Acer Chromebook 13 – In for Review

By February 1, 2015Reviews

With every PC maker trying to get a piece of the Chromebook action we see lots of new models enter the market place. What all these Chromebooks have in common is that they are inexpensive, have long battery life, run on Google’s Chrome OS, have a small screen and (most) have a very decent performance. With this high level of uniformity there’s not a lot to differentiate one from the other, which makes picking one to buy a difficult endeavor. But, every now and again there’s a model that stands out and makes that choice a bit easier.

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Meet the Acer Chromebook 13

Today the Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311 arrived on my doorstep. This is one of those models that stands out. It has a bigger full HD, 1080p, 13.3 inch screen, it runs on the Nvidia Tekra K1 chip which promises much better visuals and it has up to 3 times faster wireless connectivity thanks to the 802.11 AC WiFi standard. All very interesting stuff pushing the Acer Chromebook 13 past the competition, or at least it does so on paper.

To find out if it delivers and really is that great in real life I will be doing an extended review the coming weeks. I’m going to see how it performs far way from the test bench and theoretical comparisons by taking it with me into the real world. So for the coming weeks the Acer Chromebook 13 is going to be my primary computing device, only to be replaced by something else when it cannot get the job done.

Acer Chromebook 13 - In for Review

Acer Chromebook 13 – In for Review

I’m in the fortunate position to be able to test out Chromebooks not only at home but in a demanding work environment as well. I manage several sales teams and a technical support team for a client that is 100% Google (as in ‘Gone Google‘), using nothing but Google apps and Chromebooks. My employer on the other hand is a Microsoft based company. Juggling between these two worlds is fun and sometimes frustrating but it does make for a great place to test out new Chromebook models. I’ll get back to you with my findings in a few weeks from now.

Initial thoughts on the Acer Chromebook 13

The first fun moment was when I went to claim the free Drive storage that comes with it. It turned out I didn’t get the advertised 100GB storage, but a full 1TB. Talk about over delivering! I don’t know why I got that much though, so don’t take it for granted that you will as well.

Looking at the Acer Chromebook 13 it’s hard to deny that it is an inexpensive laptop. In terms of looks it is quite nice, though in terms of build quality it could do better. I won’t say it leaves a lot to be desired because that would be overstating it. I do however think that seams that are wide enough for me to put my finger nail in are a no-no. It’s just not nice looking. When closed the Chromebook 13 has a slick design appearance that makes it look more expensive than it really is. The hinges are flush with the base and feel sturdy and strong. Although the screen easily flexes in every possible way when a little pressure is applied the base is strong and inflexible giving the whole a solid feel.

With the 13.3 inch screen the overall size is slightly larger making room for a bigger keyboard compared to 11 inch models. Which is great as the keys are regularly sized, well spaced and cushioned creating an instant familiarity when typing. The arrows keys work well and are not encased by page -up and -down keys, which is a good thing if you ask me. One thing I’d like to have seen different is the power button on the top right. That should have been a delete key, this is just annoying.Acer Chromebook 13 keyboard

On the port selection side of things I can only be happy. It has two USB 3 ports, one on the left and one at the rear. An SD card slot is placed on the left as well, positioned right under the center line of the base which makes operating it a bit hard. You have to lift up your Chromebook to be able to place or remove your SD card. Good thing is that the card doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb but sits nice and flush with the body. At the rear you’ll also find the HDMI port. The combined audio/mic jack is placed at the right.

A Full HD 1080p screen, that has got to be something on a Chromebook! Turns out that full HD and 1080p on their own don’t make for a blow-your-mind experience. You need more than that alone. First the good things: It is super sharp and after typing and web surfing on it for hours on end I haven’t developed a headache yet, nor do my eyes feel strained. I did however change the display settings. It’s quite bright, but you need to set it at the highest setting for that. Then the not so good things: It lacks popping colors. For some reason colors on this screen look somewhat flat. And that is a real shame if you consider that the screen is one of its unique selling points. Another big problem for me is the goldilocks zone, you have to sit right in front of it to enjoy it. As soon as I lean to the left or right the screen darkens fast and past the 45 degree angle it becomes unreadable. Vertical viewing angles are equally poor. I hope this doesn’t become an issue while testing it out in real life.

The one thing I’m really stoked about is the Nvidia Tekra K1 chip. I did a quick test to see how it performed and it did very well, stellar really. I opened 17 tabs with regular websites, did one hangout and opened and streamed two 1080p YouTube videos all at the same time and guess what.. no lag. No stuttering, nothing. Both videos played as if nothing was going on and the Hangout didn’t show signs of an overly active processor either. I admit, this is in no way scientific, but it impressed me nonetheless.

Roundup

Looking at and playing around with the Chromebook 13 for the first time left a positive impression with me. Yes, the screen colors did underwhelm a bit, but considering that it is an inexpensive device and that the flat colors is the only real point of criticism I have so far I’m still very excited. If I had bought it to be my second or third, or maybe even first computer, I would not be disappointed. It is fast, does really well on graphics like the WebGL Experiments, has a great keyboard, a nice looking design and features a 13.3 inch screen. A great choice Chromebook that isn’t quick to disappoint you.

In the weeks ahead I’ll find out how it performs in real life. A particular point of interest will be the build in microphone and camera. Question there is if an external microphone and camera is needed or if the onboard ones are good enough. Battery life is equally important as is how the touchpad functions.

Anything else you would like me to look at testing this machine? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll definitely do my best to come up with an answer for you.

Thanks for reading this far, till next time,

Kain

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • I bought this as my first chromebook a week ago, the plan being to move over to chromebook entirely. After somewhat of a learning curve it has blown me away completely. The chromebook experience is awesome (so far), After discovering MS Word online and its OneDrive to link with my word-using clients I appear to have been converted completely. My comment is more about Chromebook in general I suppose, but the Acer CB5-311 is keeping me very happy and the battery life is incredible (so far).

    • Kain Young says:

      Awesome! MS Word online indeed makes the step lots easier for people. I say this coming from the beginning of Chromebooks where that wasn’t an option. question though, just curious, are you planning on switching to Google Drive/ Docs or are you staying at Microsoft?

  • Kain, nice one.

    One thing I am keen to know about is the “lag factor” of the Nvidia K1 in the chromebooks. In other words, how does it perform with a few tabs opened and running a video etc. ? It is an important factor for many of the chromebook lovers like me who do not want to see lagging and sluggish performance in the otherwise brilliant machines.

    Do let us know in more detail when you use this machine for a few more days. Do you think K1 can reach to the speed and responsiveness of the Haswell or Broadwell processors by Intel?

    Thanks

    • Kain Young says:

      Good question, and a hard one to answer. I’ll see what I can do!

    • In answer to your question – am switching to Google drive and docs for most things, ie work I generate, but using word online when clients sent me templates to use in that format.

    • After a few weeks of Chromedom I have not lost my love for it, BUT, google docs or the the Word compatibility app and even using MS Word Online is inadequate for working with clients using word files. Templates from a client cannot be edited or used even in Word Online, and track changes cannot be compatibly exchanged. Even a minor but significant issue is fonts being changed automatically from those a client has specified, and in some cases those specified not available in Chromebook. Unless I’m missing something this imperfect Word compatibility remains a big drawback for total conversion. I love the Chromebook for roaming, especially its lightness and awesome battery time; but I am still having to fire up the old windows machine to meet some clients’ needs.

  • […] While you eagerly await the availability of the new Chromebook models, check out these reviews of two models you can get your hands on right now: HP Chromebook 11 and Acer Chromebook 13. […]

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