The first Chromebook launched in 2011. I’ve always wondered, really, how practical a Chromebook would be and whether they can actually replace a regular notebook. The fact that Chromebooks are apparently selling quite well in the U.S. has got wondering why there’s so much interest and demand in them. Now, I finally got my hands one, the Acer Chromebook 13, so I’ll see how useful it really is.
A little background. With many things that we do on our computer these days mostly requiring the Internet and revolving around the use of a web browser, it seems like a computer like the Chromebook might just be a feasible idea. But is it really so? I still had my doubts. I’ll come back to some of these use-case issues again later.
The Acer Chromebook 13 model I have is a CB5-311-T5LK. It’s often referred to simply as a CB5-311, and unfortunately, the way Acer chooses their nomenclature is anything about precise. There are so many CB5-311 variants. So to be clear, these are the brief hardware specifications of the CB5-311-T5LK:
- NVIDIA Tegra K1 CD570M-A1 Quad-core 2.10 GHz processor
- 13.3″ display with 1366 x 768 resolution
- 4GB of DDR3L SDRAM
- 32GB of flash storage
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
I’ll break my review into two parts. The first one here will focus primarily on the hardware, and I’ll follow-up in another part to talk about Chrome OS and using the Chromebook.
The Acer Chromebook 13 measures 325 x 226 x 19 mm (W x D x H), and weighs 1.5 kg. Compared with the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro I have, the Acer Chromebook 13 has more surface area, but has about the same thickness and weighs slightly less.
Touring around the notebook, starting from the right side, you’ll find the 3.5 mm audio jack and the DC power supply jack.
On the back, there is one USB 3.0 port and one HDMI port.
There’s a second USB 3.0 port on the left side. There’s also a SD card slot.
The all plastic Acer Chromebook 13 makes the notebook feel cheap. The white colour could become a magnet for dirty smudges and such, but thankfully the slightly textured plastic surface can help to mask out scuff marks.
In terms of design, you’ll notice the Acer Chromebook 13 is mostly about function, not elegance. As a regular MacBook user of various sorts for any years, and a user of many Android, including Google’s own Nexus-branded, mobile devices, I thought the Chromebook could have looked better.
Like Wintel notebooks, the Acer Chromebook 13 comes adorned with stickers that proclaim its feature highlights. Do we really need them around?
There’s another sticker for the Nvidia Tegra K1 processor, reminiscent of the “Intel Inside” logo stickers. This is the first Chrome device to use the Tegra K1 processor, which sports four primary Cortex A15 processor cores that can be independently speed-adjusted, plus a fifth low-power processor core used to handle basic tasks.
The display, to put it bluntly, is bad. The resolution is one thing, at 1366 x 768, there is far too few pixels for my eyes, having become so accustomed to Retina resolutions. Of course, this is is a question of budget. Acer does have a Chromebook 13 variant with 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution, which could be slightly better.
However, apart from resolution, this Acer Chromebook 13’s display colour is also quite washed out. The viewing angle is also quite narrow. Furthermore, with a matt display screen, this is not ideal at all for viewing your movies. It may be bearable for reading emails.
The keyboard style reminds me of the MacBook. The keys, however, are textured. I like the textured feel, although the smooth surface on MacBook’s key caps are arguably nicer to look at.
The trackpad is made of plastic. It’s functional, not the best touch experience, but it will work.
Battery life is excellent. Acer claims up to 13 hours. I’ve not yet gotten around to do a full battery drain test, but I’ve easy used a total of 8 hours, on and off, with lots of standby time in-between.
All things considered, the Acer Chromebook 13 is a really affordable Chrome OS notebook, with a build quality that reflects the price. The large display, generous keyboard size, and awesome battery life could make it a great road-warrior companion, provided, of course, you have Internet.
Watch out for the follow-up review on Chrome OS and using the Acer Chromebook 13!