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Acer Chromebook Spin 514 Review – For Those Who Want Power To Spare, Love Attention To Details

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Acer knocks another one out of the park with some help from AMD on the Chromebook Spin 514

Acer Chromebook Spin 514 (CP514-1HH-R0SS)
$599.99
Rating
star star star star star
Pros
  • MIL-STD 810H certified, MIL-STD 810F for dust/sand resistance
  • Corning Gorilla Glass touchscreen
  • Full-size HDMI port
  • Backlit keyboard standard
  • All-metal chassis and lid
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3500C processor w/Radeon Vega 8 graphics
  • Comfortable, ergonomic keyboard
  • Premium finish and aesthetics
  • Mics and webcam are great for video conferencing, audio notes
  • Lightweight Chrome OS firmware and features
Cons
  • Screen underperforms under direct bright light or sunlight
  • Built-in speakers lack bass, underperform outside of clamshell mode
  • No Wi-Fi 6 support

Chromebooks have only continued to improve over the past several years and taking a closer look at the Acer Chromebook Spin 514, recently sent to Android Headlines for review, is a great way to highlight that change. Not only is this laptop a credit to the entire category. It’s a prime example of how far Acer has come in the segment.

Specifically, Acer sent the AMD Ryzen 5 variant of this gadget — model designation CP514-1HH-R0SS. So this is the variant that ships with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. As with the Ryzen 7 version, it also features a full-fledged HDMI port, in addition to its two USB-C ports, USB-A port, combo headphone jack, and card reader. A Kensington security port is part of the package too.

But none of that, the other internals, the MIL-STD 810H military toughness certification, or MIL-STD 810F dust and sand resistant rating really provides a great picture of just what this Chromebook is. Instead, it’s how all of those parts come together that really makes it a great device. And more than worthy of its Editor’s Choice award.

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So let’s take a closer look at how this gadget does under a full review.

Acer Chromebook Spin 514 hardware touts small details for a great experience

Acer Chromebook hardware is top-notch and the Chromebook Spin 514 is no different

Opening up the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 that was sent out for review, one thing became readily apparent. Acer intends this Chromebook to be great for productivity. Not only did the company send out a bundle with a weaved fiber carry case — complete with plush inner lining and a secondary pocket for accessories. It also included a Chromebook-compatible Wireless mouse with batteries. The mouse, of course, utilizes the built-in full-size USB-A port.

But it isn’t just the accessories here that are sleek. The Acer Chromebook Spin 514 builds on the framework laid out by some of Acer’s most premium products. With chamfered edges all around and, where those are in the metal lid, a diamond-cut style, polished finish.

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The keyboard surface, conversely, feels like 100-percent plastics. But it’s not the kind of plastic that would be found in a cheap device by any stretch of the imagination. It’s firm, with very little give. So the entire package just feels durable and premium. The plastics also don’t get in the way of the typing experience at all.

In fact, this Chromebook easily has among the most comfortable keyboards I’ve used to date. With the keys snapping down what feels like a near-perfect travel distance with ease. And with no accidental presses either. Continuing in that same vein, the ports and plugs on this Chromebook all snap firmly into place when used. There’s no wiggle or jostle to be found. And the buttons, while not quite as clicky as might be hoped, aren’t squishy either.

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Similarly, the hinge is firmly seated, making it easy to use the 360-degree-folding frame at any angle. Without being too tight or requiring an undue amount of force to move. That’s so good, in fact, that one-handed operation of the hinge is easy, without too much lift in the keyboard. Although the back of the backlit-standard keyboard does raise slightly as the lid is tilted for a more ergonomic typing experience.

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The touchpad, like the keyboard, is responsive and offers a superior experience to the majority of Chromebooks I’ve tested.

All of those things would already make for a great experience overall on any laptop or Chromebook. But Acer Chromebook Spin 514 also looks great.

The company gave it a bright silvery hue under direct lighting, with even brighter edgework around the chamfering on the keyboard and frame. Under less direct lighting, or in shadows, that bright hue tones way down. Becoming almost a dark slate color. In reality, it’s “Mist Green” in color. The green tint is almost imperceptible but definitely there if you look close enough or catch it in the right lighting. And it’s a very different color from the also-available silver model.

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Small touches, such as a chamfered, sunken keyboard, slight lip for easier lid opening, and other details take that further. This is arguably among the best-looking Chromebooks on the market.

The display here is great, except where it isn’t

Acer Chromebook Spin 514 does great under most conditions, but not all

Acer built this variant of this Chromebook with a standard FHD display set between narrow bezels with a 78-percent screen-to-body ratio. That left just enough bezel to be comfortable using the Chromebook Spin 514 touchscreen during this review, in tablet mode, without taking up too much space. It feels like a perfect ratio for this type of 360-degree folding laptop.

