Acer Chromebook 13 Review

acer chromebook 13Acer is a famous brand for making affordable and efficient laptops; while on the other hand, Chromebooks are renowned alternative of low cost Windows laptop. So, when these two collide, you can imagine the outcome. Anyway, today we are going to review Acer Chromebook 13, which we believe, is one of the best Chromebook currently available on the market.

Acer Chromebook 13 is powered with the NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor.  So far, it is the first Chromebook with an ARM based NVIDIA processor. Though, I am not a fan of ARM powered laptop, and Tegra K1 doesn’t have 64 bit support, I have to admit that the performance of this laptop is charming.

Simple and sleek design, good touchpad, 4 GB of RAM, 11 hours of battery life and amazing 1080p display, it has everything you want from a value laptop. On top of that, with base price as low as $299 on Amazon, this Chromebook of Acer is worth every cent. However, if you are planning to buy a cheap laptop, but can’t decide what to get, reading our review on Chromebook 13 surely will give you some idea.

Pros

  • Simple and stylish design
  • Anti-glare full HD screen
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • Relatively powerful processor
  • Good built-in graphics

Cons

  • Moderate performance
  • Poor viewing angles
  • Plastic built
  • Somewhat heavy for a 13 inch laptop
  • Limited offline functionality of Chrome OS
  • Limited apps
  • Compatibility issue of NVIDIA processor

acer chromebook 13 frontSpecification

  • Brand: Acer
  • Series: Chromebook 13
  • Model: CB5-311
  • Processor: Quad core NVIDIA Tegra K1 CD570M-A1
  • Graphics: Integrated Tegra K1 Kepler GPU
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3L SDRAM
  • SSD: 16GB
  • HDD: none
  • Optical Drive: none
  • Display Type: Active Matrix TFT Color LCD
  • Screen Size: 13.3 inch
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
  • Audio: Two stereo speakers
  • Keyboard: Island style keyboard without numeric keys
  • Navigation: 4.1 x 2.4 inch touchpad
  • Webcam: HD webcam with 1280 x 720 pixels resolution
  • Video Ports: HDMI
  • Audio Ports: Headphone / Mic
  • USB: 2x USB 3.0
  • Media Ports: SD memory card reader
  • Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Ethernet: none
  • Width: 12.9 inch / 32.76 cm
  • Depth: 9 inch / 22.86 cm
  • Height: 0.7 inch / 1.7 cm
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds / 1.5 kg
  • Battery: 4 cell Lithium Ion 3220 mAh
  • Battery Life: 11 Hours
  • Operating System: 32 bit Chrome OS
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Base Price: $299 at Amazon

Build and Design

To be honest, the Chromebook 13 is the most stylish Chromebook from Acer till now.  The design is slim, simple and elegant. It has bright all white finish and matte outlook. The top side of the lid is decorated with Chrome and Acer logos. The whole body is made of plastic. But don’t think the build is weak. Though they used plastic everywhere, the laptop is well built and Acer used really good quality plastic. As we tested, light scratching or dirt doesn’t leave any mark.

acer chromebook 13  lidWith lid closed, the laptop is only 0.7 inches thick and has a weight of 3.3 pounds. The edges are not sharp and rounded, so it is easy to carry around, and slip into any backpack.acer chromebook 13 bottomKeyboard

Beside the nice island style design, the keyboard is comfortable as well. The keyboard followed standard Chrome layout. So it has search key instead of caps lock, which you can manually change if necessary. There are multimedia and shortcut keys like volume, brightness, window switch, browser controls are on the top row. The keys are comfortable and give good feedback on every stroke.

acer chromebook 13 keyboardHowever, if you look closely, you can see some of the keys are misaligned. Also, these keys are not made to take hard pounding, which will remind you the price of the laptop. And of course, as the laptop is really cheap, it is unnecessary to mention that the keyboard has no backlit.

Touchpad

Though we are not really happy with the keyboard, but on the other hand, the touchpad of this Chromebook is top class. The touchpad gives really good responsiveness for both single and multi-touch gestures. The size of the pad is 4.1 x 2.4 inch, which is also quite big and spacious. The surface of the pad is sleek, so you can glide your fingers easily. Overall, comparing with other Chromebook, this one has the best touchpad so far.

acer chromebook 13  touchpadConnectivity

Like any other Chromebook, the connectivity feature of this laptop is quite simple and limited.

