Asus CM3 CM3000 review: A Surface Go with Google inside

Quick verdict: The Asus CM3 CM3000 is compact and cute, and its battery life is surprisingly good for a small and low-cost ChromeOS 2-in-1, but it's not particularly fast so it's best suited for those living the Google Docs life.

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Included stylus and keyboard
  • Rear case supports portrait or landscape orientation
Cons

  • Slow app performance for Android apps
  • Ordinary cameras
  • Small keyboard doesn't always sit neatly for typing

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A lot of the Chromebook designs to come through Finder's labs of late have been, to put it bluntly, Surface clones. I mean that in a nice way, because there are way worse design ideas than aping Microsoft's Surface platform if you're going to sell a 2-in-1 tablet and laptop design. As such, the Asus CM3 CM3000 shouldn't really be that much of a surprise.

After all, if you're going to have Surface Pro clones, why not opt for a Surface Go clone instead?

If you're after a smaller ChromeOS tablet – in itself a bit of a rarity – it does have some appeal with long battery life and a very neat kickstand that manages to outdo Microsoft in one important way. However, it's not particularly quick, and that's most apparent when you run Android apps on it.


Asus CM3 CM3000 review: Design

Asus CM3 CM3000 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The core tablet that makes up the Asus CM3 CM3000 has an incredibly generic design, with large black bezels around its 10.5 touchscreen display. The display is crisp with a 1920x1200 resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio. On a larger screen that might work out for side-by-side apps, but on a smaller display it's less of an evident advantage.

The tablet part of the Asus CM3 CM3000 measures in at 25.54x16.72x0.80cm, about average for a 10-inch tablet, although its 510g carrying weight is a little below what you might expect. Ports are minimal with a single combo audio jack and USB C port for both data and power on the right-hand horizontal side.

If that was all you were getting with the Asus CM3 CM3000 it would be a relatively unremarkable design, but Asus packs in a lot of smaller features into the Asus CM3 CM3000's design that does up the appeal factor.

Asus CM3 CM3000 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

This includes a stylus that slots into the horizontal top of the tablet. I found it a bit tricky to remove thanks to its stiff catch. That does also mean it shouldn't easily fall out of the tablet body.

Here Asus seems more to be borrowing from Samsung rather than Microsoft, because the stylus reminded me a lot of the earlier S-Pen models you'd find on earlier Samsung Note phones. Art is not my primary jam, but for, say, a secondary student in need of a sketch pad, this would work as a good solution.

The Asus CM3 CM3000 also features dual cameras, with an 8MP rear camera and 2MP front-facing camera for selfies or video conferencing apps. It's very much a case of features that work rather than thrill here.

You could use that rear camera to capture a quick snap of something you wanted to reference later if you were a student, but I wouldn't be taking it on my next nature ramble by choice.

The other part of the Asus CM3 CM3000's design that makes it a Surface clone is the clip-on keyboard and kickstand accessories. Like the new Surfaces there's a play towards that grey "alcantara" type fabric finish, at least visually.

The feel of the Asus CM3 CM3000's fabric was a lot rougher in my hands than on a Surface, but then this is a cheaper device, and one where the keyboard is included rather than being a pricey extra.

Asus CM3 CM3000 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Where the tablet section has notable bezels, Asus really doesn't waste much space at all for the keyboard, which stretches right to the edge of the magnetically attached keyboard section. However, it's still a smaller keyboard and its light construction does mean it'll bounce around a little as you type. It does have a trackpad if you favour mouse selection over touch, although ChromeOS will support either for most interfaces.

Unlike the Surface Go 3, the kickstand on the Asus CM3 CM3000 is a detachable back cover, but that's arguably a big plus. If you know you're never going to need it, you don't have to install it at all, but if you do use it, the kickstand can be folded either horizontally or vertically.

This meant I could use the Asus CM3 CM3000 in either portrait or landscape orientation as a pure tablet, although naturally the physical keyboard only works in landscape. It's a neat trick that does add a lot of flexibility as to how you might use the Asus CM3 CM3000.


Asus CM3 CM3000 review: The performance is not fast

Asus CM3 CM3000 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The Asus CM3 CM3000 is built around a MediaTek Kompanio 500 2Ghz processor with just 4GB of onboard RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of onboard storage.

The model supplied for review was the lower-spec 64GB variant. One catch here is that there's no microSD card slot for storage expansion, but then the whole idea of Chromebooks is that you're going to be throwing most if not all of your data into the cloud anyway.