The technology giant also includes a full-size HDMI port on the AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 models, just in case a 14-inch display isn’t big enough.

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Of course, 1,920 by 1,080 is not ideal for entertainment, even at 14-inches. And especially with consideration for all of the 4K HDR content available for consumption. But the IPS panel is still more than serviceable and most users aren’t going to miss the extra resolution since it takes a real close-up look to see pixels. This model’s AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics help with that too, ensuring things look as crisp and bright as possible.

The screen is also incredibly responsive, easily matching any smartphone or computer touch screen I’ve used, to date. That is, Chrome OS responds to touches almost instantly without any stutter or lag. And without any annoying unwanted blur, except under the fastest swipes. So, generally speaking, the screen on Acer Chromebook Spin 514 performed as well as any top-tier Chromebook.

But none of that is to say that this display is at all perfect. Despite the glare-resistant CineCrystal panel, Acer Chromebook Spin 514 did not do well under direct sunlight during my review. Although it works brilliantly indoors and even under somewhat bright lights indoors, with great color accuracy and almost no wash-out with the brightness maxed out, sunlight just about makes this screen unusable.

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Future-proofing is the name of the game for Acer Chromebook Spin 514

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Ryzen and Radeon from AMD bring power to spare for Acer Chromebook Spin 514

Among the great things about Chromebooks, and especially newer Chromebooks is their longevity. Because the operating system tends to be so lightweight and because of frequent updates — the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 under review will see updates until June 2029 — the devices tend to last a long time. That’s even with weak hardware. Future-proofing is, for Chrome OS, the name of the game. But the Chromebook Spin 514 is a different beast entirely from most that have come before.

That’s because this Chromebook utilizes AMD Ryzen series chipsets. And, for this model, version CP514-1HH-R0SS, that’s a quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 3500C. So the processor speed is set at 2.10GHz.

Now, that’s the base speed for this processor. And it can max out at around 3.7GHz, which has big implications for this particular Chromebook. During my review of Acer Chromebook Spin 514, it never really slowed down or became bogged down.

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As noted in the next segment, I chiefly used this Chromebook for work. But that also includes some minor video editing, heavy photo editing, and plenty of tabs all being open at once. More than 30-tabs, on average, in fact. So it’s by no means a light workload for any computer.

Even playing games natively from Android while doing those other tasks presented no issues. And that should hold for the life of this Chromebook, given how much power it brings to the table. As well as for many games available via Linux, Stadia, and other services. Where many Chromebooks have weaker processors and slow down significantly during the heavier tasks I was attempting, this one simply didn’t.

As Chrome OS continues to advance and more features are added, that could change. There are no guarantees on that front. And those who want to do even heavier tasks such as developing or heavier graphics design associated with that and with other tasks might want to opt for the Ryzen 7 version instead. But that really shouldn’t be necessary for just about everybody else. And it certainly should be more than enough for most of the gaming that Chromebooks are capable of.

Put simply, when it comes to performance, Acer Chromebook Spin 514 stands out among the rest as a true contender. There were, during my review, no lag, latency, overheating, or other frustrations to be found on this front. Just effortless performance and endless wells of power, relatively speaking, for Chrome OS to draw from.

Battery life will vary widely on a user-by-user basis, as with all electronics

USB-C ports and fast charging make charging Acer Chromebook Spin 514 easy

Now, my battery test during this review of Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is not necessarily going to be typical. To begin with, there are dozens — and more — contributing factors when it comes to the longevity of a battery. For my test, this machine was mostly used for work purposes — at least during the battery segment. And I kept the screen and backlit keyboard brightness turned up, as well as the volume.

Similarly, I made use of the included wireless mouse during my review. And for this test in particular, as well as an hour or so of HDMI output.

Summarily, I put this Chromebook through its paces during my battery test. So my usage should be more intensive than what most buyers would see but not for all. It goes without saying, that means my battery experience will be somewhat shorter than what many users would see. And it’s worth noting that under less strenuous conditions, I did approach the claimed battery life of up to 10-hours. So that’s not out of the question for those who don’t turn the screen brightness up. Or those who don’t perform battery-intensive tasks.

With that said, during my battery test, Acer Chromebook Spin 514 lasted right around six-and-a-half hours. That’s well short of the “up to 10-hours” claim, but that’s not at all unusual for any electronic device. And, in fact, it’s a far better battery life than I’ve noted with similar devices making similar claims.