SONY DSCOn the left side of the laptop, there is a USB 3.0 port and media card slot.

acer chromebook 13 ports 2And on the right, there are headphone ports and the power jack.

acer chromebook 13 ports 3Moreover, there is another USB 3.0 port along with an HDMI port on the back.

Display

Acer Chromebook 13 is equipped with a 13.3 inch screen. Despite the poor viewing angle, this display features Acer’s ComfyView anti-glare technology and matte surface, so it is not hard to read the screen while on the outside, even on a sunny day. The surprising fact of the screen is its resolution. Though it was kind of unnecessary for a 13.3 incher, the resolution of the screen is 1920 x 1080.

acer chromebook 13 display 1acer chromebook 13 display 2As we tested, the average brightness of the screen is (245 CD/m2) And the average contract is (458:1). Though these numbers are not that great, they are pretty decent for a value laptop.

acer chromebook 13 display comparisonBrightness and Contrast ratio of Chromebooks

Performance

Acer Chromebook 13 is the first laptop having both NVIDIA processor and Chrome operating system. Along with 2.1 GHz quad core Tegra K1 processor, the laptop also has 4 GB of DDR3 memory, 1080p screen and a 16 GB solid state drive.

acer chromebook 13 benchmarkGeekBench Score of some similar processors

The NVIDIA Tegra K1 is an ARM based processor, which you may already noticed in some high end tablets and smart phones. To be precise, NVIDIA used four ARM cortex A15 cores as the main processing unit for the Tegra K1. The processor also has 2 MB level 2 Cache which is also pretty decent. As we see in the benchmark, the performance of the processor is better than Intel Celeron 2955U and almost similar to Intel Core i3 4005U. However, sadly this processor doesn’t have 64 bit computing support. So, it won’t be possible to install a 64 bit operating system in the future.

acer chromebook 13 cpuThe graphics performance of the Chromebook 13 is remarkable. The integrated graphics chip came with the main processor. It is a Kepler based graphics card with 192 NVIDIA CUDA cores, 8 TMUs and 4 ROPs which is almost similar to NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M and Intel HD 4400. With this graphics card, you will be able to play almost every game supported by Chrome OS.

acer chromebook 13 gpuHeat and Noise

Surprisingly, Acer Chromebook 13 offers Fanless design. So regardless of load, the laptop will always run quietly. Also, as we tested, it doesn’t really generate much heat. You will be able to use it on lap all the time without any problem.

Battery

Acer Chromebook 13 has a 4 cell lithium ion 3220 mAh battery. According to Acer, the battery should last 11 hours long. But so far, we could get 9 hours out of it. Though we didn’t get as we were promised, personally I think 9 hours of battery life is decent for a value laptop.

acer chromebook 13 battery lifeAverage battery life (hour) of Chromebooks

Customization

The base price of this laptop is $299 on Amazon, but if you want, you can get 2GB extra ram and 16 GB of extra storage space for $80. Moreover, if you don’t think you need a 1080p screen, you can downgrade it to a 1366 x 768 pixels screen and save $20.

Operating System

Though Windows is still the mainstream operating system, Chrome OS is getting popular every day. Basically, Chrome OS is made for laptop users with basic need. So, instead of Windows 8’s sophisticated look and touchscreen optimization, Chrome OS offers a simple and extremely easy user interface.

acer chromebook 13 os 3In Chrome OS, there is a menu button, which is very similar to older Windows’s start button. At the bottom of the screen, there is a bar similar to taskbar where you can pin apps of your choice, while basic settings like internet, Wi-Fi and time are on the right side of the bar.

acer chromebook 13 os 2Though you won’t be able to install software and games you used to have on your PC, you will be able to use almost all apps along with games available on the Google play store. However, offline facilities of the Chrome OS are somewhat limited. You will be able to run the laptop without an internet connection, but most of the apps require internet connection. So, you in the end, there won’t be much to do on Chrome OS without internet.

acer chromebook 13 os 1Wrap Up

There are some compatibility issues and the processor is not as powerful as Intel Core “I” series, but the overall performance of the laptop is really good comparing with other value laptops. Anyway, Acer Chromebook 13 is not what we were promised, and it certainly isn’t the best or most powerful laptop on the market. However, it manages to redeem itself with stylish design, decent battery life, a sharp screen, and most importantly, an affordable price. So, if you are looking for a cheap laptop and interested in Chromebook, this 13 incher of Acer can be the right thing for you.

