Review: Acer Chromebook R 13

Highlight - The Acer Chromebook R 13 is a testament to Acer's dedication to quality.

Over the years Acer is a company that has produced quite a few Chromebooks and this year has been no different. One of its latest models is the Chromebook R 13, which feels like a slight departure from many of the other models it’s produced in the past. This is immediately felt upon taking the Chromebook out of the box for the first time as you unpack the laptop, run your hands over the metal build, and even stop to marvel at the sleek design that Acer has chosen here. Of course, the stylish look and the decent specs as well as great build quality don’t come cheap, as the Acer Chromebook R 13 does come in at a full retail price of $399. Now, this isn’t too bad of a price for a Chromebook of this nature, but it is more than many of Acer’s other Chromebooks, and it shows. That being said, the Chromebook R 13 has much to offer beyond the premium build materials, like the convertible feature that allows for multiple modes, not too unlike the Lenovo Yoga Book that we reviewed recently, or even Acer's own Chromebook R 11. Pair that with some nifty options like USB Type-C for the charging port and you have one slick Chrome OS-powered laptop. Let’s take a look at what the Acer Chromebook R 13 has to offer and how it stacks up.

In The Box

As with many other Chromebooks out there, what comes inside of the package is pretty standard here. You’ll find the Chromebook itself as well as the power brick to charge the laptop when you need to, your usual warranty and quick start guide, and that’s it. Nothing too flashy or out of the ordinary here, but still everything you need to use the laptop out of the box.

Specs

The Acer Chromebook R 13 is packed full of some pretty decent specifications and hardware, and given the price range as well as the fact that it’s a brand new Chromebook, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. For starters, the Chromebook R 13 features a Full HD 13.3-inch display, but it’s not just a regular display as it’s also a touchscreen, which comes in handy when you’re using this as more of a tablet. It’s powered by a quad-core processor from MediaTek, more specifically the M8173C clocked at 2.1GHz, which is paired with a PowerVR GX6350 for the graphics processing. For RAM it has 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and it packs in 32GB of internal storage, while also featuring a microSD card slot if you need a little bit more space. It also comes with USB Type-C for the charging port, and it has a 4,670mAh battery that boasts up to 12 hours of battery life on a single charge. The Chromebook R 13 supports the latest Wi-Fi standards with 802.11ac plus 2x2 MIMO technology, having the ability to connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. It also has an HD webcam for video chat, weighs about a 1.49kg or 3.3 lbs., and it measures 15.5mm x 326mm x 228mm. When it comes down to it, the Acer Chromebook R 13 offers up great hardware and it all seems to come together to make things work nicely.

Design & Build
Acer has obviously put a lot of thought into the design here and it really shows. This has to be one of the best looking Acer Chromebooks to date, if not the best from them. The entire body minus the inside of the lid that surrounds the screen and connects to the hinge as well as the keys and trackpad is made of metal, giving it a premium feel and an overall premium quality style. Acer has also given the Chromebook R 13 a nice chamfered edge that goes all the way around the lid. Even the power button and volume rocker buttons are made of metal, so you really feel like you’re handling a much more expensive laptop than you really are here. Unlike some laptops, the inside of the Chromebook R 13 has little rubber stoppers on the left and right sides both above and below the keyboard to help keep the display from touching the keys. It also has that nice little lip in front of the trackpad to make opening the lid much easier.

The laptop does come with some pretty thick bezels, but at a screen of this size that shouldn’t both most people. Up at the top of the display is where you’ll find the webcam, which is about the same on every other laptop that has one so there’s nothing too special there. The trackpad feels nice and responsive and it has a good tactile feel to it when clicking, which ties into really my only complaint about the build quality of this Chromebook, and that’s the fact that it’s fairly noticeable how much give the area surrounding the trackpad and the keyboard have when you press on it, even when just clicking on the trackpad you can see and feel the a majority of the panel flexing downward. While this doesn’t really affect the performance of the laptop at all, it might be a little annoying for some users and could make them question the integrity of the build quality. That said, I found there to be no issues with build and never was I worried that there was an issue with this rather minor element. The Chromebook R 13 has dual stereo speakers, but they’re not top facing like you might expect. Acer has actually placed them on the bottom of the laptop which you might think would hinder the sound, and it would if it weren’t for the fact that acer has also made holes for the speakers that face outward from the left and right sides of the laptop where the ports are. The reason for this design, it would seem, is so that the audio output is optimal regardless of the mode you have it in, which brings me to the next point about the laptop’s design.

