Chromebooks -- notebooks that run Google's Chrome OS -- get a bad rap because many look cheap, feel disposable and lack speed. The Acer Chromebook 14 has none of these problems, as its brushed metal lid and aluminum chassis give it a sleek design and great build quality. The 14-inch notebook's strengths aren't shell-deep, as it packs enough punch for productive multitasking. The notebook is only held back by its uncomfortable keyboard and dull display. While the Acer Chromebook 14 isn't the best of its breed, it's still worth consideration.
The Acer Chromebook 14's sleek metallic design places it at the head of the pack in style. While most Chromebooks are plastic and feel disposable, the aluminum Acer notebook feels solid and reliable, and its brushed metal lid looks like it belongs on a more expensive notebook.
Weighing 3.42 pounds and measuring 0.67 inches thick, the Acer Chromebook 14 is a bit thinner and about as heavy as the HP Chromebook 14 (3.48 pounds). The Dell Chromebook 13 (3.23 pounds) and Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (2.97 pounds) are understandably lighter because they have smaller screens. While carrying the Acer in my backpack on my commute, it didn't add too much heft or take up a ton of space.
Ports and Webcam
On the left side of the Acer Chromebook 14 are an HDMI port, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and its security lock slot. Acer placed the laptop's headphone and power jacks on the notebook's right side.
While it has a decent number of ports, the Acer is missing an SD memory reader, an option found on the HP Chromebook 14, Dell Chromebook 13 and Toshiba Chromebook 2.
The Acer Chromebook 14's 0.9-megapixel webcam shot pixelated photos of me in our office that appeared to have been set in a pointillist filter. While the camera did a good job of reproducing the red of the wall behind me, it captured little to no detail, with most of my hair registering as a brown swoosh.
The Acer Chromebook 14's display has a sharp resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, but it's on the dull side. When I streamed the 1080p trailer for Captain America: Civil War on the screen, Captain America's helmet looked more black than blue and Spider-Man's red costume didn't pop. However, I appreciated that the cloud of smoke around Bucky rendered without pixelation, a problem I've seen on a lot of screens that aren't as sharp.
According to our colorimeter, the Acer Chromebook 14's display can produce only 62 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That's lower than the HP Chromebook 14 (65 percent), Dell Chromebook 13 (96 percent), Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (110 percent) and the average thin-and-light notebook (82 percent).
The Acer Chromebook 14 is relatively good at displaying accurate color, as it earned a score of 0.99 on our Delta-E test (zero is perfect). That beats the Dell Chromebook 13 (1.4) and the category average (2.4), but the HP Chromebook 14 (0.5) and Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (0.9) earned better marks.
The Acer Chromebook's panel emits up to 215 nits (a measure of brightness), which is near the HP Chromebook 14 (212 nits), but dimmer than the Dell Chromebook 13 (270 nits), Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (378 nits) and the category average (251 nits). Don't expect wide viewing angles, as I saw color darken significantly at 45 degrees.
If you need your laptop to double as a stereo, the Acer Chromebook 14 blasts plenty of volume, with no distortion. The notebook filled a large conference room with an excellent reproduction of James Blake's "Timeless," rendering clear guitar strings, strong bass and the sweet high notes of the track's synths.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Typing on the Acer Chromebook 14 felt like drumming my fingers against my wooden desk. Acer gave the notebook keys with only 1.14 millimeters of travel, which is too shallow and leads to bottoming out (the act of slamming one's digits against the deck). We prefer keyboards with between 1.5 and 2 mm of travel. When I tried the Acer Chromebook 14 out on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, these shallow keys limited me to 72 words per minute, a dip from my 80 wpm average.
The Acer Chromebook 14's 4.1 x 3-inch, buttonless touchpad accurately tracked my input as my fingers navigated around the desktop, and there was a solid feel to each click. The notebook smoothly responded to my two-finger scrolling, and it correctly registered my three-finger navigational swipes.
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Acer gave the Chromebook 14 a 1.6-GHz Intel Celeron N3160 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 32GB eMMC drive, which provide enough pep for multitasking. When I split my screen between a dozen tabs and a streaming 1080p YouTube video and opened Google Keep and Cut The Rope, the system stayed speedy. I saw no lag as I typed in a Google Doc, moved from tab to tab and switched between apps.
The Acer Chromebook 14 did OK on Google's Octane 2.0 performance test, which gave it a score of 7,840. The Celeron N2940-powered HP Chromebook 14 notched a comparable 7,869. However, the e Celeron 3205U-powered Dell Chromebook 13 (14,453) and Celeron 3215U-powered Toshiba Chromebook 2 (17,044) earned better scores.
The Acer Chromebook 14 fared worse on the Browsermark test for overall performance, hitting 2,273. That's a lower score than what the HP (2,300), Dell (4,199) and the Toshiba (4,576) received.
I had no trouble playing casual games like Cut The Rope and streaming 1080p video from YouTube on the Acer Chromebook 14, but again, synthetic tests favor its competitors. This system earned a score of only 4,080 on the Oort Online test, which measures the browser's ability to display CGI environments. That's below the Dell Chromebook 13 (5,050) and the Toshiba Chromebook 2 (5,060) earned, but better than the HP Chromebook 14 (1,480).
The Acer Chromebook 14 demonstrated acceptable performance on the WebGL Aquarium graphics simulation, which tests 3D rendering. The notebook mustered 47 frames per second with 250 and 500 fish in the tank, while the Dell and Toshiba both sped along at 60 fps with as many as 1,000 fish.
The Acer Chromebook 14 is one cool customer. After the laptop streamed 15 minutes of full-screen, HD video, our heat gun registered comfortable temperatures on its touchpad (74.5 degrees Fahrenheit), keyboard (78.5 degrees) and underside (80 degrees). All were less than our 95-degree comfort threshold.
You can leave your charging cable at home when you take the Acer Chromebook 14 to school or work. The notebook lasted 9 hours and 25 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, which is longer than the average thin-and-light notebook (7:56) and the HP Chromebook 14 (6:42). The Dell Chromebook 13 (13:25) and Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (10:05) make it even longer on a single charge.
The Acer Chromebook 14 includes a one-year limited hardware warranty. Check out our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands report to see how Acer fared.
Like most Chromebooks, Acer's Chromebook 14 is only sold in one configuration. It comes with an Intel Celeron N3160 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 32GB eMMC hard drive.
From its attractive design to its solid feel, the AcerChromebook makes a much better impression than its $299 price suggests. We also appreciate the long battery life and strong audio performance. Unfortunately, this system's full-HD display doesn't pop, and the keyboard could use more travel.
For $31 less than Acer's Chromebook, you can get the Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35, which offers more comfortable typing and a much brighter display. If you need more battery life, you could spend $130 more for the Dell Chromebook 13, which lasts 4 hours longer. Despite some drawbacks, the Acer Chromebook 14 is definitely worth considering for those looking for a stylish design and good sound from their laptop.