Most Chromebooks have screens smaller than 13 inches, but if you want the biggest, Acer has something for you. The company's new Chromebook 15 ($349) has a 15.6-inch, 1080p display, which is massive in the Chromebook space, as well as a sturdy aluminum frame. But while that screen is sharp, it's also dim and bland, so you have to decide if streaming media on a big screen is worth it if you won't see it in the best light.
First things first, the Chromebook 15 is big. That's by design. It's meant to be a big Chromebook for streaming video or looking at pictures. This machine is a silver, metal slab with Acer's logo in a mirror finish on the left side and the Chrome icon on the left side. When you open the lid, you'll see the 15.6-inch display surrounded by a thick bezel. The metal deck has speakers above the palm rests on each side of the keyboard.
Most Chromebooks have 11- or 12-inch screens, so it's no surprise that the Chromebook 15 has a bigger footprint. It's 14.9 x 10.1 x 0.8 inches and 3.7 pounds, which is notably bigger than the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA (2.6 pounds, 11.9 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches) and the Samsung Chromebook Pro (2.4 pounds, 11.06 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches).
The Chromebook doesn't have a ton of ports, but considering that Chromebooks are used for simple web browsing or streaming, you probably don't need them. Each side has a USB Type-C port (you can charge over either of them) and a USB 3.0 port.
There's a Kensington lock slot on the left side, while the right side is home to a microSD card slot and a headphone jack.
The display panel on the Chromebook is nothing to run home about. Sure, it's big, at 15.6-inches, and you won't find many others that size. It also has a 1080p screen, which is rare on a Chromebook. But it's not very bright or particularly colorful.
When I watched the latest trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp, I found myself banging on the button to increase brightness long after I had hit the max. Ant-Man's red suit was a bit too dark, and it was very hard to make out the yellow in the Wasp's costume.
Acer's Chromebook covers just 69 percent of the sRGB color gamut, less than the average (79 percent) and results from the Chromebook Flip (76 percent) and Chromebook Pro (an excellent 118 percent).
With an average of 215 nits of brightness on our light meter, the Chromebook 15 is dimmer than the average (276 nits), the Flip (292 nits) and the Pro (a luminous 376 nits).
Keyboard and Touchpad
Acer's keyboard is solid, especially for a Chromebook. While the keyboard measures slightly shallow, at 1.4 millimeters of travel (we prefer 1.5 millimeters of more), it requires only 69 grams of force to press. It was a little bouncy for my liking, but it allowed me to hit my usual high of 117 words per minute with my standard 2 percent error rate.
The 4.1 x 3-inch keyboard is spacious, and it reliably responded to Chrome OS gestures like swiping three fingers to switch tabs and dragging three fingers down to show all open windows.
The speakers on the sides of the Chromebook's keyboards are just ordinary. When I listened to Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle," the vocals stood out among the mix and the guitars were fine, but the drums didn't have a lot of impact and I couldn't make out the bass. The Chromebook 15 filled a small conference room with sound, though it sounded muddled when I wasn't directly in front of the machine.
The Acer Chromebook 15 offers a quad-core Intel Pentium N4200 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal flash storage. This is enough for simple tasks, like word processing, browsing the web or streaming video. I had 12 tabs open in Chrome, including one streaming a 1080p clip from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, when I noticed hiccups as I switched between tabs.
On JetStream, which measures the performance of web apps, the Chromebook 15 earned a score of 66.6, falling below the average (70.3) and the showings from the Chromebook Pro (126.6) and Chromebook Flip C302CA (127.3).
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On the WebGL Aquarium graphics test, Acer's laptop displayed 500 fish at 51 frames per second, beating the average (39 fps) and the Chromebook Pro's score (48 fps), but the C302CA ran at a higher 60 fps.
If you know how to use a web browser, you already know how to use the majority of Chrome OS. A large part of Google's lightweight operating system is the company's browser, which functions just as it does on Windows and macOS. Sure, there's a desktop with a task bar like on Windows, but you'll do most of your work in the browser.
The Chromebook 15 supports apps from the Google Play store, which greatly broadens what you can do with a Chromebook. The Chromebook 15's touch screen is a help here, as most Android apps are designed for touch (I played Spider-Man Unlimited on the touch screen, for instance). But you can also use a mouse and keyboard. Not all Android apps work perfectly with Chrome OS yet, so we hope Google gets that straight sooner rather than later.
Acer's Chromebook should get you through the day. It endured for 9 hours and 7 minutes on Laptop Mag Battery Test 2.0, which continuously browses the web, videos and graphics benchmarks at 250 nits. That time is slightly less than the Chromebook average (9:29), but the Chromebook Flip (8:52) and Chromebook Pro (8:05) didn't last as long on our older, easier test.
The Chromebook's 720p webcam does an OK job, but I wish it were brighter. An image I took in our well-lit office was just a tad dark, and the camera had an issue with my blue, checkered shirt. In the image, the shirt appeared a solid blue, as if there were no white squares at all.
Binge-watching some Netflix with the Chromebook on your lap? No problem. Acer's laptop stayed cool in our testing. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the touchpad measured 79 degrees Fahrenheit, the keyboard hit 86 degrees, and the bottom was 95 degrees. That last number meets but doesn't exceed our comfort threshold.
Warranty & Support
How Much Does an Acer Chromebook 15 Cost?
The Acer Chromebook 15, with a quad-core Intel Pentium N4200 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal flash storage, sells for $349. There aren't many other 15-inch Chromebooks on the market, though Acer still sells some older models at that size. You can find configurations from previous years with older processors and different chassis for as low as $199.
If you want a 15.6-inch Chromebook, you don't have a lot of choice, so the Acer Chromebook 15 may be your go-to by default. It has a metal build and a 1080p display, but that screen is dim.
You can get a better screen and better performance on the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA (for about $450) or Samsung Chromebook Pro ($529), though those laptops have smaller screens and cost more. You'll also get the flexibility of a 2-in-1 with either of those notebooks.
Still, at $350, the Chromebook 15 provides an affordable entry into the world of Chromebooks and, for those who want it, a larger alternative to the sub-13-inch notebooks we're used to. If you want to go big, this is the way to go.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag