Highlight – The Chromebook 15 strikes a perfect balance between affordability and quality
When it comes to Chromebooks Acer is perhaps one of the most prominent brands in the market, as they have released more models than any other brand. Acer's constant releases of various Chromebooks is not necessarily just a means to corner the market, but more to offer a laptop that is capable of suiting everyone's needs. To do this Acer has Chromebooks in varying sizes and with a range of different features and designs. Their latest offering is the brand-new Acer Chromebook 15, set at a $199 price tag, making it a fairly affordable laptop for just about anyone.
What's In The Box
As is typical with Chromebooks, there's nothing special inside of the box that comes along with the Chromebook 15. You'll find the laptop itself, along with the charging brick and the power cable that plugs into a wall outlet. Other than that there's nothing else to find, which is standard.
From Chromebook to Chromebook the specifications and hardware tend to be pretty similar, but that doesn't mean that they won't vary. Acer has equipped the Chromebook 15 with a familiar crop of specs, beginning with the size of the display. As the name suggests, Acer has fitted this Chromebook with an HD 15.6-inch screen, carrying a resolution of 1366 x 768 with LED backlighting and 16:9 aspect ratio. The processor inside is powering the laptop is an Intel Celeron Dual-Core N3060 CPU, clocked at 1.2GHz, which is also paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 SDRAM. The Acer Chromebook 15 is fitted with an integrated Intel HD 400 graphics card. It has 16GB of internal storage, a standard across many Chromebooks in the market. There's also a an SD card reader on board for expandable storage beyond the 16GB, with support for up to 128GB if you happen to need more room.
The Chromebook 15 supports Wi-Fi 802.11ac with 2×2 mimo technology and Bluetooth 4.2 for connectivity. There's an HD webcam integrated for use with video chat which also supports High Dynamic Range, and according to Acer the battery life should be able to give about up to 12 hours on a single charge with the 3,950mAh battery that's inside the laptop. It should be noted that milage here will vary user to user, but this is mostly in line with what we experienced during our time using the device, however we'll get into that a bit later. Weight wise it comes in at about 4.3 Lbs. and for ports the Chromebook 15 has two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI out port, one 3.5mm audio port for plugging in headphones, and one port for the ac adapter.
Hardware & Design
Design wise the Acer Chromebook 15 doesn't look too much different from other models in Acer's camp or other Chromebooks for that matter. That said, this is still a great looking Chromebook and especially considering that the unit will cost just $199. For that price, Acer has used a plastic shell for the body of the Chromebook, although it certainly looks to have a metal design with the backside of the lid having a smooth brushed metal finish to it. True to form with just about any other Chromebook to date, the new Acer Chromebook 15 comes sporting the familiar Chrome logo in the top left corner of the lid, along with Acer's logo below it, although it isn't raised like it is on Acer's recently launched Chromebook 14 that was released earlier this year in June.
On the bottom you'll find five rubber feet which help to keep the Chromebook in place when sat on a desk or tabletop, and the underside of the Chromebook 15 has more of a rigid look to it when compared to the lid and inside of the laptop, as well as a slight textured feel which seems to give it some grip, at least that's the impression I got personally when carrying the Chromebook around. Other than the feet on the bottom side, you'll find vents for the airflow that Acer has put in place to keep the laptop cool when being used. On the sides is where you'll find all of the ports that you can utilize and connect to. On the left side of the Chromebook there's one USB 3.0 port, the single HDMI out port that was built in, and power and audio ports for plugging in the ad adapter and a pair of headphones.
On the right side you'll find the second USB 3.0 port as well as the digital media card reader. By all accounts, the Acer Chromebook 15 is designed with a minimalist style that is not flashy in any way, and that's just fine if you're looking for something with a simple look to it that is meant more for helping you get things done than looking good sitting on a table at a coffee shop. Having said that, simple doesn't mean the Chromebook 15 isn't good looking, as mentioned above Acer have made a good looking laptop here.
Acer has given the Chromebook 15 a dual speaker design and you'll find these on either side of the keyboard when you flip up the lid to reveal the screen and keyboard. Both speakers span the height of the keyboard, leaving a fairly large area for resting your hands when typing, and directly in the middle is the decently sized trackpad, which, has a very tactile and responsive feel to it. Just clicking it a few times is all that's needed to see that Acer have put some thought into this particular area, although it's still a ways off from the trackpads on some more premium laptops. Speaking of responsiveness, this continues with the keys on the keyboard which are very clearly easy to type on and big enough for anyone who is used to typing on a larger sized keyboard. The keys look and feel evenly spaced as well, and although there is no backlighting for the keys which will ultimately make it more challenging when trying to use the Chromebook in more dimly lit situations, the keys seem to feel and function quite nicely which should be the main concern. Essentially, they don't feel cheap in any way which is actually impressive given that it is on the lower end of the pricing scale of all the available Chromebooks out there. Acer have also used a dual-hinge design for this Chromebook model which is something you'll see from more than a few Chromebooks that are on the market.
Overall, the design of the Chromebook 15 is certainly understated, but it still looks good and feels good when using it. Everything seems to be thoughtfully considered to the point where anyone could enjoy using this laptop, although if I had one complaint from a personal standpoint it's that the keyboard took a little getting used to as it is a bit different from my day to day computing machine, and by different I mean slightly larger. That said, Acer has designed an all around quality looking Chromebook for the cost.
