Acer this week introduced its new family of Chromebooks that wed performance with portability. The new laptops feature multi-core x86 microprocessors, 14” displays as well as aluminum chassis. Even in its most advanced configuration, the Chromebook 14 costs only $299. Acer traditionally positions its Chromebooks as solutions for students as well as customers on a budget, who need basic computing and do not want to invest a lot.

Several years ago, personal computers running Google’s Chrome operating system were considered as cheap alternatives to Windows-based PCs, which is why they used affordable components and could not boast solid performance, despite the lightweight OS. Eventually, such PCs became relatively popular and manufacturers started to use more advanced ingredients, such as IPS displays or microprocessors with higher performance. Google itself introduced its Chromebook Pixel laptop in 2013 (and updated it in 2015), targeting premium buyers. The Chromebook Pixel is one the most advanced and powerful Chromebooks ever made thanks to its Core i7 “Broadwell” processor, a display with 3:2 aspect ratio as well as an aluminum body. Google’s Pixel demonstrated to other PC makers that it is possible to build premium Chrome OS-based notebooks and they followed with more advanced Chromebooks. The new Acer Chromebook 14 is not as powerful as the Pixel, but it is clearly a step into its direction with a high-resolution display as well as an all-aluminum chassis.

The Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431) features, as the name suggests, a 14” IPS display with 1920×1080 or 1366×768 resolution as well as 170-degree viewing angles and an anti-glare coating. Unlike the Chromebook Pixel, Acer’s new laptops have 16:9 aspect ratio with all of its advantages for video viewing and disadvantages for Internet surfing. The model with higher resolution can work on one battery charge for 12 hours, whereas the Chromebook 14 with 1366×768 resolution boasts with up to 14-hour battery life on a single charge.

The Chromebook 14 laptops are based on Intel Celeron “Braswell” processors with two (Celeron N3060) or four (Celeron N3160/N3150) cores featuring the Airmont micro-architecture and up to 1.60 GHz clock-rate, Intel’s Intel Gen 9 graphics core with 12 execution units as well as up to 6 W TDP. Unlike Google’s Chromebook Pixel as well as Acer’s Chromebook 15, the Chromebook 14 cannot integrate a high-performance CPU featuring Broadwell micro-architecture, but that was certainly a trade-off between the price and portability.

Acer Chromebook 14 Specifications
  Acer Chromebook 14 full HD Acer Chromebook 14 HD
Screen Resolution 1366×768 1920×1080
CPU Dual-core Intel Celeron N3060 or Quad-core Intel Celeron N3150/3160
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 400/405 (Gen 8, 12 execution units)
RAM 2 GB or 4 GB LPDDR3
Storage 16 GB or 32 GB of eMMC storage
Wi-Fi 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi module
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
USB 2 USB 3.0 ports
HDMI One HDMI output
Other I/O Microphone, stereo speakers, audio jack
Thickness 17 mm / 0.66"
Weight 1.55 kilograms / 3.42 pounds
Price $299 for the launch model

Acer equips its Chromebook 14 laptops with 2 GB or 4 GB of LPDDR3 RAM (which is a good news for battery life), 16 GB or 32 GB of eMMC solid-state storage as well as a dual-band 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi module with Bluetooth 4.2. The systems also feature a 720p webcam, a 3.5-mm mini jack, a microphone, stereo speakers, two USB 3.0 ports as well as an HDMI output.

The Chromebook 14 from Acer is 17 mm thick and weighs 1.55 kilograms, which is in line with many portable laptops. Acer claims that its fanless cooling system is enough to cool-down Intel’s Celeron CPU with a 6 W TDP, which is why the Chromebook 14 has no fans at all.

Acer did not say much about the price of its Chromebook 14. The launch model will be available next month with a Full HD display, 32 GB storage and 4 GB RAM starting at $299.99 in the U.S. and $399.99 (CAD) in Canada. Other Chromebook 14 models will sport lower amount of storage and RAM as well as a lower-resolution screen, but also a longer battery life. Their prices are unknown, but will clearly be different in different countries.

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  • ctbdp - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    The thing I like about the Chrome book are : price tag & weight & battery life - there is very little downside unless you need something very specific (ok you need to know a few things about Google Apps and a decent SD card to be able to work offline the same way you would on a windows machine) - but ultimately windows and chrome OS are headed in the same direction (same as windows and Mac OS have been headed down same road) Chrome OS adding more and more offline capabilities and windows adding more web based things the differences are fading away. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    I wouldn't accuse Chrome of being worthless, but I do agree that this won't land many sales in a manner similar to other limited functionality devices. While a Chrome device can handle "some" of the average person's computing tasks, it often can't perform "all" of them which makes it easy to put down an additional $50 - 100 to purchase a more capable computer that operates in a more familiar manner.

