Currently I’m in the market to replace my desktop computer and I haven’t quite yet decided if I’m going to get another desktop, a laptop or possibly even a Chromebook. Because of this, I’ve been trying to get several laptops and Chromebooks in for review so I can hopefully make a decision of what I want exactly. Thanks to our awesome contacts over at Acer, they sent me the Acer Chromebook 15(Cb5-571) to review. It’s a Chromebook in the 15-inch form factor which is the size that I want, or at least don’t want anything smaller. Today I’m going to break it all down and give you my thoughts on how the Acer Chromebook 15 was for me.
Specifications And Features
The plastic Chromebook 15 feels pretty sturdy; like give-it-to-your-kid-sturdy; and it’s covered with a woven white or black texture for a better grip. On the top left of the laptop’s white back is a Chrome logo, while a silver Acer logo sits below that. The system comes in white or black; the white model looks sleeker but the black version looks like it will stain and show dirt/dust a lot less easily. The white version to me just looks like a more professional grade product.
Under the lid is the Chromebook 15’s black island-style keyboard on a white deck flanked by two large speakers. A generously sized touchpad sits below it, centered to the G and H keys. Facing the keyboard is a 15.6-inch display with anti-glare coating, and a 720p webcam above it.
With its 15.1 x 9.7 x 0.95-inch profile, the Chromebook 15 is larger and thicker than the 13-inch Toshiba Chromebook 2(12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inches), the 13-inch Samsung Chromebook 2(12.72 x 8.80 x 0.65 inches) and the 14-inch HP Chromebook 14(13.56 x 9.44 x 0.81 inches).
At 4.4 pounds, the Chromebook 15 is also significantly heavier than the 2.95-pound Toshiba, the 3-pound Samsung and the 4-pound HP. This is a laptop that’s best for home use rather than travel, but 4.4 pounds is fairly light for a 15-inch system.
Although the Chromebook 15’s 1080p screen is plenty large, it doesn’t offer as great of a picture as I thought it would. By no means is it the worst 1080p HD display that I’ve ever seen because it does show decent quality and clarity. I watched the trailer for the Pixels Movie and while most everything looked decent, there were some issues with a few colors of certain things such as Q*Bert and Donkey Kong and several other characters.
Viewing angles were fairly decent, with image quality degrading slightly when I moved beyond 45 degrees. Despite its anti-glare coating, the screen still reflected some overhead lights during a dark scene in the Avengers trailer, making it hard to see.
Thanks to the Acer Chromebook 15’s upward facing speakers, you will hear anything and everything within your favorite TV show, movie, online video or whatever. The speakers are absolutely amazing and even with them being on the surface where the keyboard is, they don’t get in the way and they look as if they belong there, which in my opinion they do. Most laptops and Chromebooks have speakers in places that really muffle the sound and hide the sound from the user. The Acer Chromebook 15 is a serious winner in this department and I have decided that if and when I make a final decision on a laptop or a Chromebook that it will have speakers in the same location, or at least very close to, as the Acer Chromebook 15.
Input Devices(Keyboard And Touchpad)
For me, the Acer Chromebook 15 has an amazing keyboard that just works and is very comfortable and easy to use. Key placement seems to be spaced out just right and are very visible since they are black keys with white writing on them. I’ve had no real issues of constantly hitting the wrong key or anything like that. Like on other Chromebooks, the top row has keys for functions such as back, forward, refresh, full screen, window switcher, brightness, volume and power. As a lover of keyboard shortcuts, though, I missed the Home, Page Up, Page Down, Delete keys that you get on most Windows keyboards.
The touchpad is placed just right as well so that when I’m typing, the palms of my hands don’t accidentally rest on or touch the touchpad much at all which as you know is an issue on some laptops and Chromebooks. The only issue I had was that it was somewhat uncomfortable to use the laptop when it was placed on a table. I had to reach across the sizable deck below the keyboard to type, which caused strain on my wrists over time.
The Acer Chromebook 15 comes with a built-in webcam, but unfortunately it’s only 720p. For me, that’s not much of a big deal because it’s not something I use often enough, though I do use it from time to time. For some, this will be a deal breaker as a lot of people want the latest 1080p HD technology.
With that being said, I have tested the webcam out via a couple of Google Hangouts with my dad as well as with my fiancee and I have to say that I’m pleased with it for it only being 720p. The images are clear and clean. The only problem I really saw, and this of course comes from it only being 720p, is that colors aren’t true regardless if it’s bright lighting or whatever. Again, this is expected and if you aren’t a major webcam person, then this shouldn’t sway you from this Chromebook.