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Chromebooks to Integrate Google Drive for Storage

Google recently announced the new Google Drive (GDrive), a online storage solution that offers up to 5GB of free storage.  Google is making efforts to integrate GDrive into all popular operating systems, including of course Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android.  But what about the Chrome OS?  Of course Google would not forget that, and in fact the Chrome OS that comes bundled on Chromebooks is going to be so tightly integrated that it will act as part of the operating system.  When you go to save a file, you’ll be able to save it right to the Google Drive, just as if you saved it on your laptop – or Chromebook as it may be.

Google DriveGoogle Chromebooks started selling early last year but have not been a huge success as of yet.  However, it seems that Google is going to be making a big push again this summer with more Chromebook releases, such as from Sony and Samsung, and also adding features like a pseudo-desktop interface dubbed Aura.  Since the Chromebook has a limited amount of storage the save to GDrive feature is really going to help out in terms of storage capacity.  You can upgrade the storage amount for reasonable prices, for instance 25GB is $2.49 a month or 100GB is $4.99 a month.  The added bonus is you’ll be able to access those files you store to GDrive from your Smartphone, weather iOS or Android.

Will this new feature for the ChromeOS help boost sales of Chromebooks?  That remains to be seen of course, the weakness still present is that without Internet connectivity you’re limited to what you can do with a Chromebook as it relies so much on online apps for productivity.  However, Google is working to make more apps such as Google docs easier to use while offline.  Rome wasn’t built overnight, and it may take a while for the computing in the cloud to catch on too.

Source: Wired.com

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Sony VAIO Chromebook Pictures and Manual Leaked Thanks to FCC

Just when you thought Chromebook support from manufacturers might be fading, it looks like Sony is moving forward with a Chromebook of its own.  The Sony VAIO VCC111 Series pictures and manual just showed up on the FCC this week, and in case there’s any doubt as to whether this is a Chromebook the reference to “start Chrome OS” on page 2 of the manual should put an end to any debate this might be a Windows machine Ultrabook:

image

And furthermore, check out the keyboard, it’s missing the Windows key, you just get Ctrl and Alt keys on the lower left side, a further indication of this being a Google Chrome OS machine:

sony-chromebook

Since the FCC has furnished us with photos of the upcoming VAIO Chromebook (albeit low resolution pics, in typical FCC fashion) let’s take a tour around to see what you get:

Left Side View – The power jack, HDMI port, microphone jack and headphone jack are all found on the left side

sony-chromebook-side

Right Side View – There’s an SD card reader and two USB 2.0 ports over here

right-side-vaio-chromebook

Back View – Not much to see here, apparently it has Chrome accents as it’s reflecting lights in the FCC lab there

sony-chromebook-back

Front View – A green light indicator can be seen, according to the user guide the green light here indicates whether power is on or off

Sony Chromebook Front

Bottom view – It appears the battery is removable and you can see the typical Chrome recovery method there that involves jamming a pin into a small hole, a la resetting a wi-fi router or modem.

1554241479.peg

Finally, we can see the Chromebook open and being measured with an approximate depth of 21cm or 8.27-inches for those of us still not on the metric system.

sony-chromebook-measured

It’s still not clear what the internal specs are for the VAIO CC111, but with the user guide and pictures we can at least deduct some of those.  The bottom picture of the Chromebook has a sticker that indicates it has an 11.6” Samsung screen and the CPU is a “T25”.  This could be an Nvidia Tegra 2 T25 ARM based processor, which would be interesting as it would make for the first Chromebook to run on a non-Intel based processor.

Deduced Specs, question mark indicates assumed or unsure:

  • Processor: Nvidia Tegra 250 T25 1.2GHz ARM based processor (?)
  • Screen: 11.6” diagonal, produced by Samsung
  • OS: Chrome OS
  • Memory: 2GB RAM (?)
  • Ports: two USB 2.0, SD card reader, headphone port, microphone port, HDMI
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth
  • Storage: SSD – 16GB (?)

