Acer C720 Chromebook first impressions: Fast and cheap

Acer C720 Chromebook first impressions: Fast and cheap

Summary: Chromebooks are not exactly mainstream but the new models now appearing may change that. The new model from Acer is leveraging the Intel Haswell processor to leave the rest behind.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Google, Laptops
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Acer C720 Chromebook Open
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Acer is not a stranger to the Chromebook world and the new C720 is looking to outperform the rest of the pack. The decision to use an Intel Celeron with Haswell technology was a sound one by Acer based on our hands-on testing. The Acer C720 Chromebook is the fastest model we've tested with the exception of the $1,200 Pixel by Google.

Acer C720 Chromebook side profile
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

What makes the presence of the Haswell Celeron so unusual is that Acer is able to use it while keeping the price of the C720 at $249.99. That makes this Chromebook an outstanding value given the performance compared to the ARM and Atom Chromebooks on the market.

Hardware specs as reviewed:

  • CPU: Intel® Celeron® Processor 2955U, (1.4GHz, 2MB L3 Cache)

  • OS: Chrome OS

  • Memory: 4GB

  • Storage: 16GB

  • Display: 11.6-inch, 1366x768, anti-glare

  • Camera: front webcam (1280x720)

  • Connectivity: Wi-fi a/b/g/n

  • Ports/slots: USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, SD slot

  • Battery: 3,950 mAh, 8.5 hours

  • Thickness: 0.75in

  • Weight: 2.76lbs

The Acer C720 Chromebook is constructed of plastic as befitting its low price. It doesn't feel like it's poorly constructed but there is no doubt it's made of plastic.

Acer C720 Chromebook keyboard
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The keyboard facilitates fast typing and the keys have the right amount of travel when pressed. It is a standard Chrome OS keyboard with all of the expected Chrome control keys on the top row.

The trackpad works very well but is smaller than those found on other Chromebooks. This is no doubt to keep the C720 size as small as possible, but a slightly larger trackpad would be appreciated.

Acer C720 Chromebook left side
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

On the left side of the C720 is the power jack, HDMI port, USB port, and an the audio in/out jack. The right side has a lock slot, USB port, and SD slot. There are two blue and orange LED indicators on the front of the Chromebook that indicates power and charging status.

Acer C720 Chromebook right side
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Acer claims 8.5 hours on a charge and this seems to be accurate. The use of the Celeron is a good choice by Acer due to the low power requirements which yields good battery life.

The C720 is a fast performer due to this processor. The Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook that's been out for a while is a fast performer due to its last generation Celeron, and the Acer C720 Chromebook is much faster with the Haswell version. Both of those Chromebooks have 4GB of system memory so its a valid comparison of the Haswell processor. It's worth noting that the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook is currently selling for $500.

Using the Celeron in the C720 allows Acer to include 4GB of system memory, and this means better multi-tasking than other Chromebooks with only 2GB. In our testing the C720 Chromebook was able to handle lots of open tabs at once with no page refreshing when returning to earlier visited tabs as is common with models with only 2GB.

Of the many Chromebooks tested, the Acer is easily the fastest with the exception of the Chromebook Pixel. The Pixel costs over $1,000 more than the Acer so that's to be expected.

Acer C720 Chromebook closed
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The 11.6-inch display is just the right size for a portable system and it is an anti-glare screen. It is the standard resolution of 1366x768, which may be an issue for some. In our testing it is a decent screen, not the brightest but sufficient.

The Acer C720 Chromebook will be available shortly from Acer, Best Buy, and Amazon with a list price of $249.99. It's worth noting that this price is less than that of most tablets, an exceptional deal for a laptop.

Buyers of the Acer C720 Chromebook get 12 sessions of Gogo in-flight wi-fi access included along with 100GB of free storage on Google Drive, further enhancing the deal.

Summary

Pros:

Cheap

Faster than most Chromebooks

4GB memory

Battery life

Fast charging (1.5 hours from 10 percent to fully charged, less than 3 hours when completely drained)

Cons:

Plastic construction

Small trackpad

Additional Chromebook coverage: 

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops

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Talkback

32 comments
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  • Amazing

    I've been a fan of the Chromebooks that used an ARM processor. I liked the simplicity and long battery life. Samsung Series 3 has been a good travel machine due to its feather-light weight.

    But I think we have a new winner with this Acer machine using a Haswell processor. I'm very surprised Intel could do it. I thought it would take them many more years to get their power consumption down. But here it is.
    Vbitrate
    • RE: Amazing

      I agree, I've been able to get up to 9 hours of battery life with my Acer C720. I even decided to write up a full review on it:
      http://www.squidoo.com/hp-chromebook-11-vs-acer-c720
      aleetechexpert
  • If the cloud printing was better my comany could use it

    The chrome books are great if your in the cloud all day and my users are. But the problem came when using a cloud based printer. The mopiers do not have cloud function yet and the hp version of it is crappy. If the printer loses its memory it loses the address it was set to print with. So if the printing improves then chrome books may be an option. But it does work well for someone who just does things in a cloud setting all day.
    spikey289
    • Office Cloud Printing

      For Office printing, you can set up a network print server with the cloud print executable installed on it and then use Google Cloud print to print to that.

