I was able to receive a review unit of the Acer C740 Chromebook (4GB model) that I have been trying out. This is another one of the new Chromebooks that I think schools will be looking at for possible purchases this summer. The Acer C720 was a huge success in schools. How does it's refreshed model stand up to the competition?
- Intel 3205U Celeron processor (Broadwell)
- An 11.6" anti-glare TN Panel with a 1366x768 resolution
- 2GB or 4GB of RAM
- 16GB SSD
- 1x HDMI, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, SD card reader
- 720p HD Camera with Integrated Microphone
- Dual-channel High-Definition integrated audio
- Wireless 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0
- Height: .8" x Width: 11.3" x Depth: 8" and weighs 2.87lbs
- 3-cell Battery (3920 mAh) for 9 hours of use
Overall Build Quality:
The Acer C740 is nearly a mirror image of the Acer C720. With both models next to each other, you would probably not notice that they were different models unless you knew what to look for.
Where the Acer C720 has a polished gray look on the lid, the Acer C740 has more of a brushed metal look using the same color. That brushed look does allow the Acer C740 to have a slightly more professional look to it. Unlike the Acer C720, the C740 does have some rugged features to it. However, they are not to the MIL-STD (U.S. Military Standard) of the new Dell Chromebook 11. The Acer C740 has reinforced corners that can withstand a 35cm (13in) drop. It has an increased cover thickness that is to withstand 60kg (132lbs) of force. It also has additional rib panels and longer hinge brackets. The plastic casing could still possibly become chipped or cracked in the event of a drop.
There are dual speakers on the bottom of the Acer C740 that are decent for the price point. The audio actually sounded as if it came out of the keyboard. The hinges only go back 135 degrees, which could still allow damage to occur to them if the lid is pushed too far back. The keyboard and trackpad are also not spill resistant.
Acer claims that the reinforced lid can withstand 60kg (132lbs) of force. The key to this claim is force. With permission from where I received the review unit from, I decided to try dropping a few objects on it from a distance of approximately 3ft to see how it would hold up. These tests were in no way scientifically calculated, but were done to help get an idea of how much of a beating this reinforced lid could possibly take in the hands of students.
I first decided to drop around a 4.5lb textbook on the Acer C740 and there was no damage to the lid or screen.
The lid is still in pretty good shape...
However, the screen is a different story.
I think the reinforced lid could be helpful in situations where a student puts the device in a backpack with some other items since there is not much acceleration to factor for the force (unless they launch the backpack). It could also be helpful in situations where students are inappropriately lifting the Chromebook up by the lid as it can withstand more force then the Acer C720 was able to. When it comes to other impact situations you may see, especially in a 1:1 where devices go home with students, you will still likely have broken screens.
The Acer C740 is one the the first Chromebooks to use the Intel 3205U Celeron processor. It is part of the Broadwell line of Intel processors and is faster then the Bay Trail processor seen in a number of current generation Chromebooks. When I ran the Octane benchmark, the Acer C740 Chromebook with 4GB of RAM scored a 14136. The only downfall of using this processor is that it does not use a fanless design like a Bay Trail or any Chrome devices with ARM processors.
The processor is indeed faster, but it is still a Celeron. I found various things to only load seconds faster. On boot, the Acer C740 booted in about 4 seconds compared to 7 seconds on the Lenovo N21. I found logging into the Acer C740 was about 4 seconds faster then the Lenovo N21. When opening various web sites, I found the Acer C740 to load them about 3-4 seconds faster then the Lenovo N21.
Is the faster speed necessary for student use though? Unless you plan to have students be more of a "power user" (keep a lot of tabs open at once or want to dual-boot a build of Linux), I am hard pressed to say it is.
The screen is a typical 11.6" matte TN panel with a 1366x768 resolution that you find in most Chromebooks in this price range. The quality is acceptable for student use, but they do not have great viewing angles. In an education setting, it is nice to have these screens in student devices though as they are usually cheaper to replace if broken. With the Acer C720 for example, you could usually find replacement screens for $40-50 on Amazon.
The Acer C740 does not have a water resistant keyboard or trackpad to help against spills. Typing on the keyboard felt good and I had no issues using it. When using the trackpad, it was the smoothest to use when compared to the new Dell Chromebook 11 or Lenovo N21. However, I am disappointed in the size of it compared to those models.
The keyboard keys also seem slightly higher up then some of the previous Chromebooks I have reviewed. My concern is that students may be able to peel the keys off easier or accidentally snag them on something.
The power adapter for the Acer C740 is your typical brick design. The Acer C740 still uses a thinner connector that could possibly bend or break easier under student use.
The Acer C740 has a 3-cell Battery (3920 mAh) that is supposed to give it 9 hours of use. In my Nyan Cat test to gauge the battery under a heavier use situation, I found the Acer C740 to get 7 hours and 52 minutes on a full charge with the screen at a 75% brightness. That was an hour less then the new Dell Chromebook 11. From this test, and my own usage experience, I think you should get around 8.25 hours with standard classroom use and the screen being dimmed.
So is the Acer C740 Chromebook a better choice for schools? Unless you absolutely feel you need the faster processor, or very dedicated to Acer products, I have a hard time recommending this model. Compared to the Acer C720, it is definitely an improvement. I just do not think it was enough of an improvement when you look at the unique and/or rugged features that were added to the new Dell Chromebook 11 and Lenovo N21 at their price points. One of the reasons that the Acer C720 was so popular in schools was due to it being the best value for what you got at the time. In this new round of Chromebooks, that value is not as noticeable unless you really need the faster processor.
The Acer C740 Chromebook starts at $259.99 for the 2GB model and $279.99 for the 4GB model. Discounted pricing is available on bulk purchases.