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.

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

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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