Acer Chromebook 14 Review: Close to Perfection

When I first started writing about Chromebooks two years ago, any new hardware release was noteworthy, but today that’s no longer the case. There are dozens of Chromebooks now available, running the spectrum from $149 budget ARM-based machines to high-end showpieces like the Google Pixel that cost $999 and up. There’s much less excitement about a new Chromebook release as a general rule, so OEMs need something new and different if they want to create buzz in the consumer market.

Last year, Asus and Dell were successful at this. Both released Chromebooks featuring high quality industrial design and IPS displays: the C100P “Flip” and Chromebook 13, respectively. The Flip featured a hybrid design with an IPS touchscreen display and aluminum body at a very competitive price, while the Dell features high-grade materials like a magnesium alloy case, an etched glass trackpad, a 1080p IPS display, and a backlit keyboard.

Both of these Chromebooks carried substantial excitement to their release into the market, and they’re both excellent and successful products. That said, neither is what I would consider an ideal consumer Chromebook. The Flip is powered by a budget ARM processor, the Rockchip 3288, and while it has decent performance, it isn’t even as fast as older budget Chromebooks like the Acer C720; furthermore, at only 10″ it has a cramped keyboard that isn’t ideal for long-term use. Alternatively, the Dell 13 is a fantastic traditional Chromebook that gives consumers basically everything they want from a performance and build quality perspective, that comes at a cost: $399 and up. That price point is going to be above and beyond what many consumers want to pay for a Chromebook, which many people still consider a secondary or back-up laptop.

The default “best” Chromebook at the $300 price point right now is, in my opinion, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015 edition. That Chromebook has a gorgeous 1080p IPS display paired with excellent performance from a 5th generation Intel processor, 4 GB of RAM, a backlit keyboard, and powerful speakers. Unfortunately, it also has mediocre battery life, and is a plastic device that suffers from build quality and longevity concerns. Other options at this price point from HP, Lenovo, Acer, and others present a mix of disappointments: larger units that offer less portability, ARM or Intel Bay Trail processors, TN display panels, budget build materials, or some combination of these.

It is this softness at the $300 price point that makes the Acer Chromebook 14 such an exciting product, as it checks off a critical list of five items that have never been seen in a $300 Chromebook before.

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Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015 Edition – Full Review

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 was released in late September 2014, and immediately received positive reviews that centered on its defining attribute: a bright, beautiful, glossy 1080p IPS display with fantastic viewing angles. With an MSRP of $329.99, Toshiba offered a quality of display that was previously unheard of at that price point. It also packed in surprisingly good Skullcandy speakers. Combined with 4 GB of RAM, and the quick boot speeds of an SSD, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 became very popular in the consumer Chromebook market.

Despite some very positive attributes, there were some significant trade-offs with this Chromebook. While it packed 4 GB of RAM and an SSD, it was powered by a low-end Intel N2840 Celeron processor that gave it mediocre performance. There were also some complaints of build quality related to the display, which anecdotally seems to have had an unusually high failure rate; when compared to some other devices in the same price class, it was also clear that it had budget build quality in terms of the screen hinge, trackpad, and keyboard, which were not as well-constructed as similar devices produced by Asus and Acer.

But still, that display, that beautiful display……

For 2015, Toshiba has upgraded its Chromebook line with more powerful Intel Broadwell-generation processors, along with some other new features not typically found in the budget consumer laptop class, like a backlit keyboard.

Has Toshiba found the recipe for the ultimate affordable Chromebook?

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New Chromebooks: Dell 13 vs. Toshiba 2

Arguably the most popular consumer Chromebook of 2014 into 2015 has been the Toshiba Chromebook 2. Launched at $329.99 MSRP, but often discounted to $50 or more below that price, it features 4 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and a gorgeous 1080p IPS display… but, it is powered by the underwhelming N2840 Celeron processor. Some users have also had issues with build quality, in particular with problems with the screen mounting.

Many fans of Chrome OS hoped that this popular Toshiba Chromebook would usher in an era of more full HD, 1080p Chromebooks, and while there have been other FHD Chromebooks released, almost all of them have had lower quality TN displays instead of the much nicer IPS display of the Toshiba. The main exceptions have been a larger Chromebook – the Acer Chromebook 15 / Acer C910, and a very expensive Chromebook, the Google Chromebook Pixel.

Finally, a full year later, we have two upcoming Chromebooks that are similar in many respects to the Toshiba Chromebook 2, while offering notable improvements. The first comes from Toshiba themselves, while the second comes from Dell.

If you’re in the market for a full HD, 13.3″ Chromebook, one of these two devices is likely the right choice for you.

Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between these two key upcoming Chromebooks.

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Asus C100 Chromebook Flip Review

 

Another day, another Rockchip-powered Chromebook… but, thankfully, this one is different. Very different.

