Chromebooks, which run on Google's Chrome OS and are designed specifically for surfing the Web, can be as pricey as $1,300, but the most popular models go for under $300. At $229, the Acer C710-2457 is one of the least expensive Chromebooks we've reviewed yet. It's packed with the same Intel Celeron 847 processor and 4GB of RAM you'll find in its pricier predecessor, the $279.99 C710-2055, but this time around, Acer has swapped out the 320GB hard drive for a 16GB SSD. Is one of the cheapest Chromebooks also among the best?
There's no denying that the 11-inch Acer C710-2457 is aimed at folks on a tight budget, and that notion comes through in its design. Like the Acer C710-2055, this Chromebook is made entirely of plastic. The lid features a dark-gray brushed aluminum finish; when we pressed down on the Acer logo on the lid's center with the notebook closed, we noticed a small amount of flex. Still, we were pleased to see the dark-silver keyboard deck was sturdy and solid.
MORE: Best Laptops
Click to EnlargeMeasuring 11.2 x 8 x 1.1 inches, the Acer C710-2457 is exactly the same size as the C710-2055. At 2.6 lbs., it's slightly lighter than the 3-lb. 2055, which we criticized for its hefty weight for an 11-inch notebook. The C710 sports nearly the same dimensions as the 11.4 x 8.1 x 0.7-inch Samsung Chromebook Series 3, but Samsung's notebook is a bit lighter, at just 2.4 lbs.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to EnlargeFor an 11-inch notebook, the Acer C710-2457's keyboard is fairly roomy. We like the normal-size Shift and Enter keys, as well as the handy row of dedicated Chrome command keys along the top, which include forward and back browsing buttons, a shortcut for expanding the size of your Web browser window, and brightness and volume controls, among others.
Click to EnlargeWhen typing, we found the C710-2457's keyboard to be smooth and fluid. Its key travel is fairly shallow, but that didn't stop us from notching 65 words per minute with only four typos during the TypingTest.com speed trial. This matches our personal average typing speed on mainstream notebooks, which usually falls in the range of 65 to 70 wpm.
The 3.6 x 2-inch touchpad offered a generally smooth scrolling experience, but we were unable to pinch-to-zoom. Two-finger scrolling was a breeze, however, and worked without the least bit of lag when we browsed the Web. The trackpad's click button was responsive when we highlighted text and followed links, but to right-click, we had to hold down the Alt button.
MORE: Best Apps
Click to EnlargeThe Acer C710-2457's 11.6-inch 1366 x 768p glossy display renders images and video sharply, but has poor viewing angles. When watching the trailer for "The Wolverine," we could barely decipher what was happening in the clip unless the laptop was positioned directly in front of us. When viewing the trailer head-on, however, we noticed crisp detail in Hugh Jackman's facial expressions, especially in close-up shots. Colors weren't particularly vibrant, but the display quality is acceptable given the notebook's budget-friendly price.
Although we were pleased with the display's detail, at a mere 163 lux, it certainly isn't the brightest. This score is well under the 237-lux ultraportable category average and also dimmer than the 202-lux C710-2055 and the 176-lux Samsung Chromebook Series 3.
Click to EnlargeLike other Acer Chromebooks, the C710-2457 comes with bottom-mounted speakers. These are meant to amplify sound when placed on a hard surface, such as a desk or table, but typically muffle noise when placed on your lap. Unfortunately, the case was no different with our Acer C710-2457 review unit.
When listening to "Same Love" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (featuring Mary Lambert), we found that the vocals and the melody sounded shallow and tinny. The sound lacked the depth and bass you'd find in a full-bodied laptop, and was barely loud enough to fill our testing room at full volume. We also heard a jarring buzz when singer Mary Lambert hit a high note in the chorus of the song.
Click to EnlargeFor a lightweight, Internet-based notebook, the Acer C710-2457 comes with all the ports you need. The left side houses a USB 2.0 drive, as well as HDMI, VGA and Ethernet ports. On the right side, you'll find a headphone jack, two more USB 2.0 ports, a charging dock and a Kensington lock slot.
MORE: Acer Brand Rating
Click to EnlargeDuring our testing, we found that the Acer C710-2457's 720p webcam snaps somewhat fuzzy and dark images. When capturing photos in fluorescent lighting, we noticed that although color tone looked accurate, there was noticeable noise. When looking closely, we noticed slight pixilation around the subject's face.
The Acer C710-2457 may be small, but it certainly gets hot. After streaming Hulu at full screen for 15 minutes, the trackpad registered a reasonable 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius), and the area between the G and H keys also reached 91 degrees. However, the device's underside reached 102 degrees F (39 degrees C), which is well above the 95-degree F (35 degrees C) limit we consider to be comfortable.
