For less than $200, you can now buy a Windows 10 laptop that has enough power to meet modest, everyday needs. Starting at $169 ($189 as reviewed), Acer's Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is a lightweight laptop that costs about the same price as a low-end Chromebook but provides the full power of Microsoft's operating system, including a free year of Office 365. While we like the Cloudbook 11's sturdy build quality and strong audio, competitors offer longer battery life and snappier performance at similar prices.
With its dimpled, dark-gray shell, the Cloudbook 11 is a nondescript laptop. But although it's only $189 and plastic, this Acer notebook never feels cheap. It does not creak or bend to pressure, and its hinge is tight enough so that the lid moves only when it's lifted or shut.
You'll find the notebook's 0.3-megapixel webcam in the middle of the display's top bezel, placed between two microphones. At the top of the Cloudbook's deck, Acer has placed a charging-status light and the power button, which illuminates when the laptop is turned on.
Acer's Cloudbook measures 0.7 inches thick and weighs 2.41 pounds, which makes it thinner and lighter than the Lenovo 100S Chromebook (0.78 inches, 2.52 pounds) and HP's new Stream 11 (0.72 inches, 2.6 pounds). The Lenovo IdeaPad 100S (0.69 inches, 2.2 pounds) and Asus EeeBook X205TA (0.6 inches, 2.16 pounds) have even thinner frames, and add even less heft to your bag.
On the left edge of the Cloudbook, you'll find its proprietary power, HDMI, USB 3.0 and ports, along with an SD card reader. A USB 2.0 port can be found on the notebook's right edge.
Whereas a typical low-cost Windows laptop will come with a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, sub-$200 notebooks like the Aspire One Cloudbook 11 feature small-capacity eMMC storage. The model we reviewed had 32GB of eMMC storage, and after Windows 10 was installed, that dropped down to 17.6GB of available space. The $169 model has only 16GB, which means it would have only 1.6GB of available storage. However, you can add some capacity by buying a flash memory card and sticking it in the laptop's SD card reader.
While watching the 1080p trailer for Suicide Squad on the Cloudbook 11's 11.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) display, I could see the scales of Killer Croc's skin, but not the textures of his jacket. The screen erred on the lighter side of colors; the reds of Harley Quinn's outfit appeared orange, while dark, shadowy corners had little to no saturation.
With 250 nits of brightness, the Acer notebook's display was bright enough for use in our office. That's brighter than the 11.6-inch (1366 x 768) HD displays on the Lenovo 100S Chromebook (244 nits), the EeeBook X205TA (217 nits) and the IdeaPad 100S (243 nits).
Based on our testing, the Cloudbook's screen rendered 58.6 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, which is comparable to what we saw on the 100S Chromebook (58 percent) but slightly behind the IdeaPad 100S (62 percent).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Cloudbook 11's keys provide adequate tactile feedback, complete with 1.5 millimeters of travel. While these factors usually make for an acceptable keyboard, I still had problems typing on it, due to the cramped keys.
On the 10FastFingers.com typing test, I averaged 65 words per minute with 96 percent accuracy on the Cloudbook 11. I attribute the slight dips from my normal rates (69 wpm and 98 percent) to the small size of its key caps. The IdeaPad 100S has larger keys.
Though Acer has given the Cloudbook 11 a buttonless touchpad with decent feedback for clicks, it was slow to pick up movement as I moved my cursor around the screen. Unlike the IdeaPad 100S, the touchpad also supports gestures like pinch to zoom and two-finger scrolling, but I would find myself waiting for pages to shrink or grow.
Powered by an Intel Celeron N3050 CPU with 2GB of RAM, the Acer notebook's performance reflects its low price. With Skype running in the background and a dozen tabs open in Chrome -- including TweetDeck and music streaming from Google Play -- I repeatedly experienced lag as I moved from tab to tab and scrolled through Web pages. I didn't expect this $189 notebook to be fast, but I wasn't ready for a wait between clicking the Start button and the menu actually loading.
