Review: Acer Chromebook 14

Acer is absolutely no stranger to the Chromebook and the wider Chrome OS industry. In fact, by quite a substantial margin, Acer is one of the leaders in this market. Partly due to the sheer number of devices the company has released running on Chrome OS and partly due to how versatile their Chromebooks range is. Acer literally has a Chromebook to suit just about anyone and one of their most recent releases is the Acer Chromebook 14. Looking to fill a void in the Acer line up, the Acer Chromebook bridges the gap between their smaller Chromebooks and their ultra-large Acer Chromebook 15. The Acer Chromebook 14 comes priced at $299.99.

Specs

Generally speaking, Chromebooks do not differ too greatly in the specs department. However, that is not to say that there are not differences, as some Chromebooks just come with an overall greater level of specifications and the Acer Chromebook 14 is one of those Chromebooks. This is a Chromebook which comes equipped with a 14-inch display which makes use of a 1920 x 1080 resolution. Inside, the Acer Chromebook 14 comes loaded with 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD storage and is powered by an Intel Celeron (N3160) quad-core processor (clocking at 1.6 GHz). Connectivity is established over 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, while this is a unit which comes powered by a 3,920 mAh battery. One which is rated to offer up to 12 hours of usage between charges. In terms of connections, the Acer Chromebook 14 comes equipped with two USB (3.0) ports, an HDMI port and a 3.5 mm headphone jack port which also doubles as the mic input. In terms of the physical dimensions, the Acer Chromebook 14 measures 13.43 x 9.31 x .67 inches and weighs in at 3.42 lbs.

Hardware & Design

When it comes to Chromebooks, the word of the day is always affordability. After all, this is largely the big USP with Chromebooks. The downside with this affordability motto, is that the actual build quality is occasionally, a little dubious. Especially when it comes to their design as while Chromebooks are generally built to be durable, they are not the most attractive of products. However, that is changing. What started as obvious plastic-looking devices has slowly evolved into the type of products that now look much sleeker and far more premium-like. Products like the Acer Chromebook 14.

There is little to argue about when it comes to the design of the Acer Chromebook 14. This is a very attractive looking Chromebook. It could be said that it verges on the minimalist side, and while a valid argument, it is the minimalist look which really adds to the presentation of the Acer Chromebook 14. Encased almost entirely in aluminium, the Acer Chromebook 14 does look and feel the part and you are unlikely to complain too much about the design. The cover of the Chromebook 14 does come sporting a raised (aesthetic) finish which does add a bit more flavor to the presentation, when looking from afar. But this is just a finish. The raised look doesn't really add much grip or otherwise to the Chromebook. So it is a lot smoother than it looks with the downside being more slippery as well.

In contrast, the bottom adopts an even more minimalist approach due to the absence of any sort of finish at all, which does mean the bottom looks a little bare bones, although, it is the bottom. Four very subtle feet are positioned nicely and as a result, the feet do not add too much height to the Chromebook when laying flat, but do add stability while protecting the base of the unit. Unfortunately, this is also where you will find the speakers, which is one of the biggest disappointments with the Chromebook 14. The sound out of the Chromebook 14 is good, but with those speakers positioned where they are, even at top volume, this is not a loud Chromebook.

The font of the Acer Chromebook 14 continues the sleek theme as this is a unit which curves inwards nicely. From the front, the top and bottom sides both curve inwards resulting in a much thinner front portion, compared to the back. While a small and barely useful feature, it is one which does continue to highlight the attention to detail Acer is focusing on with their newer Chromebook options.

Moving on and the left hand side of the Chromebook (when facing the keyboard) is where you will find the majority of the ports. On offer are two USB 3.0 ports which are joined by the HDMI port. Which essentially means that all your larger connectors are positioned on the same side. In contrast, the left hand side is largely reserved for smaller aspects, like the power supply and your headphones. Besides the two smaller sockets, this is also where you will find the light indicators for the battery and so on.

One of the additional form factors that is worth pointing out are the hinges. To be specific, the singular hinge. Unlike what we have seen with Chromebooks in the past from Acer, the Chromebook 14 sports a singular hinge which spans the majority of the width of the Chromebook and is one of the only contrasting colored aspects you will find. This is a very versatile hinge as well which means you do not have to worry about snapping the display or positioning the Chromebook at any particular angle. This is a Chromebook which allows the display side to revert to a complete horizontal position. While there is very few reasons as to why you might end up using a Chromebook in this matter, it is a benefit to know that you do not have to be concerned about viewing angles or more importantly, overstretching the display connection cables inside.

Another aspect which often comes up when discussing Chromebooks is the keyboard and touchpad. This is a larger than usual Chromebook and the upside of this is that the keyboard is slightly larger as well. This is a full size QWERTY keyboard and one which works well. Of course, if you are more use to a larger sized laptop or keyboard, then there will be an adjustment period while you get used to the keys being closer together. Otherwise, the keys are punchy, tactile and responsive. After limited use it is difficult to comment on the likely longevity of the keyboard, although there were no noticeable issues during the testing period. Much can be said for the touchpad. Response was good and although a little stiff, it is expected that a more natural level of movement will take effect after the touch/trackpad has been worn in.