    What might give Chrome some legs is that the current version of Windows is just as invasive with respect to end user data mining. Oddly enough, data collection is a mainstream concern with a lot of people who are surprisingly non-technical aware of and concerned about what their devices are doing. Since the playing field has been leveled between Google and Microsoft, this may play favorably for Google's (is it actually Alphabet now...or was that Umbrella...?) favor when it comes to landing sales.

    Chrome laptops are also good candidates for Linux which might appeal to a small number of tinkerers who enjoy that sort of thing. I'd prefer traditional PC hardware for a Linux install, but I admit that doing so has become painful in a world of UEFI and Secure BIOS (which isn't secure at all really since it's been exploited regularly despite efforts to close the gaps) and will likely remain so in many budget computer systems.

    As always, I continue to be baffled by the idea of developing Android and Chrome OS in a manner that keeps them from reaching a unified state. Certainly there's risks in attempting to unify operating systems with different interface methods and usage models, but I think it can be done effectively. Simply make Chrome into another Android variant with a different window manager and walk away from the current, rather broken Chrome computing model.
    Reply
  • uhuznaa - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    I think you totally underestimate how many people are willing to pay good money to NOT have to deal with a "full computer". Chromebooks are basically just a disembodied browser with most of the "familiar computer" kicked out under it, and for a lot of use cases this may be nothing but a relieve.

    Personally I could live better with a computer that offers nothing but a terminal and Emacs than with something that offers just a browser, but something that is just a browser AND a terminal and Emacs may fit the bill just fine...
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    Check in on Slackware or if you're a fairly advanced Linux user maybe Arch. After initial install Arch leaves you with just a shell after the initial install. It takes a bit of elbow grease to add a GUI and that process isn't necessary really. The Arch Linux documentation on their Wiki is top-notch too.

    Slackware I've been using on and off for the last 16 years. The installer will let you easily unselect X windows and window managers so you can easily build a system that's CLI-only yet perfectly usable. There's even the option of Lynx or Links as text mode web browsers, CLI MP3 players and a variety of other tools (all of which you'd see during the install) that can get you a lot of capability without having Chrome's GUI or browser laying atop the OS.

    As for people willing to move to a limited function device like Chrome, I have no doubt that there are lots of them out there, but I do believe that much of that potential market has already purchased tablets or phones that serve them well for those needs which leaves Chrome out in the cold seeking customers that already have their needs met by more commonplace alternatives.
    Reply
  • KeithR - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    "but I do believe that much of that potential market has already purchased tablets or phones that serve them well for those needs which leaves Chrome out in the cold seeking customers that already have their needs met by more commonplace alternatives."

    You're demonstrating a STAGGERING lack of understanding of the potential Chromebook userbase.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    "but I do agree that this won't land many sales in a manner similar to other limited functionality devices."

    You mean limited functionality devices like the smartphones whose sales now exceed PCs?
    I think you have a massively distorted view of the actual computing marketplace...
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    Above your post my comments read as follows: "As for people willing to move to a limited function device like Chrome, I have no doubt that there are lots of them out there, but I do believe that much of that potential market has already purchased tablets or phones that serve them well for those needs which leaves Chrome out in the cold seeking customers that already have their needs met by more commonplace alternatives." Reply
  • KeithR - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    " it often can't perform "all" of them which makes it easy to put down an additional $50 - 100 to purchase a more capable computer that operates in a more familiar manner."

    A more familiar manner - but not REMOTELY as well...
    Reply
  • noelburke - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    Maybe you should consider letting go of WindowsXP... what planet have you been residing on the last couple years friend? Chromebooks are flying off shelves for consumers and I'm in education - combine with Google Apps for Education and other cloud based resources/sites - it's been a game changer for cash strapped budgets... and?... AND?... OMG!!.... they WORK! Really ignorant remark to make in the face of all the data on Chromebooks. Get with it... Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, March 31, 2016 - link

    6.2 Million Chromebooks sold last year.
    (This is around a third of the Macs sold. So small, but not negligible.)
    I suspect that longer-term (say over the next five years) there is more scope for growth here than in Windows as the OS grows, as ARM CPUs overtake x86 at this low-end Celeron/Pentium level, and as ever more people realize that they just don't need Windows backward compatibility.

    Of course there are specialized segments that NEED Windows, and these people would not buy a Chromebook, just like they would not buy an iPad (and likely not a Mac). But to obsess over them and to imagine that they represent the entire (or even a substantial fraction) of the entire computing population is just silly.
    Reply

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