      There are also print server appliances available.
      http://www.synology.com/dsm/business_productivity_printer_server.php?lang=enu
      Mah
  • One wish list item

    I have the previous Acer Chromebook (which I've upgraded to an SSD and 4GB) and I love it. Battery life stinks on it though (maybe 3 hours).
    This new model is almost perfect. Haswell, 4GB and solid state storage are nice. It looks like they also added a dual band wireless card.
    There is one item I'd love to have. A backlit keyboard. I don't know what cost that would add, but I can't imagine it would be much. I like to lay in bed at night and use it for a little unwind time before going to bed. It is hard to type in the dark.

    Others might ask for a higher res display but remember this things costs $250.
    Salonikios
    • Need for backlit keyboard

      Just get a $10 USB light. I got a red one for night vision. Works fine for me.
      mjcohen1
  • Re: Acer C720 Chromebook first impressions: Fast and cheap....

    Its high time there was a decent inexpensive Chromebook.

    As I have said before many Chromebooks are far too expensive to be running ChromeOS which is in effect a free operating system where they are the same price of Windows Laptops/Notebooks where a large chunk of the price the consumer pays is the license to run Windows.

    I am yet to see a Chromebook out in the wild but they are reported by the open source buffs to be "flying off the shelves" however I am yet to see evidence of this.
    5735guy
    • Amazon

      The $249 ARM-based Samsung ChromeBook has been the top-seller in the notebook category on Amazon for almost a year. http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Electronics-Laptop-Computers/zgbs/electronics/565108/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&pf_rd_i=2956501011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=1632948922&pf_rd_r=13WJ5CXXXWSJN08VSJTS&pf_rd_s=browse&pf_rd_t=101&tag=baydensystems
      e_lawrence
  • No thank you

    Chrome OS has no purpose for existence...

    I can now get a full Window8 with Office for $299 and install Chrome on it.

    Why would anyone waste $249 for such a dumb device?
    Owl`Net
    • you have the same mindset of steve ballmer

      you can keep saying the same things over and over as windows share keeps declining.
      Because its quick, cheap and simple. If you've ever used windows on a cheap netbook or laptop, that's a terrible experience.
      deathjazz
      • This is not 2007, its 2014...Windows runs like butter..

        .
        Owl`Net
        • Windows like butter?

          That butter has become awe fully rancid.
          RIM71260
      • Windows: the view is cloudy

        The willyampz point is solid. XP, Vista,7..... How many sunken wrecks before that? All of us sailing on those ships had to flee to the next, clutching at Microsoft's tentacles. Bring on Android, chrome, and Linux.
        RIM71260
    • Windows slavery

      No thank you to Microsoft. Free me from windows. Every computer maker recommends windows. That means chained to an OS that gets dumped every couple of years so we can keep on dropping cash into MS pockets. What a dream to run chrome with an SSD freed from all the MS crap, bloatware, antivirus nuisance, all wasting boot time. I cringe at the thought of a 300 dollar PC running windows. That's a nightmare not a dream.
      RIM71260
  • Lacks a real ethernet port

    The thinness is nice, and I know it has built-in Wifi, but sometimes, you just need the real thing. Even so, at $250, I might consider one.
    mheartwood
  • Re: Lacks a real ethernet port ....

    The same has always been the case on the MacBook Air. No doubt Ethernet Adapters will be available.
    5735guy
    • And

      No doubt Apple would charge $40+ for something that was manufactured for under $5....
      Gisabun
  • More power doesn't solve the problems with ChromeOS

    If you're web only - Chrome is fine and faster is better...

    But that's not what's been inhibiting uptake. It's that eventually people need to run something that can't be done in a browser - and that's when Chrome falls down.

    Ironically, Google's attempts to move ChromeOS into Windows 8.1 is far more exciting to me because it means I can use Chrome apps, which makes my web experience better - but easily switch back to Windows when I need to do something requiring more horsepower.
    The Werewolf!
    • You Can

      I've recently set up Chrome Remote Desktop on my Samsung Chromebook. I am able to run my Windows 7 desktop on it - and it is just as speedy as using the desktop itself. Pretty decent for a $250 machine, if you ask me.

      Look at your options before you discount ChromeOS. I completely prefer this baby over my desktop, which is now only being used as an HTPC.
      B_Rad814
  • @OwlNet

    If you need to run Windows-specific apps, of course you would not want to buy a Chromebook - but that doesn't mean it's a dumb device. 90% of computer users today just web browse, maybe stream a video or music, compose a letter, resume, or short document, etc. Windows and Office are overkill for these users, and only add layers of complexity and vulnerability.

    Why would a basic computer user waste $249 on a "dumb device" like an overloaded, bloated Windows laptop?
    LS650