So far Samsung and Acer have been the only manufacturers to release Chromebooks, so this is certainly a win for Google to have another manufacturer jump into the fray.  It seems like Sony has been dragging its heels on the release.  The documents for approval were first submitted to the FCC last September and just this Wednesday the user guide and FCC test photos showed up:

image

Pricing on Chromebooks generally start around $299 – $400 range, so we’d expect this Sony to be about the same, based on pictures there doesn’t appear to be anything extra special Sony has done to warrant a higher price.   There are very few Chromebooks currently available, the Amazon Chromebook store lists only four and one of those (the Acer AC700) is out of stock, so it’s interesting to see Sony toss their hat into the ring now.  We expect availability to be within the next couple of months or so based on past experience of the time it takes to migrate from FCC approval to landing on shelves.

Now the only mystery remains is to when will Sony release an Ultrabook…

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Samsung Series 5 Chromebook 2012 Specs Announced

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook released last year is going to be getting an update in early 2012.  The current Samsung Series 5 Chromebook sells for $379.99 on Amazon.com.  For those who don’t know, Chromebooks are basically laptops with Google’s Chrome OS instead of Windows installed.  Chrome OS is all about working and storing in the cloud, so there’s a minimal amount of storage on a Chromebook itself and the OS is light weight and fast to start.  Put simply, it’s like having a laptop with nothing but a Chrome browser installed.

Samsung-Series-5-Chromebook-2012So what’s new with the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook 2012 version?  Not a whole lot to be honest, just an updated lid finish that is less shiny and glossy than the 2011 version and an Intel Celeron processor instead of Atom.  Here are the known specs on the new Samsung Series 5 Chromebook:

  • Processor: Intel Celeron
  • Screen: 12.1-inch 300 nit display, 1280 x 800 resolution
  • OS: Google Chrome
  • Storage: 16GB SSD
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Weight: 3.2lbs
  • Dimensions: 11.6 inches x 8.6 inches x 0.8 inches
  • Ports: Two USB 2.0, 4-in-1 memory card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)
  • Availability: June 2012
  • Battery Life:  8 hours
  • Price: $399 for Wi-Fi only version, $449 with Verizon 3G and Wi-Fi

Unrelated to laptops, Samsung will also be releasing a desktop version they’re dubbing the Chromebox.  The Samsung Series 3 Chromebox will have the exact same internal specs as the Series 5 Chromebook.  However, it will include  a wireless keyboard-and-mouse combo and also have more ports including five USB 2.0 sockets, DVI, DisplayPort and a headphone jack.  The cost of the Series 3 Chromebox will be $399 and availability is also slated for June 2012.

It’s doubtful Samsung sold a whole lot of the Series 5 Chromebooks, it’s one of those devices that early adopters and geeks will love but the fact it’s so hard to print and has limited capabilities will deter the average consumer.  You can read our review of the Acer AC700 Chromebook to get an idea of what the limitations are you run into with the Chrome OS.  That said, if you’re looking for a cheap and portable laptop that’s only use will be to get on the web, it could be a good option as a secondary computer to a more fully fledged Windows or Mac computer.

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Acer AC700 Review

Acer AC700 Chrome OS LaptopThe Acer AC700 Chromebook, as laptops running the Google Chrome OS are being dubbed, is an 11.6” screen laptop that sells for an affordable price of $349 via Amazon.com right now.  The Acer AC700 and Chromebooks in general are unique in the fact that they have very little storage space and everything you do runs in the Google Chrome browser.  The Chrome OS is a very lightweight OS and all of the works and apps you use are hosted online, not on the computer itself.  For those people who mostly use a laptop only to get online and nothing else, it’s possible a device like the AC700 could serve as a fulltime laptop.  However, for a majority of people the AC700 is better used as a device that can easily be carried around, turned on extremely fast and used for Internet access while on the go.  This review will cover what the Chrome OS and Acer AC700 are and are not good for and whether it makes sense as a cheap student laptop for on campus needs while the main computer is left at home.

Acer AC700 Specs and Pricing

The specs for the Acer AC700 are entirely uninspiring, but that’s not the point.  The Google Chrome OS is lightweight and doesn’t need a 2.9GHz quad core processor and 8GB of RAM to run smoothly.  Simplicity and ease of getting online are the focus with the Acer AC700.

