Acer Chromebook Spin 11 Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Solid performance; Decent audio; Comfy keyboard

The Cons

Cumbersome design; Dim display; Below-average battery life

Verdict

The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 CP311 packs solid hardware into a compact design, but it isn't a comfortably designed 2-in-1 laptop.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 CP311 model is meant to be an affordable, practical 2-in-1 hybrid of laptop and tablet. For $349, you get a system with a relatively attractive design and with some respectable Intel Celeron horsepower under the hood. However, using it in tablet mode is a bit cumbersome, and its dim display and below-average battery life doesn't do it any favors. Acer's convertible is fine to use in a pinch, but its design flaws hold it back from greatness.

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Design

The Chromebook Spin 11 is quite attractive, sporting a stylish, understated silver cross-hairline pattern atop a silk-textured plastic cover.

The rest of the laptop is plastic as well, with the exception of the Gorilla Glass touch screen.

While Acer's design feels pretty solid, you don't get the same level of durability offered by Dell's Chromebook 5190, which provides a spill-resistant keyboard and is tested to withstand 30-inch drops. The Spin 11 weighs 2.7 pounds, but it feels heavier than that in tablet mode. It's not just the strain on the wrists that makes holding this 2-in-1 a pain when in tablet mode, but also the way it digs into your palms. Plus, at 11.7 x 8.1 x 0.8 inches, it's a bit too large and unwieldy to be one-hand friendly.

It's not just the strain on the wrists that makes holding this 2-in-1 a pain when in tablet mode, but also the way it digs into your palms.

Its size is comparable to the competition, though, with the Chromebook 5190 coming in at 12 x 8.2 x 0.8 inches and 2.9 pounds, and the 3-pound Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook sizing up to 11.7 x 8.1 x 0.8, identical to the Spin 11's dimensions. The Chromebook's 11.6-inch display is surrounded by a pretty thick bezel, which is expected at this price but still isn't attractive. Plus, when in tablet mode, that additional border makes tapping with your bezel-side thumb difficult, given how much dead space there is to travel.

Ports

Each side of the Spin 11 has a USB Type-C port and a USB 3.0 port, and the left side sports a microSD card reader and headphone/microphone jack.

The right side has a Kensington lock slot, which is a nice inclusion for any security-minded consumer.

Display

The 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display on the Chromebook Spin 11 is fairly colorful but on the dim side.

I couldn't see certain details in the Bumblebee trailer, as, during shadow-drenched scenes, the finer, minor details in the screen's darkest areas blended together into a pool of dark browns and blacks. The gears within Bumblebee's neck and clavicles disappeared into the darkness and hid interesting design details from me, which was a bit disappointing. However, the colors of the details that were present offered moments of real sparkle, such as the radiant blues of Bumblebee's eyes and the screaming orange and yellow flames of an exploding helicopter.

The Spin 11's panel registered an average brightness of 213 nits, falling well below the Chromebook average of 258 nits and the VivoBook W202NA's 276 nits. However, it does beat the Flex 6 11's score of 206 nits. On the plus side, the display covers a solid 82 percent of the color gamut against an average of 77 percent. This stacks up favorably against the Lenovo Flex 6 11, which only managed 71 percent, and the Dell Chromebook 5190's 73 percent.

MORE: Laptops with the Best Display Brightness

The 10-point capacitive touch panel proved relatively precise and capable of accurately tracking finger movement and commands. However, when I was doing a bit of doodling in Paint, it got a bit dodgy and unresponsive when my fingers traveled toward the screen's fringes -- when I was within millimeters of the bezel, inputs weren't always recognized.

 


For proof, see this quick e-painting I whipped up -- you'll notice that the strokes on the left edge of the image tend to cut off prematurely.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Usually, when taking the 10fastfingers.com typing test, my standard is 85 words per minute with 98 percent accuracy. However, on the Spin 11, I averaged 86 wpm -- though I had a lower accuracy rating of 94 percent. Take these numbers for what you will, but I found the compact keyboard was pretty comfortable.

The Spin 11's keyboard has a mere 1.1 millimeters of key travel, which is quite shallow (our minimum travel preference is 1.5mm). It has an actuation value of 70 grams, which tops our 60-gram minimum. The touchpad, which measures 4.1 x 2.3 inches, is fast and responsive when it comes to performing multitouch gestures. However, center clicking it is a pain, as it requires an amount of force that demands a conscious effort, robbing you of the subconscious tap and clickability other laptops offer.

Audio

The Spin 11's speakers won't provide an optimal experience for particularly busy music or video audio, but they should work well for most standard functions, such as full-room conference calls, playing most kinds of music and watching what's new on Netflix. At maximum volume, the bottom-mounted front corner speakers did a serviceable job filling out a small conference room with sound.

The speakers struggled a bit to relay the intense bass of an aggressive EDM song like Fort Unison's "Finale" remix. However, it held up admirably when delivering the strumming shamisen melody of Regina Spektor's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" cover, balancing her voice well with the gentle orchestral fare surrounding her. But the Spin 11 didn't deliver the same balance with Surfing the Apocalypse's "I Can See For Miles," wherein the sound distorted ever so slightly when the singer and orchestra were at full force simultaneously.

