Acer C720 Chromebook: Why I bought one

Acer C720 Chromebook: Why I bought one

Summary: I've been a fan of Chromebooks for a while. That's not in question given I just bought my third one.

TOPICS: Mobility, Google, Laptops

When it comes to the Chromebook you may be on the side of those who can't understand why anyone would buy one. I'm in the opposite camp, and I just bought my third one. I've used and travelled with Chromebooks for a long time and I can't wait for the Acer C720 to arrive.

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

There are a number of reasons that the Chromebook is a good fit for some, not the least of which is the price. I used my first two Chromebooks heavily but ended up parting company with each, something I could do due to its low price.

One went to a friend of mine who I thought would find it perfect for schoolwork. The other went to another friend who was very curious about the utility of the Chromebook. Both of those Chromebooks are heavily used and very appreciated.

See related: Milestone: I'm recommending Chromebooks instead of Windows laptops for civiliansAcer C720 Chromebook first impressions: Fast and cheap

Handing off those two Chromebooks left me without one for a while. I was constantly missing the simple utility the Chromebook offers so I bought my third. I lost the argument with myself that I didn't need another gadget (I don't), as the Acer C720 was only $199.

It helps that I have already tried the C720 and found it to be a good value. The Haswell technology makes it a fast Chromebook while getting 8.5 hours of battery life. It's not the sveltest Chromebook out there but it's still highly portable.

I know that a Chromebook is a good fit for me so this investment is a good one. Those wanting a single device to do everything they could possibly need might want to give the Chromebook a pass. Others may do well to give them a look, and at the low price of most Chromebooks that's easy to do.

While a Chromebook likely can’t handle everything you might need to do, chances are it can handle quite a lot of it. Heavy lifting, like video editing, will be better served doing it on something else. But how often do most people do things like that?

Passing on a Chromebook because it won’t do occasional heavy duty would be like buying a big pickup truck because you need to carry something once or twice a year. For some of us it makes more sense to get the smaller, easier to use car than to drive the behemoth (with lousy gas mileage) all the time.

I find it amusing that any time Chromebooks are discussed, many question why anyone would buy a laptop with just a browser? That's usually asked by those who've never seriously tried one, and who also want one device to do everything.

That's not who the Chromebook is aimed at. It's more fitting for those who spend a large part of their time online in a web browser. It is a full implementation of the Chrome browser, extensions and all, on a laptop designed top to bottom to make it the best user experience possible. That's a pretty good reason to give one a try, especially on decent hardware for $200.

Additional Chromebook coverage: 

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops

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  • "many question why anyone would buy a laptop with just a browser?"

    Because it's not.
    It's a platform based around browser technology.
    Chrome OS is the platform in it's purest form, but it's a platform (OS agnostic).
  • " the Acer C720 was only $199"

    James, where'd you find it for $199?
    • Amazon

      Searched for 'Chromebook' and there it was.
      • Thought you were getting the C720 4GB model .....

        Ah .... in your previous review of the C720 your specs listed 4GB RAM and that was the model I was searching for. But I see in your follow-up post (1/31/2014) that the C720 you received is only the 2GB RAM model - hence the $199 price. I got excited when I thought I could get the 4GB model for $199 and not $249. After some Googling it sounds like the $250 4GB model has been discontinued!
        • Amazon is selling it, but they seem to be in very short supply.....

          .....and as a consequence Amazon has hiked up the price to a ridiculous $170 extra.
  • Haha, pick up truck

    Good analogy. Most people don't need a pickup, they want one. They'd be fine with a cheaper, fuel efficient car and a small trailer. But I can't find the trailer for the Chromebook. The trailer being a spreadsheet, or other productivity software. Google Docs does not cut it, we are not always tied to the Web in the real world. So for that reason, I'm out, as the sharks say. But come back and see me when you get Chromebook to install real software and be useful off the web. Then I might be back in.
    • Chromebook not for you

      Since the often use of a spreadsheet offline is a requirement for you, the Chromebook would not be a good choice. For a large segment of the population, that is not a requirement. Being able to email, browse the web, and use Google Docs (or other web-based office suites), meets all their needs. Schools are a good place for these - there is not the administrative hassle of Windows based laptops / netbooks, virus issues or virus software overhead, etc, it just makes a logical choice.
    • Some features of Google Docs work offline

      The word processor and presentations components have been available offline all along. Google finally delivered a long-promised update that made spreadsheets available offline a couple of months ago. A number of other offline-capable Chrome apps are available.