DSC_3230

  • Processor: Intel Atom N570 1.66GHz dual core
  • Screen: 11.6” 1366 x 768 resolution
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Storage: 16GB SSD
  • OS: Google Chrome OS
  • Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Web-cam: 1.3 Megapixel built-in camera
  • Ports: 2 USB ports, 1-HDMI, 1-microphone, 1-headphone, media card reader slot
  • Dimensions: 8.06” x 11.24” x 1” (Depth x Width x Thickness)
  • Weight: 3lbs
  • Price: $349 at Amazon.com

If you saw these specs on a Windows or Mac OS X machine you’d run a way knowing it would crawl, this is not so with Chrome OS so no need to worry. The Acer AC700 under review was purchased from Amazon.com for $349, a pre-order was placed the week before release and it arrived a day earlier than quoted.  I love Amazon!

Acer AC700 Packaging and Unboxing

The Acer AC700 packaging was nice and clean, again the word minimalistic can be used.  Since there’s no optical drive and no need to install software, no disks were included.  The full user manual is simply online, there’s just a getting started guide included to help you get through initial setup – which is easy.

Acer AC700 box Acer-AC700-box opened
Acer AC700 top of box Acer AC700 open box
Acer AC700 box contents Acer AC700 out of box

 

Acer AC700 Design and Build Quality

DSC_3234

The AC700 is very utilitarian looking, it’s not flashy but rather professional looking and would fit in any environment: office, school or home.  It has smooth rounded corners, but not so rounded it looks bubbly, just rounded enough to prevent any sharp corners.  The color finish is a dark business suit gray with blue accented indicator lighting on the front and a black keyboard inside.  The AC700 is 1-inch thin and weighs almost exactly 3lbs so it’s very easy to carry by simply palming it with one hand, making it easy to quickly place in your bag.  With the charger the total travel weight comes to 3lbs 6 ounces.

DSC_3280 DSC_3282

The lid is held in place by the hinges, there are no latches, it’s easy to quickly open the lid but you do have to hold down on the laptop base with one hand while lifting the lid with another hand, my attempt to open the laptop one handed resulted in simply lifting the entire laptop as the hinges are quite rigid.  Rigid and tight hinges are a good thing of course as this prevents any screen wobble while you are typing.

The laptop case is made of all plastic, which is what you expect when spending $349.  The AC700 build quality still feels good though, there is very little flex to be found on the body except for a couple of spots on the keyboard, but even that is not bad, you have to apply firm pressure to produce any type of bending of the case.

Blue indicator lights on the front of the AC700

Overall, I like the design and finish of the AC700, it’s simple yet appealing and the build quality is slightly above what you’d expect to get at this price point but of course not on par with an aluminum constructed laptop.

Chrome OS (or, how does a laptop without Windows work?)

This is my first time using a laptop (excuse me, Chromebook) with Chrome OS installed and even though people says it’s as simple as a computer with just a browser on it, it’s hard to imagine how that works in practice.  So for those like me who might like the gaps filled in, here’s a step by step explanation of how things work after turn on the Acer AC700 Chromebook for the first time.

  1. Push the power button and you get a screen asking you to select your language and then a network that the Chromebook detects:DSC_3258
  2. After inputting those details you accept an agreement and the Chromebook then checks for any Chrome OS or system updates available and downloads them.DSC_3260
  3. Then it installs them:DSC_3263
  4. Then there’s a login screen in which if you have a Google account (an @gmail.com email address) you login, if you don’t have one you can create one or login as a guest (a cool feature I’ll touch on later), and you then associate a picture icon for your account:DSC_3264
  5. After that you’re done and the Chrome browser opens with a tutorial on how to use the Touchpad:DSC_3266
  6. If you open a new browser tab you can see icon links to some pre-installed apps and online Google applications you’re probably used to using such as Gmail, Google docs and Google Talk:DSC_3279 

And that’s really all there is to getting started with the AC700, or any Chromebook for that matter.  That’s right, there are no alarming pop ups warning you to purchase anti-virus software immediately before your 30-day trial expires otherwise your computer will be infected with all kinds of hideous malware.

The next question many (like myself) may ask is “ok, we’re up and running, how do I see the desktop?  Where’s the file system?”.  The browser is the desktop and place where you’ll always start, so don’t look any further.  There is a kind of file system called the “File Shelf” where downloaded documents get stored or screenshots you take are stored.  For the average user it’s most important to know that if you plugin a USB stick or place an SD card in the media card reader YES, there is a way to access those files and manipulate them, especially if they’re images or video.  Below is a screenshot of what the files on an SD card look like when you plug it in, a new browser tab opens in which you can simply browse the files and if it’s an image upload it to Picasa online:

screenshot-20110713-161339

You can also go to Gmail and if you want to attach a file select it from the USB stick or SD card and attach it to your online email.

