Thursday, May 21, 2015

Acer Chromebook 13 Review

I was able to receive a review unit of the Acer Chromebook 13 (CB5-311-T9Y2) to try out.  This is a Chromebook that was released back in September, but I have received a number of requests on my thoughts of it due to a recent price drop for education.  Is the Acer Chromebook 13 a good choice with the number of newer Chromebooks available?


Specs:

There are different configurations for the Acer Chromebook 13, but my review unit (CB5-311-T9Y2) has the following:

-  NVIDIA Tegra K1 CD570M-A1 Quad-core 2.10 GHz
-  A 13.3" anti-glare TN Panel with a 1366x768 resolution
-  4GB of RAM
-  16GB SSD
-  1x HDMI, 2x USB 3.0, SD card reader
-  Web Camera with Integrated Microphone
-  Dual-channel High-Definition integrated audio
-  Wireless 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0
-  Height: .71" x Width: 12.9" x Depth: 9" and weighs 3.3lbs
-  4-cell Battery (3220 mAh) for 13 hours of use


Overall Build Quality:

The Acer Chromebook 13 has a much sleeker design to it then we have seen on some of their other Chromebook models.  I like how light and thin it is for a Chromebook of this size.  It is mostly encased in a smooth matte plastic with the bezel and bottom casing of the Chromebook being a slightly textured white plastic.  This plastic choice looks nice initially, but it does gets dirty very easily.  In the hands of students, it will not take long for this to happen if they are not wiped off regularly.



There are dual speakers on the bottom of the Acer Chromebook 13 that are decent for the price point.  The hinges only go back 135 degrees, which could still allow damage to occur to them if the lid is pushed too far back.


Processor/Speed:

The Acer Chromebook 13 is one of the few Chromebooks to use NVIDIA's Tegra K1 processor.  When I ran the Octane benchmark, the Acer Chromebook 13 with 4GB of RAM scored a 7722.  I found the Tegra K1 processor to work well in the Chromebook and you should not have any issues with students using it in the classroom.  The Tegra K1 also allows for a better battery life, which we will talk about later in the review.  Like other ARM processors, it also allows for a fanless design.   


Screen:

The screen in the configuration I am reviewing is a 13.3" matte TN panel with a 1366x768 resolution.  Unfortunately, the TN panel at this screen size seems to have a more noticeable washed out look to it then what I have seen in the smaller 11.6" Chromebooks.  Personally, I also prefer a higher resolution screen in Chromebooks that are of this size as text can sometimes have a fuzzy look to it with the lower resolution.  This screen could be acceptable for student use, but you may want to consider a configuration with a better resolution for staff.  Replacement screens for the review unit I am using seem to be around $75 from third party vendors.


Keyboard/Trackpad:



Though I prefer the keyboard and trackpad on the Toshiba Chromebook 2, the Acer Chromebook 13 was still good to use when compared to other Chromebook models of this screen size.  The trackpad was smooth and I had no issues using the keyboard.



Like the Acer C740, the keyboard keys do 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.


Power Adapter:

The power adapter for the Acer Chromebook 13 is your typical brick design. It still uses a thinner connector that could possibly bend or break easier under student use.



Battery Life:

Acer claims that you should get 13 hours out of the Acer Chromebook 13.  In my Nyan Cat test to gauge the battery under a heavier use situation, I found it to get 9 hours and 42 minutes on a full charge with the screen at a 75% brightness.  That is actually really good for a Chromebook with this screen size. From this test, and my own usage experience, I think you should get around 10.5 to 11 hours with standard classroom use and the screen being dimmed.


Conclusion:

So is the Acer Chromebook 13 worth considering at this point for schools?  For the new price point, it is not a bad option if you want a 13.3" Chromebook and can tolerate the matte white plastic design in the hands of students.  Especially if you want a Chromebook of this screen size with the longest battery life possible for them.  Otherwise, you may want to check out the Toshiba Chromebook 2, which is around a similar price point with a few better design choices.

The Acer Chromebook 13 is available in various configurations.  The configuration I reviewed is available now for $259.99.  Discounted pricing is available on bulk purchases.