Software & Performance
On the software side of things there isn't really much if anything that's different here from other Chromebooks in Acer's lineup let alone other Chromebooks in general, as it runs Chrome OS and most if not all current Chromebook models are on the same version of software. If you've used a Chrome OS machine before any time in the past couple of years, everything will feel familiar here right down to the integrated software shortcuts and placement/access of apps and settings. As this is on the latest version of Chrome OS, there may be a couple of things that have changed visually if you haven't used a Chromebook in a while, such as the leftmost button on the taskbar at the bottom of the display which brings up your installed apps in a window that sit just below a Google Search bar. While this button has always brought up the same window, the icon of the button itself is what has changed as it is now a circle instead of the grid of squares that it used to be. Considering this, users likely aren't going to be too confused if they don't recognize the icon to bring up their apps, as the OS is still just as navigable as it's always been, and logically speaking, most users will probably just assume that although a different icon, the button still does the same thing. While it isn't currently available on the Chromebook 15, the Play Store along with Android app compatibility will be one new experience that users can look forward to, as Google have noted that Android apps will be available on a future version of Chrome OS, although it is only supported on a few Chromebook models at the moment.
One of the Chromebook 15's defining characteristics is Acer's implementation of what they call ComfyView properties which are supposed to help with anti-glare. During my time with the device it was clearly noticeable that the screen was built with the idea that it should be easy to see even if being used while outside, but it should still be noted that this doesn't get rid of glare entirely. On that note it also isn't limited to outside use, as glare from lighting inside was also minimized to some degree which should be one of the things that customers take into account when and if they consider the Chromebook 15. Users can also simply turn up the brightness if need be which will help with glare as well, and the screen on this laptop does feel like it gets rather bright.
When it comes to performance, this is where there is likely to be some difference when comparing the Chromebook 15 to other models. While the specs across Chromebooks can be fairly similar, the exact pieces of hardware used do tend to differ and although the Chromebook 15 does have a respectable hardware list, those looking for something extremely powerful may want to look at all of their options. Having said that, the Chromebook 15 does seem to work pretty well all things considered. It may only have 2GB of RAM but it is newer RAM as this is a new Chromebook and there didn't seem to be much issue with lag or stuttering during use. Even when checking out certain apps such as Play Music where there was a noticeable performance dump on older Chromebooks with 4GB of RAM, the Chromebook 15 was able to handle the app running and streaming music without stuttering while I plugged away at browsing and typing.
The ability to play streaming audio without any issue comes in handy with the dual speakers on either side of the keyboard, although admittedly this is one area where the Chromebook 15 falls just a little bit short. The speakers are not bad by any means, in fact they were decent, and they will certainly serve the purpose of providing audio for music, movies, games or any other activity where the sound is needed, but by the same token they also won't be on par with the kind of sound quality that you might find in a higher priced laptop. All things considered, though, the audio on the Chromebook 15 still performs well to the point where the average user who isn't looking for extremely high quality speakers would be happy with what Acer has used even though they aren't the loudest speakers you'll find. All that said, the Chromebook 15 strikes a perfect balance between affordability and quality.
When it comes to battery life, most people will find that a Chromebook is quite capable of staying operational throughout the day without issues, meaning that a single charge for most Chromebooks will keep them going for 9 or so hours before needing to be plugged back in. In the case of the Chromebook 15, Acer boasts about 12 hours of battery life on one charge. Of course, this could change depending on what the user chooses to do with the Chromebook, and more streaming music or streaming video is likely to drain the battery a little more than standard browsing. For the most part, the Acer Chromebook 15 is able to live up to the 12 hour mark on a single charge, but most users are probably much more likely to receive around 8 or 9 hours of battery life, perhaps less if the Chromebook is under really heavy use. While the battery life is not low compared to other laptops, an extra couple of hours of guaranteed battery life wouldn't hurt. Having said that, the Chromebook 15 is easy enough to charge and the laptop only weighs 4.3 Lbs., which is more realistically close to 5 Lbs. with the charger so the whole package will be easy to tote around if you need a little bit longer on the battery than what is probably allowed on average.
Those looking for a laptop that is vastly different from the rest of the available laptops on the market may want to look elsewhere. In fact, the Chromebook 15 is not even vastly different from other Chromebooks. Having said that, this isn't a bad thing as the Acer Chromebook 15 is a decent laptop, and this is even more apparent given the price of $199 as that puts it squarely in value range of laptops, and on the lower end when it comes to most Chromebooks. Of course, those looking for something premium or more high-end may not be extremely happy with the Acer Chromebook 15, but it would be able to serve some of the needs of even the most heavy users.
Should you buy the Acer Chromebook 15?
That depends. As mentioned, if you're looking for a high-powered Chromebook or other type of laptop, there are perhaps other options which may be a better fit. Of course, those looking for something more value oriented should feel right at home with this laptop. On top of this the Acer Chromebook 15 does perform rather well and the larger display makes it enjoyable for media content as well as makes it easy on the eyes for reading and browsing the web. All that said, if you simply want a Chromebook that works well and will get the job done for your needs of having a laptop without having to spend a lot of money, the Acer Chromebook 15 will fit the bill nicely and all for under $200.