      Or install Crouton (Ubuntu userspace running under Chrome OS) and LibreOffice. That gives you a full-featured offline office suite.
    • You CAN Use A Chromebook Offline

      There are many offline apps that work very nicely when you're not connected. And when you ARE connected, many of those apps sync to the cloud (Gmail, for example).

      If you need a specific application that's only available on Windows, then you need a Windows machine. Most average users can get by with Google Docs very nicely however, since they contain much of the standard capabilities that we use from day to day. Chromebooks are not built to run a Fortune 500 company. You buy other hardware/software for that job. The point is, you use the appropriate tool for the job at hand. Chromebooks fill a niche (home users with "normal" computer needs) very nicely.

      I've had one for about a year and use it every day. I also have 4 Windows PCs, a tablet, smartphone and a NAS. Each fulfills a specific need. I don't want to use a sledgehammer when a rock-pick will do.

      Owl;Net, and a few others, seems to be on a "Microsoft Only" crusade. There must be money involved for them to spend so much time and energy telling everyone they can how superior Windows is for every possible job, and disparaging anyone that may have other experiences with non-Microsoft products. I would feel sorry for them and their myopic rants, but I think that most people see through them and realize what sad little people they are.
    • Chromebooks can do MS Office, LibreOffice

      Google Docs is better and easier than MS Office for email attachments and general purpose use in my experience. For type setting, creating complex printable forms etc. - the sort of thing you would employ a typist to do, then LibreOffice or MS Office may be better.

      ChromeOS does LibreOffice which does pretty well everything MS Office does and a few things MS Office doesn't. Chromebooks also do MS Office 365.

      For professional publications, long theses etc. WISIWIG word processors like MS Office can't cut it, Latex is the best tool for the job.
  • Chromebook For Owl;Nut

    To each his own, bird brain. Contrary to your rants, Chromebooks are gaining in popularity and are quite useful. I own one myself. They have caught on quite well in schools due to cost AND usefulness. No one says they have to be your primary computer. Most people own and use several devices.
    El Gordo69
  • I'll have a Chromebook when

    they shove it into my cold, dead hands.

  • Acer C720 Chromebook

    James, I find you are fascinated with the Chromebook concept, but if it was that great, why did you sold the first two on the first place? If I like something very much I would not sell it, but tell my friends where to get one.

    It feel more like it does not satisfy you, reason to sell it, but you still have to write something and after the CES show, where the Chromebook was the big entry, there might be something to write about it. I am not going to debate about the Chromebook vs any other tablet, which does the same thing, except for the price. The other reason is because of the price. Like many women like to shop and they buy stuff they don't need. You ask them why they bought it and their reply is "it was on sale". Never mind they don't need it. Are you buying it because is on sale? Not because you want one or need one.

    Going to the truck analogy, you bought a Smart car, because the price is low, save you gas and you don't need anything else. You drive all by yourself. But, you cannot carry more that one friend, and definitely your boss. You cannot buy that 40" TV because it won't fit on the car and forget camping or travelling the whole US. You can do it, but it would not be fun. Now with a truck you can.....
    • I didn't

      I gave both of those Chromebooks to good friends who needed them. The low price of each made that feasible, and my collection of devices meant I could do without. That's why I gave them away.
      • Admit it.....

        What you really want is to get your hands on the latest lightning fast Haswell model with the 8.5hr battery life: giving it away to friends is just an excuse to achieve that ultimate aim :)
  • Waste of money

    Its like buying eyeglasses at your supermarket because their cheap.
    Find something better to do with your $200 than buying limited use technology.
    The same reason you do not need $2 bills.
    This country sells enough useless, throw away crap to mindless consumers and we do not need to add to that pile unnecessarily.
    • Better to get contact lenses or modern lightweight glasses

      ....with lightweight polystyrene lenses or thin high refractive index lenses, than walk around everywhere with thick, heavy, ugly and uncomfortable Windows glasses.
  • Interesting Chrome products are now appearing....

