Acer Chromebook 14: a well-built budget laptop Review

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Acer Chromebook 14 Review

Acer Chromebook 14(2018)

A well-built budget laptop with a 14in Full HD-display, but take careful note of its limitations before you buy. Acer Chromebook 14 Review.

Acer doesn’t believe that Chromebooks are for schools alone. Its 2018 update to the Acer Chromebook 14 is a well-made, well-priced laptop that could suit your basic working needs.

If you can live without Windows, want to save money and are happy in the Google ecosystem, it just might be ideal. Despite the word “stunning” often being used in the product description, Acer’s Chromebook 14 is an ugly looking thing. The silver model on test looks about as dull as a laptop can get – with a plain, grey casing, it’s the John Major of laptops.

The size of the bezels doesn’t help. If it were mine, the urge to spruce it up by plastering it in stickers would be all-consuming. Luckily, there’s a better-looking blue model available.

Aesthetics aren’t everything, of course. The chassis is constructed from an aluminium alloy, which feels sturdy and weighs a moderate 1.68kg. The spacious keyboard and touch pad layout resemble that of the Apple MacBook Air, but that’s where the comparisons end.

There’s minimal travel to each key press, which meant it wasn’t satisfying to type on for long writing sessions. The weird-looking lowercase key letters are a further small niggle.

I have no complaints about the touchpad, though, with a smooth response that pointed the mouse where I told it to. Shortcut commands are easy to execute, too.

The 2018 Acer Chromebook 14 isn’t particularly well equipped when it comes to connectivity, with two USB-A 3 ports, an HDMI 2 connector and Kensington security slot on the left edge.

On the right, you’ll find the 3.5mm audio jack and charging port. The down-facing dual speaker arrangement is also unremarkable. Despite testing various genres, nothing sounded great, but the slight static produced by the beat of a hip-hop track was the worst of the bunch. Then again, no audiophile will be using a sub-£300 laptop to listen to their tunes. Acer has increased the Chromebook 14’s display resolution from 1,366 x 766 up to 1,920 x 1,080.

There’s a catch, though: to view it in native resolution, you have to reduce your display size to 80% in settings.

The default display has a downscaling effect, reducing the resolution to 1,536 x 864. Nor is it the highest quality of panels. It could only produce 54% of the sRGB colour gamut, meaning images lack depth and vibrancy. Likewise, an average Delta E of 6.32 is very poor indeed. Our usual benchmarks don’t run on Chrome OS, so I first turned to WebGL’s Aquarium benchmark to test the Chromebook 14’s graphics capabilities.

It handled the lowest setting with ease, successfully reaching the laptop’s maximum refresh rate at 60fps. With 5,000 fish on screen, though, the laptop struggled to reach over 9fps. JetStream, on the other hand, tests multitasking speeds. This 2018 update to the Chromebook 14 managed to score 40.7, which is seven slower than the 2016 model. I expected the newer Intel Celeron N3160 chip to nudge ahead.

For reference, these scores are about three times slower than the £999 Google Pixelbook, which achieved a JetStream score of140 – the fastest we’ve ever seen in a Chromebook.

Lastly, Mozilla’s Kraken 1.1 benchmark tested the laptop’s audio processing, image filtering and cryptography skills – among other real-world applications. The Acer completed the task in 5,235ms. To give you an idea of the Celeron N1360’s speed, a seventh-gen Intel Core i7 processor achieved 622ms. One downside of the higher resolution display is a shorter battery life, but I’d say it’s an acceptable trade-off.

This year’s(2018) Acer Chromebook 14 ran for 8hrs 6mins in our video playback test, while the 2016 model we reviewed hit 10hrs on the dot. If you’re only using the Chromebook 14 for internet browsing and word processing, you should just shorter battery life, but I’d say it’s an acceptable trade-off.

This year’s Acer Chromebook 14 ran for 8hrs 6mins in our video playback test, while the 2016 model we reviewed hit 10hrs on the dot.

If you’re only using the Chromebook 14 for internet browsing and word processing, you should just squeeze out a full day’s work on a single charge. And, disappointingly, that’s about all you can do with the Chromebook 14. While this laptop does support the Play Store to an extent, it’s limited to 18 apps – mainly Google ones such as Maps, Docs, Drive and Gmail, plus a couple of third parties such as Slack and Ring-Central.

That’s likely because it doesn’t have a touchscreen. This isn’t the only problem, either: I also struggled to transfer specific files over to the laptop’s internal storage from an external hard disk.

Despite the limitations, Acer’s latest Chromebook 14 (identified by the part code NX.GC2EK.007) is a competent device for on-the-go web browsing and basic office work.

In truth, though, its biggest strength is its price: £279 for a 14in laptop is hard to argue with. 

Acer Chromebook 14 Specifications

Processor 1.6 Ghz Quor-Core Celeron N3160
Graphics Intel HD 400 Graphics
RAM 4GB
Storage 32GB eMMC Storage
Display 1,920 * 1,080 IPS Display
USB 2x USB-A 3
OS Chrome OS
Weight 1.68 kg
Battery 3,920mAh

 

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