Chromebooks, I feel, are still a niche product. While I love the concept, and love many models of the Chromebook that I've been able to review, it still has not replaced my laptop. The biggest reason? Photo editing. I use Adobe Lightroom to edit all the pictures I take for the site, and I take anywhere from 1-20 or more for the site each day. It all depends on what news breaks or reviews I'm working on. So not having a good multiple-photo editor on Chrome OS has kept me from using a Chromebook full time. I've been using the Acer Chromebook 15 for the past couple of weeks and absolutely love it. You're going to find out why in our review in just a few minutes.
Chromebooks are basically a netbook, that can run Chrome. And nothing else. Think of an operating system that runs just a browser. And that's what a Chromebook is. They've come a long way in the past few years, and now we have Chromebooks are just about every price point from $199 to $499. Then there's a big gap before you get to the Chromebook Pixel LS from Google, which is going for $999.
Since this is a Chromebook review, the hardware section is going to be the majority of the review. Seeing as the software is the same on every Chromebook. Acer has basically taken their 11.6-inch form factor and made it bigger for their Chromebook 13, and made that even bigger for this Chromebook 15. When you open up the Chromebook, you are greeted with a beautiful 15.6-inch Full HD 1920×1080 resolution display, as well as a keyboard that is centered, with speakers on either side. There's also a nice big trackpad, that works better than ever.
While the trackpad on other Chromebooks have worked well, it seems like this trackpad works even better. Scrolling is buttery smooth on it, all the gestures work perfectly. The keyboard takes a little getting used to, especially if you're used to a smaller laptop like a 13-inch Macbook Pro, which is what I use everyday. Those keys are closer to the edge of the device, so on the Chromebook 15 it took a bit to get used to the change. After that, the keyboard works great. As usual with Chromebooks, the F-row has been replaced with an ESC key followed by back, forward, refresh, full screen, tab switcher, brightness toggles, volume toggles and a power key. The caps lock is also a search key now. Also, and probably obviously, when compared to a Windows keyboard, the Windows key is gone. Like I said, obviously, right?
The speakers are in-ward facing, and they sound amazing. Now they aren't going to compete with the BoomSound on the HTC One M9. But for a Chromebook, or better yet, for a laptop. The speakers are pretty great. I didn't have any complaints after watch movies and countless YouTube videos on this Chromebook. Compared to Acer's other Chromebooks, it's a whole lot better sound coming out of these speakers.
Acer decided to go ahead and throw in a 1080p display here. And thank goodness they did. We've been seeing 1366 x 768 displays at 11 and 13 inches for quite some time. It's nice to finally see it jump to a 1080p display. Especially in a world where our smartphones have 2560 x 1440 resolution displays. It's not going to blow your mind, but it definitely does look pretty good.
On the outside of the Acer Chromebook 15 we have a power slot, HDMI port, USB 3.0 and headphone jack on the left side. Over on the right there's a Kensington lock port, as well as a USB 2.0, and full-size SD card slot. On the back and bottom, we have vents to keep your Chromebook 15 from getting warm. On the front, above the display is the webcam. Which is pretty decent. It's not going to give you 4K video or anything, but for a built-in webcam, it's not bad at all.
On this Chromebook 15, we have an Intel Celeron 3205U dual-core 1.50GHz processor, which is built on the Broadwell micro-architecture. So it is one of the latest chips. It's paired with 4GB of RAM in our review model – although it's also available in 2GB models, which will be cheaper obviously. We've used the Chromebook 15 for watching videos, web surfing, and everything in between. I typically have about 10-15 tabs open and no issues with lag or pages reloading. Which you'd see with a 2GB of RAM model, unfortunately. Everything is pretty snappy as far as performance goes here. It's not an Intel Core i3, but I'm not so sure you need that much power for a Chromebook. However, I could be wrong.
This is something that Chromebooks have always had over Windows laptops. A big reason for that is what Windows has going in the background when compared to a Chromebook. Acer touts that the Chromebook 15 will last about 9 hours on a charge. In our real world testing, we've found that it can last longer. However, that does depend on what you're doing. I keep the Chromebook 15 brightness right in the middle. On Monday, I used it as my work computer which included an hour long video call on Hangouts, as well as writing articles on the site, sending emails, checking Google+, Twitter, Facebook and others. It lasted me about 10 hours. If it weren't for the hour long video Hangout, it probably could have lasted a bit more. But I'm still satisfied with 10 hours. Compared to a Windows laptop, that's a mind-blowing number. I have a HP Pavilion laptop here running Windows 8.1 and it's lucky to get about 3 hours, and it was touted as getting 7-8 hours.
We have Chrome OS here on the Acer Chromebook 15. As expected, it's not that different compared to another Chromebook. However, Chrome OS seems to be a bit nicer on this larger display. Especially the taskbar at the bottom where you can pin more apps. It's also nice to have even more space to do work. Like we mentioned in the performance section, Chrome OS runs great on this machine with 4GB of RAM.
If you're looking for a larger Chromebook, that has plenty of power and under $500. Then look no further. However, if you want a slightly smaller one – say 13-inches – you have a few other options. In fact there's one from Acer, Toshiba and even Google in the Chromebook Pixel LS. The Chromebook 15 is a bit bulky and too big for our tastes, but that doesn't mean it's too big for yours.