When Howard asked me if I wanted to review the Acer Chromebook I jumped at the opportunity. While Iíve always been tempted by Chromebooks, I had some reservations; Can they do enough? Are they fast enough? Can they stream HD video smoothly? How is the battery life? Is there enough value?
Chromebooks are very much purpose built laptops, specifically designed to do one thing. Itís not designed to replace a PC or Mac as they simply cannot do all of the same things. These are cloud enabled laptops which are targetted at Google users; Gmail, Play Music, Books, Docs, Maps, etc. With that in mind lets see how the Acer stacks up:
The first thing we look at before making a buying decision is usually the hardware.
This model comes equipped with a Nvidia Tegra K1 processor, 13Ē Full HD matte screen, 4GB of RAM, a 32GB SSD, 2 USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, WiFi, HD Webcam, and a full sized HDMI out port.
The Acer is an all plastic design with a gasket based hinge and a sealed, non-user replaceable battery. While it feels like it could probably withstand small drops, I didnít like how it flexes in a lot of areas.
On the upside, this allow it to be nice and lightweight which makes it a pleasant mobile companion.
I was disappointed with the display, I just could not find a sweet spot from top to bottom. It was always crisp in one area, with slight distortion in others. It was not a drastic distortion but just enough to make it uncomfortable to read for long periods at a time. I would either have to scroll to the sweet spot or adjust the angle of the hinge. Then Iíd have to start all over again if I changed my posture. Colour reproduction was good to average depending on the level of brightness. At full brightness blacks became grey and lighter colored text on it becomes harder to read.
The speakers are located under the laptop and fire downwards. The volume levels are adequate but it is very thin sound with next to no bass reproduction. Itís sufficient for voice audio but music sounds flat. Iíd recommend a pair of earphones if you want to listen to music.
The keyboard is a definite plus on this laptop, the keys are well spaced and offer good feedback. Touch typing should not be a problem. The keys are not illuminated.
Equal praise from me goes to the touchpad, itís smooth and has great travel without needing to constantly lift your finger to scroll from top to bottom of the screen. Kudos to Acer for the slick keyboard and trackpad.
As I listed in the specs, the Acer comes equipped with an Nvidia Tegra K1 processor which is ARM based as opposed to x86. This is not a problem for the most part as Google has done well ensuring compatibility but you will still find some Chrome extensions that will not work it.
I myself didnít find one in the extensions that I normally use.
The computer boots from off to the login screen in a few seconds which is nice for those times when you you need the computer ASAP. Youtube HD video playback is flawless. It handles 1080p streams without hiccups or stuttering and Google Play movies play in full HD without issue.
On the area of memory performance, Iím the type who always has numerous windows open in my browser and I never had any issues with memory performance - 4GB or RAM should be enough since the OS itself is very light.
Remember, this is a Chromebook with 4GB of RAM so it shouldnít have any issues doing what it was designed to do and that is all we can really ask.
In terms of benchmarks I don't have anything similar lying around but I do have a Surface Pro 3 (subbing in for a laptop) and a Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablet. I figure that the Chromebook sort of slots between these 2 classes of device.
|Chromebenchmarks||Peacekeeper (higher is better)||SunSpider (lower is better)|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.5||921||1145.3|
|Acer Chromebook CB5-311||1298||642.8|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 3 8GB/256GB||3643||271.9|
This is an area I was truly impressed with. I unplugged at 7:00AM then used through an entire workday from 9-6 with the screen brightness at about 65% and still had some juice left when I closed the lid and took it home.
The computer is rated for 11 hours by Acer. I got 10+ hours runtime on numerous occasions consisting of web browsing, email, document creation and editing as well as some light Youtube and Google Play Music. Its endurance is definitely one of this Chromebookís standout features.
Overall I enjoyed my time with the Acer Chromebook. While I could definitely see myself using one, I have to mention something about Chrome OS devices in general; anything you can do with a Chrome OS device can also be done with a PC or a Mac.
Chrome OSí strength is its simplicity. You log in and everything Google is available at a click, no need to update anything as its all handled automatically in the background. Simple access to Google is what youíre paying for.
The Acer Chromebook here is available from Amazon.ca for $379.99. I have a hard time recommending it at this price point, not when a full Windows 8.1 laptop can be had for roughly the same price. This is actually an issue I have with almost all Chromebooks, they just donít offer enough to justify the price - for $299 range you can pick up a HP Stream.
Overall, Iíd give the Acer 3 Howies out of 5.
- Outstanding battery life
- Well spaced keyboard
- Excellent Trackpad
- Simple to use and maintain
- Poor sound quality
- Poor viewing angles
- Chrome OS still very limited
- Build quality could be better