The Cloudbook 11 did poorly on the Geekbench 3 benchmark test for overall performance, notching a mere 1,285. That's far lower than the average ultraportable (4,579), and also trails the Intel Atom processor-powered IdeaPad (2,195) and the EeeBook X205TA (2,212).
To test the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11's ability to run productivity applications, we used OpenOffice to match 20,000 names and addresses. The Cloudbook took 11 minutes and 54 seconds to complete the task, which is longer than the average ultraportable (8:15) but noticeably shorter than the EeeBook (21:36) and the IdeaPad (22:05).
When we used the Cloudbook 11's 32GB eMMC storage drive to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed media files, the Acer notebook finished in 2 minutes and 27 seconds, for a transfer rate of 34.6 MBps. That's faster than the IdeaPad 100S (31 MBps).
While it can play movies, don't expect to use the Aspire One Cloudbook 11 for gaming or other serious graphics-intensive applications.
When we tested the Cloudbook with 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics test, it managed a score of 18,314. That's lower than the average ultraportable (39,421) but higher than the IdeaPad 100S (15,081) and the EeeBook X205TA (15,111).
As I played Alessia Cara's "Here" on the Cloudbook 11, her powerful voice came through clearly, filling a small conference room with soulful angst. The Acer laptop's speakers also performed well on Mark Ronson's "Feel Right," with a strong amount of bass, and the song's trombones and drums sounded crisp and accurate.
Acer boasts that the Cloudbook 11's dual microphones enhance audio quality for online calls. This proved true, as a co-worker could hear me loud and clear on a Skype call, even as two other co-workers were having a loud conversation within earshot of the Acer notebook. The Cloudbook's microphones could also hear me softly say, "Hey, Cortana" from a few feet away to activate the digital assistant.
The Cloudbook 11 can get a little hot, but only users who balance it on their laps may notice. After the notebook streamed a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and the space between the G and H keys measured 82.5 degrees. Only its 99-degree underside was above our 95-degree comfort threshold.
At our well-lit office, the Cloudbook 11's front-facing 0.3-MP webcam took photos of me that were noisy. We are used to laptop cameras capturing small amounts of detail and washed-out colors, and didn't expect any better from this $189 notebook.
The Cloudbook 11's battery lasted a solid 8 hours and 4 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi at 100 nits of screen brightness). That's slightly below the time registered by the average ultraportable (8:11). The EeeBook X205TA (12:05), Lenovo 100S Chromebook (11:19) and IdeaPad 100S (9:49) lasted significantly longer on a charge.
Software and Warranty
Even though this is a Microsoft Signature Edition machine -- a designation that only bloatware- free devices are supposed to receive -- the Netflix app came preinstalled on the Cloudbook 11. The Start menu also contained spammy links to download FarmVille 2, Flipboard and iHeart Radio.
Acer includes a one-year limited warranty for the notebook, as well as 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage and one year of Office 365 Personal.
The $189 Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 we reviewed has a 1.6-GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N3050 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage and a 2-cell 4,200-mAh battery. It comes with one year of Office 365 Personal and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage.
Acer also sells a $169 version of the Cloudbook 11, which has the same specs except for 16GB of internal storage. That configuration doesn't come with Office 365 and provides only 100GB of cloud storage.
If you want a larger version of the same Cloudbook, $199 gets you a 14-inch version with a 1.6-GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N3050 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, and a larger 3-cell, 4,780-mAh battery. For $250, you can get that same 14-inch model, but with 64GB of flash memory. We reviewed the 64GB version and were impressed to see it achieve 14 hours and 43 minutes of endurance on our battery test.
While the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 (starting at $169, reviewed at $189) has a sturdy feel and strong audio, both of Lenovo's 100S laptops have advantages over this system. If battery life is your top priority, the Lenovo 100S Chromebook ($180) and the Asus EeeBook X205TA ($199) offer similar performance and an additional 3-plus hours of battery life.
If you want the least-expensive Windows 10 laptop on the market, the Cloudbook 11 is a solid choice for basic Web surfing and document editing on the go. But if you can spend $10 more, consider the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S ($199) because of its better keyboard, longer endurance, attractive design and snappier multitasking.