Overall, the design of the Chromebook 14 does highlight the evolutionary journey Acer’s Chromebooks have been on so far. The Acer Chromebook 14 is a very stylish looking Chromebook and significantly improves on the previous models that have come through. The general presentation is excellent and the device very much feels like a premium Chromebook. In a world where Chromebooks have little room to differentiate themselves, the Acer Chromebook 14 does a good job of standing out and emulating the design of premium laptops.

Software & Performance

When it comes to the software, what is there left to be said that has not already been said? This is Chrome OS and unlike Android in general, the differences between devices and manufacturers is minimal at best. For those that are used to Chrome OS then there are no surprises here. This is a very straightforward Chrome OS-experience, which does inevitably mean that there are no major surprises on offer here with a very familiar interface look and design. What you don't like about Chrome OS in general is here, as are all the design elements that you do know and like. While the general functionality of Chrome OS is difficult to differentiate due to Chrome OS, it is worth noting they will become a lot more identifiable in the near future, as Google has already confirmed that Android app support is coming to Chrome OS. Following which, how Chromebooks handle the apps will make for interesting additional testing. In the meantime though, this is Chrome OS as you know it.

While the software is an aspect which is highly uniformed across devices, performance is not. Like any industry, devices perform differently and performance is usually one of the biggest red flags when it comes to Chromebooks. In this respect, Acer has been in this game a long time now and they do seem to know how to bring to market a highly-functional and good-performing Chromebook. As a result, the Acer Chromebook 14 is unsurprisingly a winner on performance. Generally speaking, the Chromebook 14 works as well as any Chromebook you will currently find on the market. During testing (always on the stable Chrome OS channel), there was literally never a moment where the Chromebook faltered. The Chromebook 14 ran flawlessly and on no occasion encountered any issues. This was also the case during prolonged levels of usage and as a result, this is a very solid and reliable performing option.

The display on the Acer Chromebook 14 is another solid addition. This is a 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display and coupled with the 14-inches on offer, the display is certainly at the upper end of the Chromebook spectrum. It is worth pointing out that some consumers find the 1080p displays on Chromebooks a little awkward to use, due to the smaller and more defined interface. Which in truth, is one of the common issues across Chrome OS. While this is 1080p display, it is difficult to criticize it any meaningful way. The display is clear and is very responsive and Acer has done well to ensure that this is a Chromebook which works pretty well in all lighting conditions. So whether you are using this at home or outside, the display seems to balance well offering a relatively consistently viewing experience with minimal glare.

Inside

Outside

One downside though is the already commented on sound. The quality of the sound on offer with the Acer Chromebook 14 is good, crisp and clear. However, it is just not as loud as it could be. While this will be fine for those who connect to an external sound output, for those using this on its own, the Acer Chromebook 14 does lack in the volume department. Not to a detrimental or unusable degree, but there will be the times when you are hitting that volume key only to realize the volume is already set to maximum.

Battery Life

Chromebooks are not exactly problematic in the battery life department. In fact, this is generally one of the main selling points, as these ultra-affordable units typically come with more than enough battery to get you through the day. So in theory, almost any Chromebook you currently pick up, the battery life is likely to be more than sufficient. The Acer Chromebook 14 can easily be added to that list. According to Acer, this is a Chromebook which offers up to 12 hours of usage between charges and generally speaking this is true. You can achieve 12 hours of usage, but you are not going to surpass that marker ever. The 12 hour rating should be considered to be the very uppermost limit and is highly dependent on very minimal use. For the more standard levels of usage, 12 hours will be largely unobtainable. However, you will easily get anywhere up to nine hours of usage between charges without worry. At the extreme end of things when streaming video and at the highest brightness setting, the Chromebook 14 easily lasts for over six hours. As a result a good rule of thumb would be to assume extremely intensive usage will give you up to six hours of usage, more moderate usage between six and nine hours of usage and very light and low intensity usage anywhere between nine and twelve hours.

In terms of charging, this is a very standard affair with the Acer Chromebook 14 able to charge from empty to full in about two hours. Which is generally the charge time you will find with most Chromebooks nowadays and considering you are getting close to 10 hours of functional use in return, is not a bad deal.

Wrap Up

Whenever a new Chromebook comes through, generally speaking, it is a pretty standard affair. After all, these are largely generic units which run the same software, offer a similar level of battery life, similar specs and a similar affordable-oriented build. While the Acer Chromebook 14 also falls into this category, with a typical spec list and software experience, the Chromebook 14 also brings with it a design and build that clearly separates it from the pack. Yes, there are other ‘premium’ Chromebooks available that also offer an increased quality (and some which offer a better quality than the Chromebook 14) but these typically also do come with a premium price tag attached. What really sets the Acer Chromebook 14 apart is that for the solid build, sleek design and great battery life, is this one costs less than $300 to buy. That is a price which overall is extremely hard to argue against.

Should you buy the Acer Chromebook 14?

Priced at $299.99 for the build quality, stability of performance and battery life, this is seriously good Chromebook and in all honestly, there is little reason not to buy the Chromebook 14. While the Acer Chromebook 15 does offer you the best display real estate for your money, the difference feels somewhat negligible with the Acer Chromebook 14. Here you are getting a similar display size, but wrapped within an extremely nice build and generally at the same price point.

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About the Author
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John Anon

Editor-in-Chief
John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]
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