Touch screen + Chrome OS + Haswell = Acer C720P, But is it worth the $299 price tag?
Acer has been on a roll lately. They've announced their second Chromebook, the C720 back in 2013. Since then, they've announced a few variants of that $250 Chromebook. There's the C720-2646 which has 2GB of RAM (instead of 4GB in the C720) and is selling for $199. Now they've announced the C720P, which is the same as the C720-2646, but with a Touch screen. The C720P is selling for $299, which isn't bad for a touch screen Chromebook. As far as the specs go, we're looking at a 11.6-inch 1366×768 resolution multi-touch display, Intel Celeron Processor 2955U which is clocked at 1.4GHz and is made on the Haswell Architecture, it also has 2GB of RAM, 32GB SSD, VGA front-facing webcam, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card slot, WiFi a/b/g/n, along with a 3,950mAh battery inside. Just for reference, the battery size is the same as the Nexus 7 (2013). It also weighs in at just 2.98 pounds and is just 0.8-inches thick. All that for just $300, sounds like a great deal right? So is it worth your hard-earned cash? Well that's what this review is all about. We're going to go through the hardware and software and determine whether it's worth the cash.
The hardware on the C720P is relatively the same as the C720 which I reviewed last year. Aside from having half the RAM and a touchscreen, it's relatively the same Chromebook. So obviously, we are going to be talking about the touch screen and performance on the 2GB of RAM. Since those are really the only differences. As far as the ports go, on the left-hand side we're looking at the power, HDMI, USB 3.0 and 3.5mm headphone jack. While over on the right-hand side we're looking at the SD card slot, and the USB 2.0 port. Along the back there is an unused SIM card slot, which probably hints at a 3G or LTE version of the C720P coming soon. Which we'd all welcome. Along the front are the normal lights you'd see on any other Acer Chromebook. These indicate charging, battery, and WiFi.
Now onto the touch screen. The touch screen actually isn't too bad. Especially given that this is a $300 machine. The only other "laptop" I've used that had a touch screen was the Chromebook Pixel, so I'll be making a lot of references towards the Pixel. I'd have to say the touch screen experience on the C720P has improved greatly over the Pixel last year. Now I'd still say that Chrome OS is still not fully ready for a touch screen Chromebook, but it's nice to see it getting better. I'm not really a huge fan of touch screens on laptops, period. But it is something different. And something I can get behind. As far as scrolling goes, it's pretty responsive. I had no issues with it being slow or anything like that.
As far as performance goes, it was pretty solid. Now it does only have 2GB of RAM, so you're not going to be able to have a ton of tabs open and it still run pretty smooth. But if you only need to have a few tabs open at once, then 2GB of RAM should be plenty of memory to get you through whatever tasks you need to get down. As far as the processor goes, it is a Celeron 2955U processor, but it is built on the Haswell architecture, so you know that means a ton of battery life. As far as battery life goes, I was getting around 7-9 hours on battery. Of course that also depends on what exactly you're doing. But considering Acer only advertises 7 hours of battery, that's good enough for me. And definitely better than my old Samsung ARM-based Chromebook.
It's Chrome OS. I mean there's not much to say here, it's still basically a browser-based netbook. Which isn't meant to be anything bad, but don't buy a Chromebook thinking it can replace your laptop. While it can for some people, it can't for others. I know for me, the only Chromebook that can replace my laptop is probably the original C720 or the Pixel. Because I need plenty of RAM – too many Chrome tabs. There are a lot more new features in Chrome OS now than there were a few months ago, like Google Now cards are now in the beta channel, but other than that it's just Chrome with a file manager.
What I did notice, in comparing it to my ARM-based Samsung Chromebook, is that it's a whole lot smoother. On the Samsung Chromebook, it was tough to play videos, whether it be from YouTube or saved locally. However, I had no issues with the C720P in playing videos both streaming and stored locally. There was also a pretty big lag with the Samsung Chromebook, which I'm thinking is because Chrome OS wasn't ready for ARM-based chips at that time, but the C720P is pretty smooth, whether that's hardware or software, or both, it's very noticeable.
- Price: For $300, it's hard to beat the Acer C720P, especially since it's going to get updates from Google for quite some time.
- Battery Life: I just can't say enough about the battery life on Haswell chips. My own daily driver (HP Envy 15) has a Haswell chip inside, and it delivers amazing battery life.
- Portability: The Acer C720P is very lightweight which makes it very easy to carry around with you no matter where you go. Sure a Tablet might be more portable, but I'd rather carry a Chromebook.
- Display: While the touch screen is great, I'd love to see the resolution bumped up a bit. Maybe this is just me being nit-picky, but after using a monitor and laptop that both have a 1080p display, it's hard to go back to a 1366×768 resolution display.
- Performance: While it wasn't bad, I would have liked to see them keep 4GB of RAM inside this one. Even if they offered another version which was $350 and had a touch screen and 4GB of RAM, I'd definitely buy it.
I won't say this is the best Chromebook, under $500 yet, but I will say it's pretty close. However, I may be a bit biased, as I've only ever used Acer and Samsung Chromebooks, aside from the Pixel which isn't under $500. The Acer C720P is definitely a great Chromebook, and I'm loving the competition coming into the Chromebook space now. I'd love to see a couple of 13-inch Chromebooks though as I think 11.6 is just too small and 15 is a little too big.
Bottom line is, if you're looking for a nice Chromebook, and looking for a touch screen display, then the C720P from Acer is the one you want to get. Which it's available at Acer's website, Amazon, Best Buy and several other retailers for $299.