In fact, the Chromebook I’m reviewing today, the Asus C100,  is the most buzzed about Chromebook in some time.

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Where the Hisense and Haier Chromebooks represent the price basement of the Chrome OS lineup, the Asus C100 – hereafter referred to by its more common name, the Chromebook Flip – pairs the budget guts of those devices with an IPS touchscreen and a versatile aluminum hybrid body.

I gave a very positive review to the Asus C201, which has the same internal components as the Flip, but the Flip’s starting cost is nearly $100 more for a smaller device. Does it make sense to pair a budget SoC with higher-end build quality, and how is a touch-driven form factor work with Chrome OS?

Read on…

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Asus C201 Video Review

Tired of the stress and strain of “reading words”? Perhaps instead of reading my Asus C201 review, you’d rather have my words fly directly into your ear holes?

Today’s your lucky day, friend, as below you’ll find a full video review of the Asus C201! You can currently buy this Chromebook for $159 from Amazon for the 2 GB version, or $189 for the 4 GB version, and I have to say I’ve really fallen for this device.

Enjoy the review, and stay after the end credits for the world’s best chicken impression…

 

$149 Chromebook Battle: Hisense vs Haier

A year and a half ago when I bought the Acer C720, I asked myself, “How good can a $200 laptop really be?” My expectations going in were quite low, but the C720 proved itself to be a surprisingly capable device.

Today, the question I’m asking is, “How good can a $149 Chromebook really be?” If you’re reading this, you may be asking the same question. I bought both a Hisense and Haier Chromebook to find out, the latter from Amazon and former from Walmart, both being exclusive to only those retailers.

And again, to my surprise, the answer wasn’t what I expected: the $149 Hisense and Haier Chromebooks are both solidly made budget-class devices that provide users with decent performance at an impressively low price point.

Today I’ll offer some insight on the differentiation between these two Chromebooks, which will help if you’re looking to make a purchase decision. If you’re more interested in specific detail on the performance and capabilities, please start out instead with my detailed Hisense Chromebook Review; in terms of performance, the Haier is so similar (having the same processor, RAM, storage, and I/O) that the brand is name is interchangeable from a performance perspective.

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Hisense Chromebook Review: $149 Walmart Exclusive

Preface

Late in March, four new Chrome OS devices were announced, all using the same Rockchip RK3288 SoC (System on Chip). Powered by the ARM Cortex-A17, the specs – at least on paper – seemed reasonable for a low-end Chromebook: a 1.8 GHz quad-core processor, a Mali GPU, and support for 4K video and H.265 video decoding.

The first two devices using the RK3288 are now available for purchase, and both are 11.6″ Chromebooks from names you may not be familiar with: Haier and Hisense. Today, I’m going to give you a detailed review of the Hisense Chromebook.

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Behold the Acer Chromebook 15: Reviewing the World’s Largest Chromebook

No, that isn’t an alien monolith, just the world’s largest Chromebook: The Acer Chromebook 15.

Preface

Prior to the spring of 2015, the largest Chromebooks on the block were released by HP, in the form of the relatively well-received HP 14 line. The other OEMs all topped out at 13.3″ with devices like the Asus C300, Acer Chromebook 13, and Toshiba Chromebook 2. As Chromebooks are generally running lower-end processors and are designed for portability, this made logical sense; there was no need, from an engineering or build perspective, to have a larger device to dissipate heat, cram in additional drives, or allow for discrete GPUs.

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The Best Chromebooks You Can Buy – Spring 2015 Edition

One of the most common posts on the various Chromebook and Chrome OS groups online is some variant of the “What Chromebook Should I Buy?” post.  In order to try to make this process a bit easier for people looking to buy their first Chromebook, I figured I’d pull together a list of the Chromebooks that are most often recommended, broken out by screen size as well as Budget, Overall, and Performance categories.

Below the main section, which focuses on new Chromebooks, I’ll briefly discuss some of the better refurbished models available, and finally will break down the best models for a variety of tasks and use cases.

As information, “Crouton” is mentioned multiple times in this article, and is a reference to a set of scripts you can download which allows your Chromebook to simultaneously run Chrome OS and Ubuntu Linux. This allows you to run programs on your Chromebook which you otherwise could not, such as Minecraft, Steam, and more. For more info, see here for background on using Linux on your Chromebook, and here for an install guide.

NOTE: This post was last updated on 6/27/15, to account for releases in April, May, and June including the Hisense and Haier Chromebooks, and the Asus C201 and Flip. Click here for a newer version that covers the Dell Chromebook 13 and revised Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015.

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Best Budget Choice – Asus C201

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The Asus C201 is, as of this writing, the best budget Chromebook you can purchase new from stores. It has an MSRP of $169.99 but has been on sale from multiple retailers for $159.99.

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