Click to EnlargeEvery Chromebook runs the latest version of Google's browser-based Chrome OS, and the unit we tested came with Version 28. The update, which debuted on the Chrome OS platform in early July, brings some subtle improvements, such as a speedier File Manager tool that now supports recent and shared files on Google Drive. Additionally, notebooks running on Chrome OS now display a pop-up notification after a screenshot has been captured, which brings you directly to the screenshot when clicked.
As for the user interface, you'll be greeted with a barebones desktop. In the bottom-left corner, you'll find icons for Google Chrome, Gmail, Angry Birds and Picasa. Along the bottom-right corner of the screen are icons for Wi-Fi connectivity and battery life, as well as a thumbnail photo of your Google+ image.
Within the Chrome browser, you can minimize windows, view them in full-screen mode or pin them to the left or right side of the screen. These features were introduced back in Version 23 and make the browsing experience more fluid and natural.
Click to EnlargeLike all Chromebooks, the Acer C7 comes with a suite of Google apps built into the device. Clicking the tiny app symbol on the bottom-left-hand side of the screen will pull up the notebook's app launcher, which comes with a slew of apps, from YouTube, Google Drive and Gmail to "Plants vs. Zombies," Evernote Web and "3D Bowling."
Additional apps can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store, which currently boasts tens of thousands of apps. While many of these apps require Internet connectivity, certain applications -- such as Gmail, Calendar and Drive -- also offer offline functionality.
Click to EnlargeIf you're not wild about the limited Web-only Chrome OS experience, you can enable full desktop interaction through the Chrome Remote Desktop app. This allows you to view and manage the desktop of a remote computer through your Chromebook.
We used Remote Desktop to connect our Dell desktop PC to the Acer C710-2467 and successfully edited documents stored on our PC via the Chromebook. The cramped view can be jarring at first, considering Google stuffs your entire desktop into a tab in Chrome, but you can make this slightly more bearable by unchecking Shrink to Fit under the Screen Options tab. We copied and pasted text between computers and launched a trailer on our desktop using Remote Desktop.
Other similar alternatives, such as LogMeIn and GoToMyPC, over more robust solutions, but they aren't available for Chrome OS.
As with previous Chromebooks, you can send documents to cloud-ready printers, which include certain models from Canon, Epson, FedEx, HP and Kodak. Additionally, Chromebooks can print through standard printers by networking with a PC that's already connected to a printing device.
Click to EnlargeThe Acer C710-2457 comes with the same 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Celeron 847 processor you'll find in the C710-2055 model, as well as 4GB of RAM. The C710-2457 also comes with a 16GB SSD, unlike the 2055 model, which packs a 230GB hard drive. This is plenty of power for surfing the Web, streaming HD videos, playing casual games and editing photos -- which are exactly the kinds of things for which the Chromebook is designed -- but it leaves little room for storing files locally.
Chromebooks are renowned for starting up much faster than standard notebooks, and the Acer C710-2457 is no different, booting the Chrome OS desktop in just 8 seconds. That's faster than both the Acer C710-2055 (13 seconds) and the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 (11.3 seconds).
When we tried to duplicate 4.97GB of multimedia files on the C710-2457's 16GB SSD, it took 6 minutes and 50 seconds to copy all but the last 83 files, before we received a warning that the notebook had run out of storage space. If we do the math, that translates to a transfer speed of 12.4 MBps, which is slower than even the C710-2055 (13 MBps).
Click to EnlargeOn the Peacekeeper benchmark, a universal browser test that measures overall HTML5 performance, the Acer C710-2457 scored a 1,523, which is just slightly higher than the C710-2055's score of 1,510. It also beats the Samsung Chromebook Series 3, whose 1.7GHz Exynos Dual processor and 2GB of RAM scored 1,214.
During everyday use, we found the Acer C710-2457 to be smooth, with no noticeable lag. We played "Plants vs. Zombies" with eight other tabs open in Google Chrome and browsed through the File Manager without a hitch.
Click to EnlargeThe Acer C710-2457's 4-cell 2500 mAh battery lasted only 4 hours and 31 minutes during the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing with the brightness set to 40 percent. That's almost 90 minutes less than the ultraportable category average of 5:54, and two hours less than the C710-2055 (6:32). The ARM-powered Samsung Chromebook Series 3 lasted 7:34, three hours longer than the C710-2457.
Click to EnlargeIf you're looking for a cheap alternative to today's mainstream laptops and a notebook exclusively for surfing the Web, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more budget-friendly option than the $229 Acer C710-2457. Its 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Celeron 847 processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB SSD delivered a smooth experience for browsing the Web and viewing HD videos. However, for such a portable notebook, its battery life didn't impress. For $20 more, the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 lasts nearly three hours longer, and delivers comparable everyday performance. If you're looking to save every penny, the Acer C710-2457 is worth considering, but there are better Chromebooks in this price range.