What’s more, I used this Chromebook far more intensively than most users are likely to. So my results should be toward the lower end of the range in terms of longevity. With a more reasonable screen brightness, volume, and workload, this Chromebook is going to last several hours longer per charge.

In terms of charging, that took right around 2-hours, using the included charging hardware.

Audio from laptop speakers is never great, Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is no exception

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This Chromebook packs bottom-firing speakers and the ports you need to listen to whatever media you like

If you’re looking for a great audio experience, at least from the headphone port, Acer Chromebook Spin 514 can deliver. But users shouldn’t expect too much from the bottom-firing speakers. Those are, in fact, almost always the biggest drawback to any laptop, and that includes this Acer.

Put plainly, these speakers perform best when placed in clamshell orientation on a solid surface such as a wooden tabletop. In any other orientation, bass notes are still largely present. But “tinny” is the only descriptor that really works there. Highs simply drown out bass frequencies. And mids are present but don’t really shine through.

Placed on a tabletop or other surface, the bass tones don’t necessarily punch either though. And, disappointingly, the lowest notes disappear regardless of which orientation this Chromebook is placed in.

Now, none of that is unexpected. Laptop speakers, by and large, are generally awful. And the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 didn’t perform any worse under review. And, in fact, it performs better than the overwhelming majority that I’ve tested — an impressive feat in its own right. Albeit not one that’s saying much. The included 3.5mm audio combo jack more than makes up for that. So the real question here is how well the mics perform since many users will be limiting use to that.

It’s worth noting that this laptop doesn’t ship with any kind of noise cancelation. But, in spite of that fact, the mics do a great job of keeping background noises separate and apart from foreground speech. With a webcam that’s well above par for the course too, that means that Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is going to be a great option for those who need video conferencing or to record voice notes.

Connections and software are rock-solid with this Chromebook

Chrome OS standards carry over for Acer Chromebook Spin 514, including phone syncing

Because Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is a Chrome OS laptop, there’s not much to be said about the software experience during this review. Performance was on point, but Chromebooks all ship with effectively the same software. That’s in addition to any apps or web apps downloaded on a previous Chromebook, via syncing.

But that doesn’t mean this one is just like all the others on that front either. Especially when it comes to the connectivity side of things. Yes, Acer ships this with all of the same connectivity options as other Chromebooks. But it also shipped this, in addition to the ports mentioned above, with Bluetooth 5.0.

Summarily, at least for this Chromebook, that worked far better than the variations of Bluetooth 4.0 and upwards that I’ve seen in other devices. Connected accessories simply stayed connected over larger distances and there weren’t any software issues to speak of on that front either.

Better still, this Chromebook fully supports dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac). That’s not quite as good as if it supported Wi-Fi 6 but, in combination with 2×2 MU-MIMO technology, it’s more than good enough for everything from Stadia Cloud gaming to video conferencing and online video or photo editing at speed. In fact, it’s good enough to do all of those things at once.

During my review of Acer Chromebook Spin 514, I didn’t notice any connectivity issues at all for any of the included options. So this Chromebook is as reliable as it is fast when it comes to software and connections.

Should you spend your money on Acer Chromebook Spin 514?

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Acer Chromebook Spin 514 with accessories bundle

If this review proves anything, it’s that Acer went above and beyond its previous entries in the Chrome OS space with the Chromebook Spin 514. Not only did the company eschew Intel for AMD’s Ryzen series processors. It opted for processors that ensure future-proofing. And it did the same for RAM and storage options, both of which come at a premium for devices in this segment. All while keeping things under $600.

That’s while keeping a backlit keyboard, all the ports and plugs you could need, a rock-solid build, and comfort to keep things going all day long, if needs be.

But that’s not all there is to love from this Chrome OS gadget. In fact, there are really only three issues with this Chromebook worth mentioning and each of those is minor. The screen, for instance, could stand to be brighter. It’s not completely unusable except under direct sunlight. And it keeps color accuracy as well as smoothness of the display high otherwise. But it does wash out in direct bright sunlight beyond what most users would call usable.

Secondary to that, the speakers — as with all laptop speakers — lack bass punch. There’s still clarity and balance in droves. But not if you want heavy thumps or bass outside of clamshell orientation.

Lastly, no Wi-Fi 6 support is available. And that’s not great for those trying to build their internet experience around the greatest standards. But is still ultimately arbitrary in terms of the availability of Wi-Fi 6 and the benefits from that. Most users simply won’t notice a difference.

Having said all of that, is the Acer Chromebook Spin 514, as shown in this review, worth its cost? The answer is a resounding “yes” even without the high-value cost it bears. This is easily one of the best Chromebooks of 2021. Bar none.