This is a convertible laptop with a 360-degree display, meaning that you can flip it around all the way and it can be used as a tablet. It can also be used while sitting flat on the keyboard which allows for easy adjustment of the screen’s angle, as well as in a tent mode, and of course like a traditional laptop. When you use it like any other laptop, the audio comes out from the side facing speaker grilles and still sounds great. When used in any other orientation, the audio can come out from either the side grilles or the bottom, or both, so you’re never really missing out on sound and having to worry about muffled audio. The keys on the keyboard feel pretty responsive, and while they won’t be blowing anyone away most likely, they work well and you shouldn’t have any complaints. The hinge is fairly sturdy and the display itself has just a little bit of flex to it while still being rigid enough to keep it from bending and breaking too easily. On the top side of the laptop lid you’ll find a clean, matte silver metal finish, along with the ever familiar Chrome logo in the top left corner, as well as a raised Acer logo with just a little bit of texture, adding to the feel of the premium build quality compared to the non-raised logo that was simply printed on the lid with their latest Acer Chromebook 15. On the bottom Acer has fitted the laptop with four rubber feet to keep it from sliding around, and of course you can see the speaker holes down towards the bottom. On the left hand side of the laptop there’s the USB Type-C port, a single HDMI out port, one standard USB port, and the microSD card slot. Over on the right you’ll find the power button which also acts as an easy way to wake the screen and put it back to sleep, the volume rocker, the 3.5mm audio jack and a security slot.

Display

At 13.3-inches this isn’t going to be the largest laptop screen of any Chromebook out there, but it’s also not the smallest. It fits right into the middle which makes for a nice and manageable size that won’t make you feel like it’s taking up too much space. The screen is Full HD resolution as mentioned above, and uses an IPS panel technology, which does make it a little bit easier on the battery life and a little easier to see in the sunlight, but it does forfeit a little bit of the richness in colors and contrast you might get from something like an AMOLED display. That being said, the screen on the Acer Chromebook R 13 still provides great contrast and color, and it has 10-point multi-touch. You might not use this very often when using it like a regular laptop, but it really makes a difference when interacting with the Android apps that you can download from the Play Store, another huge benefit of this Chromebook which we’ll get into a little bit later. Overall, the display is a decent size with nice viewing angles and it provides an enjoyable viewing experience whether you’re watching movies, playing games, or simply browsing the web.

Performance

My first instinct when testing out the performance was to see how well it played music in the background while I used the laptop to work. This is because I have had not so great experiences in this area with past Chromebooks which ended up with a little bit of a stutter thanks to having obvious trouble with handling the streaming audio during the use of other tasks. I’m happy to say that there was absolutely no issue with this on the Acer Chromebook R 13, as there shouldn’t be given the newness and price of the laptop.

With multitasking out of the way, my next mission was to test out Android games to see how it ran certain high-quality offerings. The only downside I ran into here is that the games I wished to test at first were not compatible with the Chromebook (yet), but I was able to narrow one down and finally got Implosion - Never Lose Hope installed, which proved to display quite well how the Chromebook R 13 would perform during a more demanding task such as gaming. The 3D visuals and loads of special effects had looked great on the screen throughout my time testing the gameplay, and everything felt fluid and seamless with no lag or any other issues that I was able to notice. That being said, you should have no issues with performance with the Chromebook R 13 when using this as a general laptop and tablet, let alone when playing games. What you can expect is a smooth experience that won’t slow you down no matter what you’re doing. Although it is worth noting that there seemed to be a slight issue with some of the Android apps opening up and switching through various tabs on their own, but this is most certainly due to the laptop having been moved into the developer channel to get access to the Play Store, and not from the Android apps being a poor experience on Chromebooks.

Software

This is Chrome OS, so there isn’t really much to say about this particular category. Not because you can’t do a lot with Chrome OS, but because Chrome OS on the Acer Chromebook R 13 is the same as Chrome OS on any other Chromebook. This allows for a nice seamless user experience with the operating system no matter what machine you’re on. Everything is in the same place as it was on Acer’s Chromebook 15 or even on Chromebooks from other manufacturers. You have your apps in the bottom left corner which expand from the taskbar by clicking on the circle button, while settings and other features that can be accessed are available on the right side of the taskbar next to your profile picture. The one thing that might be considered different here from other Chromebooks is the fact that the R 13 has Play Store access in the Developer and Beta Channels. Google has been opening this up to more Chromebooks of late, but there are still quite a few which can’t use the Play Store or Android app just yet.