Ports And Connections
The Acer Chromebook 15 comes with 2 USB ports. One of them is a USB 2.0 port and one is a USB 3.o port. There is also an HDMI port for hooking the Acer Chromebook 15 up to your big screen TV or whatever other device you might want to hook it up to. There is a card reader for those SD Cards as well so that you can have extra storage without taking up any of the USB ports. Finally, there is a Kensington lock slot that will keep the Chromebook locked up nice and tight for security reasons.
All About Chrome OS
Google’s desktop operating system is minimal, focusing mostly on the Chrome browsing experience. At the bottom of the otherwise bare desktop screen, there’s a menu button, app icons, settings, Wi-Fi and a clock. Clicking the menu button brings up an app launcher with all installed apps, similar to the Windows 7 Start button. At the top of this launcher is a search bar with Google Now support, so you can easily find the program you want.
Pressing the Settings button on the bottom right lets you switch Wi-Fi networks, toggle Bluetooth, control volume, shut down, sign out and pull up the full Chrome OS settings menu.
Since the OS is designed for those who only need to perform light tasks and spend most of their time on the Internet, its apps are mostly Web-based programs that open in Chrome tabs. Some apps, such as Evernote and Acer Games, appear in individual windows.
Google bundles a Files app with Chromebooks, but this just lets you see items you’ve downloaded. Every Chromebook comes with Google Goodies, including 100GB of storage on Google Drive(free for two years), 12 in-air passes on GoGo Inflight for Wi-Fi access on U.S. domestic flights, and a 60-day pass for Google Play Music All Access.
In addition to Google apps that are available on the Web, such as Calendar, Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Hangouts, Web Store, YouTube, Google Play and Chrome, the Acer also packs tools specific to Chromebooks. These include Files, System, Settings and Camera.
You can augment the Chromebook 15’s app collection via the Chrome Web Store, which organizes its apps into categories such as Education, Games, Productivity, Social & Communication and Utilities. The store also lets you filter results to find just those that run offline, are free or are made by Google.
Because Chrome OS is a browser-based platform, many of its apps or websites require a Web connection.
Fortunately, there’s a growing number of apps that work offline, including Gmail Offline, Google Docs, Angry Birds, Evernote, Wunderlist, Sunrise Calendar and Weatherbug. Just keep in mind that several of these apps have limited functions offline. For instance, the Weatherbug app can only show the forecast from the last time it was opened with an active Web connection.
My daily use with the Acer Chromebook 15 I can say that performance was outstanding. When I start up my Chrome browser I have 9 tabs that open with the browser. On some systems it can take up to about 2 minutes for everything to fully load, and that’s including images, network connection and the browser itself. On the Chromebook 15 it is super fast. Again, with 9 tabs, it takes about 24 seconds for everything to fully load to a point where there are no spinning loading symbols in any tab and all images are clearly visible. Also worth noting is that booting the laptop to the screen after the login screen takes a total of 5.6 seconds on average out of 10 boots that I timed. That’s nearly 2 seconds quicker than my HP Chromebook.
This is mainly due to the 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Celeron 3205U CPU. While it’s not a top of the line CPU that’s available on the market, it works very well in the Acer Chromebook 15 and I was very happy with it. Compared to my older HP Chromebook, the Acer Chromebook 15 is a total beast in every aspect, especially when it comes to the performance part of it all.
Once everything was loaded up and I started browsing the web and chatting with friends and all of that, I easily had 15 tabs open with little to no noticeable slowness. Even with a Google Hangout or two running and a video from a news site or whatever, things ran decently without issue. A very pleasing thing to see in something like the Acer Chromebook 15 that is packing an Intel Celeron processor.
Battery life is important on Chromebooks especially since they are so light weight and easily portable and we like to take them with us when to travel be it on long plane trips or just our daily commutes. The Acer Chromebook 15 is a work horse when it comes to battery life. I averaged 8 1/2+ hours each and every time I used it without it being connected to an AC outlet. Far better than my HP Chromebook and something that I could certainly deal with especially at something like CES which I try to attend every year in January.
If you’re looking for a simple laptop that works well, and don’t need to carry it everywhere, the Acer Chromebook 15 is a solid investment. Its large display is good for Web surfing and working on spreadsheets, and its speedy performance makes it a dependable device for productivity. The loud speakers and long-lasting battery are other pluses. I would definitely recommend spending the extra $100 and getting the $350 model as I believe that the screen and everything else will of course be a bit better in it than it would be in the $250 model. However, that choice is up to you and we’d surely like to hear which version you’ll be picking up per our recommendation.
As always, you can pick one up via a simple click of the link below. Let us know in the comments below if you’ll be picking one up and what you think of it once it arrives safely at your house. Tell us your Chrome OS tips and tricks or your favorite feature of the device in the comments below.