Performance

Acer's Chromebook Spin 11 CP311 features a dual-core Intel Celeron N3350 processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC flash memory. Nothing earth-shattering as far as specs are concerned, but the Spin 11 is surprisingly competent when it comes to handling stressful workloads.

To test its mettle, I ran a game app (PinOut) and 17 Google Chrome tabs, three of which were playing YouTube videos. It took launching a Twitch stream for any degree of noticeable input lag and processing delay to creep up. Until that point, the Spin 11 was running three videos, 13 regular website tabs and a game app all at the same time, without a hitch. Not bad! During our Geekbench 3 test, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the Spin 11 managed a score of 1,483. That's substantially lower than rival Asus' VivoBook W202NA, which managed a 2,774 on the same processor as the Spin 11, or the Lenovo Flex 6 11, which scored a 3,196 with an Intel Celeron N4000. Similarly, during the Spin 11's Jetstream test, which measures a machine's web performance, the Chromebook scored a 54.03 against an average of 67.

The Spin 11 was running 3 videos, 13 website tabs and a game app all at the same time, without a hitch. Not bad!

While this is comparable to the Dell Chromebook 5190's score of 54.54, it's a far cry from the Vivobook W202NA's score of 77.03. Finally, on the WebGL Aquarium benchmark test, the Spin 11 CP311 managed to display 500 animated fish at an average of 46 frames per second. That's the exact same score as Dell's competing 5190 Chromebook and above the average of 500 fish at 40fps, for frame of reference. Yet, even with these relatively low test numbers across the board, it doesn't change the fact that the real-world performance was surprisingly good.

Chrome OS

It's Chrome OS, which means you're getting the Chrome browser as well as compatibility with certain Android apps. It's capable of basic web browsing, video streaming and running some mobile games. While games like PinOut and Sonic Forces: Speed Battle ran like a charm on the system, others such as Player Unknown's Battlegrounds failed to even boot up. However, this may just be an issue with all Chromebooks' current compatibility with the Google Play store, as opposed to the Spin 11, specifically.

As an interesting aside, Sonic Forces: Speed Battle was fully playable with a mouse (if a bit janky), but it's definitely designed to be played in tablet mode -- even though, ironically, the Spin 11 makes that mode a (literal) pain. It's a bit of a lose-lose situation.

Battery Life

Acer's Chromebook offers perfectly serviceable battery life of 8 hours and 41 minutes, according to the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), which is below the 9:49 Chromebook average. It isn't as impressive as the Dell Chromebook 5190's 9:50, but it's in line with competitors like the Asus VivoBook W202NA, which lasted 8:43.

Webcam

The Chromebook Spin 11's 720p camera does a decent job. Images looked a bit grainy, and the camera has a tendency to overemphasize color temperature in the room.

In a series of selfies I took in the office, the gentle yellow hue of the ceiling lights bouncing off my olive complexion translated to a strong reddish tone overtaking my body in the picture. Furthermore, the camera failed to capture the soft-glowing ceiling lights themselves, instead depicting them as so bright that they washed out the top of the image entirely and resembled a supernova, rather than an office ceiling.

Heat

You don't have to worry about heating up your lap or fingers on this Chromebook. The temps came in under our 95-degree-Fahrenheit comfort threshold during our heat test, which consists of streaming a full-screen, full-HD video for 15 minutes straight. The Spin 11 reached 94 degrees on its underside, a cool 87 degrees between the G & H keys and only 81 degrees on the touchpad.

Warranty and Support

The Spin 11 has a one-year International Traveler's Warranty. Acer offers extended warranties and service plans beyond this, and has online chat support and a 24/7 technical support line as well. See how the company performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.

Bottom Line

If you're intent on getting a 2-in-1 laptop that can double as a tablet, Acer's $349 Chromebook Spin 11 CP311 isn't a bad choice. It packs some impressive performance capabilities inside a sleek, aesthetically pleasing build. However, given its somewhat cumbersome and uncomfortable design, you might want to consider other options. One alternative is the $359 touch-screen-equipped model of the Dell Chromebook 5190, which is relatively comparable to the Spin 11 in specs and horsepower, but has better battery life and a more durable build -- albeit, at the cost of tinny speaker audio and a display with underwhelming colors.

Ultimately, it's a game of tradeoffs, and while the Spin 11 CP311 isn't the perfect Chromebook, consumers looking for a secondary system or something with which to perform light computing tasks should consider putting it on their list.

Credit: Laptop Mag

CPU 1.1-GHz Intel Celeron N3350 processor
Operating System Google Chrome
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 32GB
Hard Drive Speed n/a
Hard Drive Type Flash
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 11.6
Highest Available Resolution 1366 x 768
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive None
Optical Drive Speed n/a
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 500 GPU
Video Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size
Ports (excluding USB) USB-C
Ports (excluding USB) USB Type-C
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) 5.1 audio
USB Ports
Card Slots microSD
Warranty/Support
Size 11.7 x 8.1 x 0.8 inches
Weight 3 pounds
Company Website www.acer.com
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