Android Apps

For the most part, Android apps work great on the Chromebook R 13 without issue, save for the few that would randomly switch to a new tab within the app. Rather than being indicative of how the Android apps will work on all Chromebooks, though, as stated above this is likely just a byproduct of having been in in the Dev Channel instead of in the Beta or Stable channels. Android apps and the Play Store are not available on this model or most models in a stable version of Chrome yet, so users should some bugs in the software if they choose to switch over to this channel to use Android apps. Most of the time, though, there were no problems with apps or how they ran, and if you can deal with the occasional app not being compatible with the device, then mostly everything should be enjoyable here. Especially when you take into account some of the apps which are nice to use on such a large screen. This also brings up a nice point as Android apps tend to open up in a smaller window on the Chromebook, almost the same way they do on a device running the latest version of Remix OS, but you can easily maximize their window to open the app up full screen if you prefer, and minimize it back down to a smaller size at any time. Additionally, if you put the Chromebook R 13 in tent mode or in Display mode (where it sits on the keyboard) then apps and the Play Store will automatically switch to full screen view.

Battery Life

The Acer Chromebook R 13 is carrying a 4,670mAh battery on the inside which might not sound like a lot for a laptop, but I can assure you that it’s plenty. Even though the screen size is touch-enabled and comes in at 13.3-inches, the use of an IPS panel for the screen helps to use up less battery power. Acer is boasting up to 12 hours of battery life with this laptop, which is certainly going to vary depending on what you use it for. For moderate or average use, around 11-12 hours is likely spot on, but with more heavy use for media, games, plus browsing and other tasks, you’re likely to get a few less hours than the maximum. It seemed to last around 9 hours for me on most days where I opted to use it for work and other tasks instead of my normal laptop, and this was with a combination of typing with the screen on all day, listening to streaming music most of that time, and playing about 30 minutes of a game towards the end of the day. When it comes down to it, battery life won’t be an issue for most people with the Acer Chromebook R 13 and it should make a great laptop for school as it’s easy to tote around while being able to leave the charger at home if you simply want to pack lighter.

Wrap-Up

Chromebooks for the most part are pretty similar and standard across the board. They have their own slightly unique design but they run the same exact versions of Chrome OS, have mostly the same specs save for the processors which can vary a little more often, and many of them come in the same sizes. This is where Ace sets themselves apart. While they do offer a wider range of Chromebooks than any other OEM, they also have at least one or two which are slightly different. The Chromebook R 13 is the latest one of these, and its 360-degree hinge is part of the reason why. The different variations which can be utilized make for a versatile Chromebook that can be used for numerous purposes whether it's to read or play games in tablet mode, or to type on like a regular laptop, or even on the stand view mode which is perfect if you're using the device in the kitchen when cooking and are working off a recipe. Beyond the versatile setup, it's also built with premium materials and is pretty up to date with specs. For the money, this is a pretty great laptop and an all around great performer. The Acer Chromebook is a testament to Acer's dedication to quality.

Should you buy the Acer Chromebook R 13?

Whether or not this is the laptop for you, or the Chromebook for you, depends on what you need. The use of metal for the body, the 360-degree hinge, and 32GB of internal storage certainly all play a part in this Chromebook being a little more expensive than quite a few others. That said, it's hard not to love a laptop that looks this good and has the convertible feature so it can be used in multiple ways. If you want something more simple and are just looking for a basic laptop for typing, browsing, and other light use tasks, then there are definitely cheaper Chromebook options out there. However, if you do value the uniqueness of what's on offer here, you can't go wrong, plus it's one of the models that's already supporting Android apps which is a big plus for the modes where you interact with the touchscreen instead of the trackpad and keyboard.

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About the Author
2015/07/13-1.jpg

Justin Diaz

Head Editor
Lover of food, craft beer, movies, travel, and all things tech. Video games have always been a passion of his due to their ability to tell incredible stories, and home automation tech is the next big interest, in large part because of the Philips Hue integration with Razer Chroma. Current Device: Google Pixel.
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