-to-date deals online, but typically speaking – and remembering that both laptops are available in a choice of configurations – you're going to be paying significantly more for the HP Pro C640 Chromebook. With top-tier components inside, the HP model can hit four figures in terms of price, while the Asus C523 Chromebook is closer to the £300 mark.
That's a big jump in pricing, especially when you consider that both these laptops are running the same Chrome OS software. While the extra performance, premium materials and extra features of the HP Pro C640 Chromebook are going to be enough to tempt some buyers who want the best that Chromebooks can offer right now, we think a lot of people will also be tempted by the affordability and quality of the Asus C523 Chromebook.
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