The issue with the MediaTek Kompanio 500 and just 4GB of RAM is that it's an inherently slow and limited processing solution built with cost in mind. Quite how much that matters to you will entirely depend on what it is you need the Asus CM3 CM3000 to do.

For example, when using it with Google Docs, beyond the small size of the keyboard I really didn't have any problems at all, because that's an entirely suitable application for even the slowest Chromebook. Switching over from purely ChromeOS apps into the world of Android apps and it got a whole lot murkier in performance terms.

To give this some kind of quantifiable measure, I ran Geekbench 5's CPU test over the Asus CM3 CM3000 to see how it compares. The Asus CM3 CM3000 scored 1,397 in the multi-core CPU test and just 300 in the single core test.

The Geekbench CPU test measures CPU performance with either a single core or multiple cores running at once to give a performance score, and the Asus CM3 CM3000's performance matches up in Android terms with, roughly speaking, the Telstra Tough Max 3.

In more direct Chromebook comparison terms, that's about half the performance I got out of the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5, although the Asus model should be cheaper to buy.

It's great that Chromebooks can use a wide variety of Android apps, but just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should, or that you should expect really high-end multi-tasking performance. As a more direct single-tasking device with a cloud focus, the Asus CM3 CM3000 is fine, if not super exciting for heavy usage.

The big benefit of having that lower scale processor becomes evident when you start to evaluate battery life.


Asus CM3 CM3000 review: The small battery lasts longer than you'd think

Asus CM3 CM3000 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The Asus CM3 CM3000 features a 27Whr sealed battery that recharges via USB-C. Its battery size is naturally limited by its small frame, and I was concerned that it would suffer the same kind of low battery life that we've seen on the similar Surface Go units.

Asus's claim here is for a rather bold 12 hours of battery life, and it's essentially not wrong there. I say essentially because of course you can drain down the power faster if you leave higher-intensity apps running all the time.

ChromeOS is quite smart at battery and power management, snapping to life quickly when the Asus CM3 CM3000 is opened and pausing everything but vital services when they're not needed.

I managed an easy 12 hours of video playback under ad-hoc conditions with the Asus CM3 CM3000, and similar with everyday app usage. It's not quite up there with the best of ultrabook battery life – but then you're not paying ultrabook prices for the Asus CM3 CM3000.

While the single USB-C port does have to be shared with other peripherals, when you do need to recharge the Asus CM3 CM3000, you'll be able to do so very quickly indeed, thanks to the bundled 45W adaptor. It's a nice small unit too, so throwing it into a bag or briefcase shouldn't be an issue. It's also possible to charge the Asus CM3 CM3000 from other USB-C sources, although your regular phone charger might struggle to deliver a satisfactory current.


Should you buy it?

  • Buy it if you want a small Chromebook with exceptional battery life.
  • Don't buy it if you need multi-tasking in your ChromeOS mix.

The Asus CM3 CM3000 is a device built to a price point, and it shows in general performance. You shouldn't expect top-tier performance out of a sub-$500 laptop of any type, even in a highly optimised operating environment like ChromeOS.

Where the Asus CM3 CM3000 best fits is for purposes like education, where the combination of a locked-down operating system and solid battery life make for a good single-purpose computer. The fact that it's also capable as a basic tablet and comes with keyboard, adjustable kickstand and stylus does add to the value equation nicely as well.


Asus CM3 CM3000 review: Pricing and availability

Asus CM3 CM3000

How we tested

I tested the Asus CM3 CM3000 over a 3-week period, using it every day as a basic computing device, as well as by the use of benchmarks and comparisons with other small form factor tablets, laptops and 2-in-1 devices.

I tested out battery life both in day-to-day usage to the point of battery exhaustion with basic ChromeOS tasks, and more demanding Android apps including games and productivity apps, timing and averaging out usage on a day-to-day basis.

My expertise in laptop reviewing runs to 23 years and counting across all major computing platforms. Asus supplied the Asus CM3 CM3000 to me for the purposes of review.


Specifications

Asus CM3 CM3000

General

Display Size
10.5 inches
Resolution
1920 x 1200px
Screen Type
Glossy display
Processor Clock Speed
2GHz
Processor Cores
8 core
Graphics Processor
Arm Mali-G72 MP3
RAM
4GB
Operating System
Chrome

Connectivity

Wi-Fi
802.11ac
USB-C Ports
1

Storage

eMMC Storage
128GB

Miscellaneous

Rear Camera
8.0M
Front Camera
2.0M
Headphone Jack
Yes
Colours
Mineral Grey

Images: Alex Kidman

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