Another thing I was quite curious about was how easy it would be to plugin my Logitech M05 Wireless mouse and use it with the Acer AC700, I assumed this could be a headache and simply might not work as the product description for this Logitech mouse says “works with your Windows PC or Mac”, no mention of Chrome OS.  But it was in fact far easier than installing and using with a Windows machine.  There were no annoying pop ups saying “new hardware detected”, or “installing USB device”.  No sir, it just started working immediately, amazing.

As alluded to before, a very nice thing about Chrome OS is that there is no need for anti-virus software and the OS updates itself behind the scenes.  There is no annoying prompt to shut down so updates can be installed and there is no need for a $50/year anti-virus software subscription.

For those that are very concerned about privacy and being tracked on the Internet, one very nice feature of the AC700 and Chrome OS is that you can login as a Guest and no files or cookies will be saved to the PC, your browsing is anonymous.  Once you logout of the guest account your entire history of sites visited is erased.

Although printing is something we wish we could avoid, the reality is a time will come where you simply need to print something.  So what can you do when all of those printers out on the market have drives designed for Windows and Mac OS X and not Chrome?  You’re not completely out of luck, you can print using a beta service from Google called Cloud Print.  It involves either connecting a “classic” printer to a Windows or Mac device and installing software to print via these machines or a newer “cloud ready” printer such as the HP ePrint equipped printers that allow you to email documents to your printer for printing.

image

 

So I have mentioned a lot of positives about Chrome OS, but you must understand that right now there are limitations.   Since the Chromebook is designed to be used online, it has fairly limited usage offline.   This is especially true due to the fact that currently Google Docs does not work offline, so even if you want to work on a paper while disconnected you cannot.  Google promises to bring offline functionality to Google Docs later this summer using HTML 5 technology, but until that time you’re out of luck.  Same with Gmail, Google Gears that can support offline Gmail access is (ironically) not available for Chrome.  I won’t say a Chromebook is totally useless when offline, but it’s certainly highly limited.

The biggest issue most will have if your plan was to jump to using a Chromebook and ditching any other type of computer is that there’s inevitably some program you used to use that can’t run in a browser but needs to be installed.  I’m a programmer and have a computer science background so have several installed applications I rely on to or learn do work.  Integrated Development Environment (IDE) software, photo editing, FTP software, remote desktop connection software — the list goes on but you get the point.  As much as I do live on the web, there are times where a browser just won’t cut it for my productivity needs.

So for most people I think a Chromebook is best used as a companion device for getting on the Internet fast.  If a tablet just isn’t your cup of tea because you want a physical keyboard or don’t want to spend the $500+ a tablet costs, then this Acer AC700 that costs $349 might be more your style.  It gets on the Internet fast and is simple to use, which are both major propositions for using a tablet such as an iPad.   People that are not computer savvy might also find a Chromebook easier to use than a Windows or Mac machine, you can set it up for your tech challenged parents and all they have to do is login and, bam, the browser is open and they can send you annoying emails, check their bank account, Facebook feed and read their favorite paper online.

Acer AC700 Performance

Discussing the AC700 performance is pretty simple.  The highlight is the fact this thing boots up in 6 – 8 seconds from a powered off state and to a login screen and then after you type your password and hit enter it takes 4 – 5 seconds for the browser to be open and working.   Shutting down by holding in the power button takes 3 – 4 seconds.  This is all faster than putting a Windows laptop into sleep mode or coming out of it, the speed of bootup and shut down is one of the major appeals of the AC700.  You go from being powered off to on the web and surfing in under 20 seconds.

Once on the web you can have several browser tabs open without bogging down performance of the AC700.  I was able to run 720p HD video on YouTube.com and have it play back in a smooth manner, however the 1080p video did not play well and stuttered a lot.  Being able to watch 720p online content is probably the most anyone is going to ask of such a machine, you can’t notice a difference between 1080p and 720p on the Acer AC700 screen due to its resolution so there’s no point.

There’s no way to run standard benchmarks on the AC700 such as PCMark Vantage and report back the scores because, well, you can’t install programs on the SSD and this isn’t a Windows laptop.  Suffice to say, perceived performance for browsing the web is fast and your Internet experience is going to depend more on how well the websites you visit perform.

