Day one with the Acer C720 Chromebook

Day one with the Acer C720 Chromebook

Summary: The new Chromebook is here and the first day using it was very productive.

TOPICS: Mobility, Google, Laptops

I recently shared my reasons for purchasing the Acer C720 Chromebook so I won't rehash that at this time. If you're interested take a few moments to visit those thoughts, we'll wait for you here. Now that you're back, some of you may be wondering how the C720 works in the real world. Based on the correspondence I've received since tweeting the Acer had arrived, it's clear there's a lot of interest in this powerful $200 Chromebook.

Acer C720 Chromebook (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Specs of the Acer C720 Chromebook as purchased:

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

  • OS: Chrome OS

  • Memory: 2GB

  • 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 first day with the Acer has been busy, and it's handled everything I threw its way. It arrived late morning and I promptly unboxed it and set it up. That took all of five minutes from start to finish.

I logged into my Google account and the C720 created my preferred Chrome environment. This included getting all of my Chrome apps, my settings, Chrome extensions, and bringing in all of my browser bookmarks. That happened very quickly, the rest of the setup was spent with Chrome automatically updating itself to the latest version. That was followed by my optional restarting of the system to apply those updates, which took <10 seconds.

There are three versions of Chrome OS: the stable (standard) one, beta channel, and the developer version. I like to run the beta channel as it gives me an early look at new features in Chrome OS and my experience shows it to be stable. A quick visit to the settings screen let me download the beta version and apply it. A second restart activated the new version.

All of this took about five minutes. That's what is great about Chrome, as aptly described by my colleague David Gewirtz. It is the easiest platform to adopt for this reason.

I immediately started working with the C720 and quickly picked up where I left off weeks ago when I gave away my last Chromebook. Chrome OS is basically the Chrome browser so there is very little learning curve for those who use the browser on other platforms. It looks the same and works the same.

I worked with my normal setup of multiple tabs and everything functioned as expected. I experimented with touch gestures on the trackpad since the Acer's is quite good. I wish the trackpad was bigger but then I've been spoiled by the huge touchpads on the MacBooks.

I don't know if these gestures are a function of Chrome OS or the Chrome browser, but I'm finding them to be very useful. The first gesture is the 3-finger swipe from left to right in the browser to spin through the open tabs. You have to swipe slowly to move with precision or you can do so quickly to jump down the line of tabs.

Chrome task manager (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Another useful gesture is the 3-finger swipe up to invoke the graphical task manager. This shows all open apps in addition to the active tab in the browser. You can down swipe with three fingers to get back to the last active windows or tap a thumbnail to activate that app. This is useful if you run apps in a window as opposed to running in a browser tab. I run them in windows so the task manager is fully useful.

The last gesture I use a lot is the 2-finger swipe left/right to move through the previous/next web pages in the active browser tab. It cycles through visited pages just like hitting the prev/next arrow keys in the top row of the keyboard. I like the trackpad gesture as it's easy to do and operates fluidly.

The work day with the Acer went swimmingly. The C720 is fast with the Haswell Celeron and the keyboard is very nice. The latter is important to me as a writer, and I have no complaints with the Acer keyboard.

A bit of photo editing was handled with Pixlr Editor; it's evolved nicely since I last used it. The interface is well implemented and it was simple to do light photo editing using Pixlr.

I edited a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet using Google Drive. Both had basic formatting so I had no issues with the way Google Docs handled them.

I can see using the Acer C720 Chromebook heavily for my work going forward. The laptop is very portable and the 11.6-inch display is the perfect compromise of portability and usability. The screen isn't high-res but it's quite suitable for my work.

The quality of the C720 hardware is impressive given its low price. It's quite a value to find a laptop of this caliber for only $199.

Additional Chromebook coverage: 

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops

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  • You were productive with Chrome?

    Hang on, James. Every day I read on ZDNet from Loverock Davison, William Farrell, Owl"Net and a host of others MS shills that it is impossible to be productive without Windows 8 and Office. Someone is not telling the truth (and I doubt that it is you)!
    • and

      they'll be along shortly to regurgitate the same vomit. like ms they only follow. they'll not see the simplicity until ms comes out with an iebook. then they'll be all over it. "it comes with office365 installed" they'll cry, their eyes tearing with pride.
      • James...

        You didn't buy a laptop, you bought a vacuum, a data vacuum that is. And Google is getting more and more info to sell about you every day.
      • Yeah but but Google is spying on him to sell ads

        which is different from Bing which sells ads by spying on him. Big difference.
        • Those are the same thing

          You're saying Google spies on him IN ORDER TO sell ads. And Microsoft sells ads BY spying on him. Not picking sides, just saying they're the same according to your words.
        • @Redhaven

          Do you have any proof of that? I don’t think so.

          In every Google product or services term of use, it is mentioned that Google can (and do) collect personal information, cross reference those information with known contacts, profile and gather centralised and relational information about all users. They allow themselves to sell those information about you or use them for direct and ultra-accurate ad campaign. When you are using a product or service, they can gather information about you regarding who you are, how much you make, how much your friend make, what you like, what you want to buy, what you think, where you’ve been, where you are, where you want to go…. And the list goes on. They deliberately read and Index your Gmail emails and attachments, Google Docs documents, log your searches, gather your posts of their social networks. Worst for you if you use any of their Android powered phones or ChromeBooks.

          Now show me the equivalence for any of Microsoft’s software, the ones you pay a few buck for. You can’t because it doesn’t exist.

          80+% of Google’s earnings, and we are talking here about billions comes from with no further precisions. Microsoft money doesn’t come from advertisement or by selling your personal data. It comes from a very clear and straightforward price paid when you buy one their product. With MS or Apple, you know what you are getting and how much it costs . With Google products, you have no clue on how much it really costs to you to use their products.