    Yes interesting but I use the term with caution. A while back I comment on the ZDnet article relating to the LG Chromebase

    At the time I commented on the compromises that had been made relating to Hardware. Most notably USB 2.0 which is all but a thing of the past. Granted the LG Chromebase has one USB 3.0 but seriously what is the point in the remaining three being USB 2.0

    Then there is the 2GB RAM. Seriously how many products come with so little Memory these days. The consumer is not being considered in this as what if they were to want to use ChromeOS for more than internet related tasks. Granted 16GB is not much space to work with but it has the advantage of being an SSD. So for non internet related tasks the consumer would want to connect an External Drive so that's taken care of the single USB 3.0 Port. Compromise.

    CPU. Intel Haswell is good but Celeron is not. Would it be much of a deal to utilize the previous generation Sandy Bridge Intel i3. Sure it would have been a year older but more of a selling point. Consumers will not see Intel Haswell when purchasing the product. Its possible the last generation Intel i3 would have cost more but it would have been worth the expense.

    The LG Chromebase specs should have read something like this:

    Intel i3 Sandy Bridge CPU

    4GB RAM

    4 USB 3.0 Ports

    If the Consumer considers ChromeOS to be worth the extra expense then sub standard Hardware will no longer be produced.

    Precisely the same applies to many Chromebooks.
    • USB 3.0 vs USB 4.0

      USB 3.0 has two advantages over USB 2.0. The first is speed. The second is that it allows charging of the device with the USB 3.0 interface from another device.

      Speed is not important here (unless you want to plug in an external drive and install Linux, or unless some future Native Client app - eg. a video editing app or game app - requires it for high speed file access) since all ChromeOS uses local storage for is for file downloads.

      For a desktop device, there is no need to charge from a USB interface.

      I think the USB 3.0 interface and three USB 2.0 interfaces are just there because it happens to be included in the chipset LG used. One USB 2.0 will be used for the keyboard, and another for the mouse, and they do not need to be USB 3.0 either.
  • The Little Dick Syndrome + WHY of all Chromebooks, the Acer C720

    The chronic Chromebook haters remind me of those guys tooling around in big 4 x 4 pick-ups making it obvious to one and all that they feel like they've got a little something they need to compensate for to maintain their masculine self image. Sorta like a comb-over, nobody's fooled.

    Chromebooks are terrific for the web and beat the pants off any tablet if when you need to type anything longer than a tweet. Plus they are FAST--both to boot or wake-up AND to process all the ridiculously Flash-overloaded sites that have generally trashed the Net for everybody these days . . . Um, as long as you don't have more than a half-dozen or so tabs open. Regrettably, six or eight Flash-heavy tabs can easily stall-out, if not crash altogether, a Chromebook with a mere 2gigs of RAM.

    4gigs make life a lot nicer. Plus compared to the quite Air-like Samsung Chromebook (for $50 more--but still ridiculously cheap), the Acer has a cheap and plast-icky look and feel. Haven't had my hands on the HP units yet, but sorry, turquoise is a buzzkill color for a laptop intended for grown men and the plain black HP Chromebooks sold out immediately.

    STILL, my QUESTION FOR JAMES KENDRICK (PLEASE!) is WHY the Acer C720? as opposed to any of the other Chromebooks presently available? True, it's cheap, but with the exception of the Pixel, virtually all Chromebooks are under $350, and in that price bracket--considering you are likely going to be using the thing daily for a year--the difference between $199 and $349 becomes near negligible, particularly considering the performance difference between 2 and 4gigs of RAM.

    Or if rock-bottom cheap is the objective, there are refurb Samsung Chromebooks around for $179.

    So why, in particular did you pick the Acer? It's a sincere question because I am just about to buy my 2nd Chromebook (the 1st a Samsung which was o.k.--BUT Samsung were major rectal sphincters about a warranty issue.)?

    Thanks for the help.