Acer AC700 Keyboard and TouchPad

The Acer AC700 keyboard is a bit of a letdown.  I’ll admit to being picky with keyboards, so others might not be as bothered, but I couldn’t get used to the generally cheap feel of the keys and flex in the keyboard.  It simply is not a solid keyboard to type on, the key travel is short, the feel is spongy and the raised keys veritably beg for dirt and dust to collect under them.  Although this Chromebook is new now and the keyboard is clean, it’s easy to see that dust and dirt will quickly collect in the gaps and space between the keys.

Acer AC700 keyboard

Some good things I can say about the keyboard are that the keys are a decent size and I like the fact there are no Functions keys (F1 – F12) but rather just media keys in the top row for things such as turning volume up and down or refreshing the browser.  Some people complain about the fact there is no Caps Lock on the keyboard of Chromebooks, it’s replaced by a Search button.  Anything used to reduce the amount of SHOUTING online is a good thing!

Acer AC700 touchpad

The AC700 touchpad is generously sized, it has no buttons but you can register a click anywhere by pushing down on the touchpad.  Pushing down with one finger registers as a left click and pushing down with two fingers as a right click.   There’s a tutorial online that shows how to use the touchpad of Chrome OS based devices, this same tutorial shows up when you first startup a Chromebook.  Overall I found the touchpad comfortable and easy to use, it’s certainly better than the keyboard.

Acer AC700 Screen

I was pleasantly surprised by the screen on the Acer AC700.  While it is a glossy screen, it’s not extremely reflective so you still get the nice color pop and contrast that a glossy screen provides but it is not a mirror in brightly lit rooms.

Acer AC700 screen

There’s no way to adjust or calibrate colors on the screen like with a Windows PC or Mac, but I found the colors to be very true and no adjustment needed anyway.  Watching online videos was a pleasure, I especially enjoyed watching the latest episode from freddiew, Medal of Honor Cat….

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Acer AC700 Speakers

The speakers are located on the front underside of the AC700 and as you would expect they’re not exactly bass thumping.  Rather, they serve well for spoken audio and music in which bass is not essential.  The volume is adequate so you’ll be able to listen to online movies without having to strain to hear.

Acer AC700 Battery Life

The AC700 has a quoted battery life of 6-hours.  With the screen on medium brightness this is about right, dim the screen down all the way and you can probably eek out over 6-hours, if you turn brightness all the way up and watch 720p online video non-stop the battery life will be significantly worse.  Yes, even when you’re just using a browser it depends a lot on what you’re doing in the browser as to what the battery life will be.  Lots of Flash based websites and ads will cause more processor demand than basic HTML sites.  This is one of the reasons Steve Jobs refused to allow Flash on any iOS devices, it can really kill battery life if run excessively on a mobile device.

Acer AC700 battery

Acer AC700 Review Conclusion

I’m most impressed by the Acer AC700 and in turn the Chrome OS for its ability to startup in under 10 seconds, general ease of use and freedom from worry of about viruses and constantly having to install updates and patches for security threats.   The AC700 hardware itself is appealing due to its lightweight, thin profile and attractive design.  That all said, for the average user the Chromebook isn’t ready to completely replace a laptop or desktop computer.  There are just too many programs out there that need to be installed to work and no online tool can replace.  And when you’re offline, which of course happens, the Acer AC700 becomes quite useless as a productivity tool.  But if you’re a student that’s on a campus with a wireless cloud the Acer AC700 could be a great option to carry around campus, take notes in Google docs and use for general web access.  The AC700 is also handy around the home when you just want to pick up a device to quickly get on the web and do something without waiting an eternity for the device to boot.  Yes, many have Smartphones for quick web access, but sometimes a larger screen and keyboard are needed.

I do think the Chrome OS approach of doing more and more online and in the browser is the future we’ll move towards, for some that may already be the case, but for many it’s still too early.  Plus, with all the security scares we’ve had of late in which companies have had servers hacked and data stolen, it might scare some people to move literally everything they do to the cloud and store all of their information online.  But if you’re just interested in the Acer AC700 as a cheap companion device to your larger sized computers, I think it’s a great buy and also just plain neat for those that are interested in new technologies and approaches to computing.

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