The Acer Cloudbook 11 is, in its way, fairly representative of budget Windows laptops as a category.
It asks potential buyers to make a number of compromises in performance and design, the two most difficult of which are a fairly slow web browsing experience and a smaller-than-normal size keyboard. It also has a low-resolution webcam, only 2 GB of RAM, and for some reason it isn’t able to run traditional Java-based Minecraft.
Balancing out these drawbacks are some really nice features, including high-speed 802.11ac wi-fi, a full year of MS Office 365, a surprisingly good trackpad, 8-hour battery life, and a decent screen.
With the release of the larger Acer Cloudbook 14, I want to revisit this budget Windows laptop and see if the bigger size addresses any of these concerns. I won’t be going into full detail on all aspects of the device here, as it is by and large the same as the Cloudbook 11 that I reviewed here. However, I will go through the changes and differences that, in my opinion, make the Cloudbook 14 much easier to recommend.
While the 11.6″ Cloudbook 11 launched at $189.99 last month, the 14.0″ Cloudbook 14 increases the local storage to 64 GB, a much-welcomed improvement. It also has battery life rated at 12 hours instead of the 8 hours on the Cloudbook 11.
To recap the key specs:
- Intel Celeron N3050 “Braswell” dual-core processor at 1.6 GHz with burst to 2.16 GHz
- 2 GB of DDR3 RAM
- 64 GB of eMMC flash memory for local storage (comes with 1 TB OneDrive storage)
- 14.0″ 1366×768 Display – TN Panel
- 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 Port
- HDMI Out
- SD card slot
- Combo headphone/microphone jack
- “HD” webcam (640×480)
- 802.11 dual-band AC Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 12 Hour Battery (rated per Acer)
One of the great things about this unit is that it does include the high-speed, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-fi, and in fact I was able to hit speeds of 75/75 down and up from my router. This made moving files to and from the laptop no problem, which is important for a device that claims to be cloud-based.
While Acer rates the laptop at 12 hours of battery life, I think in mixed use, about 9-10 hours is much more realistic, though this will drop if you put the device in Performance mode instead of Balanced or Battery Saver. Playing games and videos will also drain the battery more quickly.
I was somewhat concerned that the screen resolution would be an issue, as this version keeps the same 1366×768 resolution as the Cloudbook 11, but carries it on a larger fourteen inch display. Thankfully the screen is serviceable enough, with a max brightness level higher than some other budget TN panels. I wouldn’t say it is a great screen, but I’ve certainly seen worse displays in the budget category.
Note that at 3.5 pounds, this is a relatively light device despite the increase to a 14-inch display size.
Build Quality and Design
There’s really one key point to make here, which is that the Cloudbook 14 has a full-size keyboard. It is a relatively standard affair, with nice, stiff keys and decent travel, but compared to the miniature keyboard of the Cloudbook 11, it feels terrific.
Outside of that, the Cloudbook 14 looks like a stretched out version of the smaller one, retaining all of its design queues including the same textured lid and coloration. This isn’t a bad thing, as the Cloudbook 11 is a nicely designed device for this price point, but it is worth noting that this device feels more rectangular, losing some of the wedge-like qualities of its smaller sibling. It has a slab-like design more akin to Acer’s Chromebook 13.
This laptop performs identically to the Cloudbook 11, though I was able to squeeze out some slightly higher Octane 2.0 benchmarks in Chrome while I had the laptop in performance mode, actually breaking the 8,000 mark once in five tries, with the rest in the 7,000’s. I assume this has to do with updates to Windows 10 or Chrome more so than anything that has changed with the Cloudbook.
The larger battery of the Cloudbook 14 actually solves one of my concerns, which is that you can use the Intel Graphics control panel to put the device into Performance Mode for 3D graphics and for power management, but still get all-day battery life (or at close to it). And, the better keyboard means that you won’t have issues actually typing on this laptop all day.
I’m still not impressed with the performance of this device with web browsing in particular, though removing as many background applications as possible – such as Acer’s bloatware and any heavier anti-virus software – certainly helps. Some websites, like CNN.com, will give the Cloudbook fits, while others, like Amazon.com, render very quickly.
And, it still cannot run Minecraft, which the Intel Bay Trail devices could manage despite having, on paper, significantly less execution units dedicated to graphics. It does seem able to handle some other titles, like Portal 2 at “Low” settings and 720p resolution, that I don’t believe would have worked on Bay Trail. If you’re looking to play indie games or older titles, I tried the following and all ran without issue:
- Duck Game
- Risk of Rain
- Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
The Cloudbook also does a great job handling Steam streaming.
Perhaps just as importantly to a certain audience, the Acer Cloudbook 14 is extremely capable of running Hearthstone. It runs perfectly on “Low” settings and reasonably well on “Medium” settings as well, and given the long battery life, this is an ideal machine for combining some work in MS Office, some light web browsing, and some hardcore Hearthstone playing.
Note that MS Office performance, gaming and Minecraft are all identical to my comments from the Cloudbook 11, which again can be read by clicking here.
The Acer Cloudbook 14 solves enough of the issues I had with the Cloudbook 11 that I’m much more comfortable recommending it as a purchase when it is available at or below its $249.99 MSRP.
It doesn’t offer a web browsing experience anywhere near that of a similarly priced Chromebook, but it makes up for that by doing a really nice job running the MS Office suite. It can handle iTunes, and actually has enough local storage to make that worthwhile. Similarly, the larger local storage space gives more room for gaming. And the high-speed wi-fi makes this a really nice Steam Streaming device for streaming games from your gaming PC.
To some degree my caveats from the Cloudbook 11 still apply: do not buy this laptop if you need to run traditional PC Minecraft on it, and do not buy it if you’re used to having a large number of tabs or multiple windows open while browsing the web.
If neither of those things are problems for you, and you’re looking for a cheap Windows laptop with great battery life and enough local storage space to actually install applications, definitely consider the Acer Cloudbook 14. It makes a nice secondary computer or a primary laptop for students that need portability, battery life, and MS Office 365.
Buy the Acer Cloudbook 14 at Amazon.com: Click here
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