          I can guarantee you however that all those personal information are worth a lot.
          • Better add techology?

            The point is Google is a buy and Microsoft is a sell?
          • Wrong in so many ways

            First thing is Win8, a spy app of an OS at best:

            "Windows 8 will, by default, inform Microsoft of every app downloaded and installed by every user. This puts Microsoft in a compromising, omniscient situation where they are capable of retaining information on the application usage of all Windows 8 users, thus posing a serious privacy concern. The user is not informed of this while installing and setting up Windows 8, even though they are given the option to disable SmartScreen (which is enabled by default.)

            Windows 8 appears to send this information to Microsoft to a server that relies on Certificate Authorities for authentication and supports an outdated and insecure method of encrypted communication. It is possible that these insecurities could allow a malicious third party to target a Windows 8 user and learn which applications they are using. This allows them to profile the user and decide how to best exploit their personal selection of applications and their computing habits."

            Then there is this:

            "Perhaps the feature most worryisome to privacy advocates is the requirement that the Xbox connect to the Internet at least once every 24 hours. Many critics have asserted that Microsoft will follow the lead of other Silicon Valley companies and use their console to gather data about its users, particularly through the Kinect, and collect it through the online connection users can’t avoid.

            Read more:"

            One look at Microsoft's Online Privacy Statement proves another way you are wrong:

            "Use of Your Personal Information
            Microsoft collects and uses your personal information to operate and improve its sites and services. These uses include providing you with more effective customer service; making the sites or services easier to use by eliminating the need for you to repeatedly enter the same information; performing research and analysis aimed at improving our products, services and technologies; and displaying content and advertising that are customized to your interests and preferences. For more information about the use of information for advertising, see the Display of Advertising section below."


            Even Microsoft says they scan your email:

            "All email service providers protect your inbox by scanning for spam, phishing attempts and malware, but not all email providers use the words from your email to show you ads."


            Maybe they would like to use the scanned data to show you ads too, but since Google has patented the tech Microsoft would need to create a new way to do it.
          • Re: Wrong in so many ways

            How about writing facts rather than fiction, theories and hear says.
    • Ha Ha

      Well said
    • history repeat itself

      Those same people were saying the same things about iPad and tablets. Looks like they'll be wrong again.
      • history will repeat itself

        Those same people were saying the same things about netbooks. Looks like they'll be right again.
    • His job is surfing the web and writing

      articles. His requirements aren't terribly demanding.
      • exactly

        thanks for seeing the point. pretty amazing how many people have absolutely no need for dreamweaver or powerpoint or any number of other tools. no need at all.
    • Well,

      You know all of the Microsoft commercials on TV are telling us that the Surface includes Windows and real Microsoft Office so you can get REAL work done.... and when I hear that I'm thinking "blah, blah, blah".

      I'm mentioned in the first post. My popularity grows each day. I love my fans! Thanks for being one.
      • Lovey again........

        What took you so long to add your drivel? You really don't have anything better to do than lurk around repeating your tired old rants. Sad really.

        Found your life partner yet? Would do you a world of good. Try it, you'll like it!!
    • Ya. Your funny.

      The problem is this.

      It dosnt matter a crap what jerks like LRD or Owlnet cay, we know that, you hardly need them to find out the truth.

      First off, with out an internet connection, its pretty much a paper weight.

      If you do anything that needs reasonable amounts of "post year 2000" onboard storage capacity, its useless.

      If you need or simply like Office better then the slightly shabby Google offering, its a pain in the butt.

      If you want to play any well known PC games, its a non-starter.

      If you need to play a DVD? Eh? Well?

      Make yourself happy with an 11.6" screen, need bigger, get out a different device.

      This could go on for awhile longer. I like many many many people don't work in an environment that comes close to making something like a Chromebook any brand terribly useful. For about $120 more I can get a Windows laptop that literally does about twice as much twice as easy.

      A Chromebook is not for the vast majority of people.

      For most people its overpriced at any price given its hobbled usability.

      Like practically anything in this world, the very clever and determined can endure a products wicked shortcomings and make use of it. But for the majority by far, a Chromebook is not much more then a silly toy.
      • No. You're funny....

        It's really hard for worker bees like you to admit that some people do not use a device primarily for work. Everyone has different needs.

        While we have a desktop in a fully equipped office for the more demanding tasks, Our 2 Chromebooks are the devices we use most.

        When away from home and not on the internet, most apps work just fine and will sync when we do connect.

        Our "post year 2000" on board storage" is plenty. I can store files on external drives, on SD cards, on our desktop, and in the cloud. Do you really need to carry all of your files with you wherever you go? I don't.

        I play my movies on Netflix or m4v files. DVDs are so last decade.

        Need a bigger screen, get a HP 14" Chromebook or even connect to a monitor or HDTV.

        We have had ZERO administration hassles with our Chromebooks.

        I would not have a Chromebook as my only computer. But as secondary devices ours "just work".

        Many users feel the same.
    • Of course he was productive,

      Writing document and such that's all you need.
      The trouble with these types of reviews, is they are not real world reviews.
      James has a different device for everyday of the week and can pick and choose which one he needs for his needs.
      In the real world a PC/Laptop running Windows/Mac Lion or what ever there up to/ a full Linux would be a much better choice cause each can do a bit of EVERYTHING.

      I mainly use Windows 8 but would never tell anyone to buy a Chrome device for there main machine, it's far to limited and a lot of people can only afford one device. Better off with a basic Windows machine and get someone to teach them the basics.
      But hey your free to live in a dream world and put computing back 10 years or so!