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Review: Acer C720 Chromebook with Core i3, best value yet

The C720 is one of the first Chromebooks to ship with an Intel Core i3 processor. We go hands on to see if all the excitement is justified.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3 review

The C720 Chromebook has become a product line with the release of the third model. The first shipped with an Intel Celeron Haswell processor that I found to be a decent performer. The second, the C720p, added a touch screen to the package. Now Acer has released the C720 without a touch screen, replacing the Celeron with an Intel Core i3 processor. I've been using it for a few days and find it to be the Chromebook to beat.

All three C720 models are physically identical, with similar hardware with the exception of processors and the touch screen on the C720p. Setting my C720 alongside the new C720 with Core i3, it is impossible to tell them apart. It's the first time I am glad there is a "Core i3" sticker beneath the keyboard.

The laptops are made with thin plastic which feels cheap. Mine has held up to the bumps of the road for months, and is actually constructed well.

Due to the nature of Chrome OS and the similarity of the hardware of the C720 line, rather than essentially repeat the reviews of the earlier models, I'll link to them. Check out both reviews to get the details on them and thus this new model.

Acer C720 reviews:  | 

The hardware specs of the C720 Chromebook as reviewed:

CPU Intel Core i3-4005U, 1.7 GHz, Haswell
OS Chrome OS
Memory 4 GB
Storage 32 GB
Display 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768, matte
Camera Front: 1,280 x 720
Connectivity Wi-fi a/b/g/n (MIMO dual-band), Bluetooth 4.0
Ports/slots USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card reader
Battery 3,950 mAh, 8.5 hours
Dimensions 11.34 x 8.03 x 0.75 inches
Weight 2.76 lbs

This review is concentrating on the performance of the Core i3 processor, since functionally this unit is nearly identical to the two earlier models previously reviewed. You would expect the faster processor to perform better, and that's the way it is. This is the fastest Chromebook I've used, with the exception of the last year. That's a significant statement, as I've tested most Chromebooks on the market.

Using the C720 Chromebook, everything happens nearly instantaneously no matter how many browser tabs are open. It doesn't matter what tasks are running, either.

Like the two models before it, the C720 with Core i3 has a great keyboard and trackpad. The keys have a nice tactile feel when typing and the layout is traditional. The button-less trackpad is a nice size and like all Chromebooks it works better than most trackpads on Windows laptops. Controlling the interface is smooth and natural.

The display uses the standard resolution of 1,366 x 768, and has a matte finish. This is better for working outdoors than glossy screens. I first found the screen to be washed out until I turned up the brightness slightly. I now have no issues with the screen.

The Acer C720 with Core i3 (that's a mouthful) is fairly light and thin. It fits in every gear bag I own designed for an 11-inch laptop or bigger.

Even with the performance bump from the Core i3 processor, the Haswell technology keeps the battery life at a reasonable level. Acer claims 8.5 hours on a charge, and my real-world testing has it at about 8 hours. This is good enough for all day usage away from an outlet.

Pros:

  • Good performance
  • Decent battery life
  • Nice size and weight

Cons:

  • More expensive than the previous Celeron model
  • Low resolution display

Reviewer's rating: 9 out of 10

This Chromebook is one of the best I've tested. The performance is excellent and the user experience quite good as a result. If I was in the market for a Chromebook the Acer C720 with Core i3 processor would be my choice. I do find the Celeron processor (Haswell) in the earlier C720 Chromebook that I own to be quite good, and see no need to upgrade.

The Acer C720 Chromebook with Core i3 is available now from Acer and major retailers. The C720 has a MSRP of $379.99, and comes with Google's 100GB of free cloud storage (for two years) and 12 free GoGo inflight wi-fi sessions.

Additional Chromebook coverage: 

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2 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3 side view

The C720 has good viewing angles.

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3 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3 fully open

The hinge on the C720 allows pushing the screen back significantly, although it won't go flat.

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4 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3 keyboard

The keyboard is solid, with good key travel and spacing. It gives decent tactile feedback for rapid touch typing.

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5 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3 screen

The matte display is a standard 1,366 x 768 resolution. 

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6 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3, thin and light

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7 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3 left side

Ports, Left - Right: Power, HDMI, USB 3.0, audio in/out

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8 of 8 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Acer C720 Chromebook Core i3 right side

Ports, Left - Right: SD card (full-size), USB 2.0, Kensington lock

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