Review: Acer Chromebook R11 including Crouton

The Acer R11 Chromebook is a product with something of an identity crisis. It doesn’t have premium build quality, like the Asus C100P Chromebook Flip. It also isn’t packing impressive performance and hardware at the expense of its build quality, like the Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015.

Made up mostly of white plastic, with a thick, flat design, and packing Intel’s new, but relatively low-end N3150 Celeron processor, the Acer R11 isn’t going to win any awards for design or performance.

I’m really selling you on this Chromebook so far, I know.

While it is true that the Acer R11 is not be the fastest or best-looking Chromebook, there’s also no other Chromebook on the market with the R11’s combination of characteristics. With its 360 degree display featuring an IPS touchscreen, 32 GB of local storage standard, and a quad-core Intel Bramwell processor, the R11 gets many things right despite a first impression that is mediocre at best.

In fact, after using it for a few weeks as my primary laptop, I think this is one of the best Chromebooks available for a wide percentage of the consumer market… or, it will be, once the price drops a bit.


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Dell Chromebook 13 Review – A True Mid-Tier Chromebook

If Toshiba’s 2015 update to their Chromebook 2 represents the upper boundary of the budget Chromebook category, then the Dell Chromebook 13 ably represents the first true mid-level Chromebook.

Available with a wide range of processor, RAM, and screen combinations, the Dell Chromebook 13 is a well-made, professional class machine that does an unexpectedly good job justifying its own existence, carving out a unique place in the increasing catalog of available Chromebooks.

In this article, I’ll give you a breakdown on the Dell Chromebook 13’s specs, explain which version I recommend, and review its build quality and performance.



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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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Moto 360 Review Update – 6 Month Check-Up

I jumped into Android Wear with the release of the Moto 360 back in September 2014. My initial impressions of the 360 were generally positive, though my feelings about Android Wear as a platform were somewhat mixed.

I’ve been living with his device every day for six months now, and with the impending release of the Apple Watch and conclusion of the Pebble Time Kickstarter campaign, this seems like an ideal time to check in on Android Wear and see how the 360 is holding up.

Silver Metal 360

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Chromebook Pixel 2 (2015) – Full Review



Before discussing the actual device, I think it is worth spending a little time reviewing the history of the Chromebook Pixel, and how it relates to the Chromebook concept. If this doesn’t interest you, just skip down to the “Specs” header for the actual review. And if words aren’t so much your thing, check out my video review on YouTube:


Chromebook Pixel – Backstory

Chromebooks are, of course, designed to be Cloud machines, primarily focused on web apps and online storage. Given this definition of a Chromebook, it doesn’t really make sense for them to have high-end laptop specs. Without powerful local applications for photo and video editing software, or local graphics-intensive gaming, there’s little need for anything beyond Celeron or Core i3 processors.

Chromebooks have traditionally offered excellent value at the $200-$350 price point, providing very fast boot times, excellent battery life, and a variety of build quality and screen options, though generally most are running on Celeron processors and 1366×768 TN panels.

The one device that completely bucked this trend?

Google’s 2013 Chromebook Pixel, which released in two versions, with the cheaper being $1,299 and the upgraded model $1449!  When released, this Chromebook received generally rave reviews, but also engendered plenty of confused responses, mostly centered around who, exactly, was supposed to buy such a device?

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Acer C740 – First Impressions and Unboxing!

I just got an Acer C740 delivered – the 4 GB RAM version for $279.99!

This is the first Chromebook available running the 5th Generation Intel Broadwell 3205U processor, and WOW is it fast. The sticker on the device says seven second boot time, but it is more like five seconds, if even that long. I’ve done three Google Octane tests and they’re all over 13K with the lowest being 13,310 and the highest being 13,508.

Acer C740 Octane Test 1
The median score of my three Octane tests: 13439

That is really fast for a $280 computer! In terms of responsiveness this feels as snappy as my desktop as far as handling Chrome, and that’s a 3rd Gen core i7 with 8 GB of RAM. That type of Octane score approaches the 14,500 you’d see on a core i3 C720.

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Chromebook Buyers Guide – Spring 2014

Chromebook Buyers Guide – Spring 2014

Until recently, Chromebook options were pretty limited, but over the past six months we’ve seen an explosion of models hit the market. Most of these devices are pretty similar in specifications and cost, so telling the models apart, and understanding what makes each one different, has become difficult.

To help, I’ve put together a document listing the currently available Chromebooks and some of their key differentiating factors:  Chromebook Comparison – Spring 2014

Below are the categories of differentiation I looked at during this exercise:

  • Price (MSRP)
  • Processor (Make/model)
  • Screen Size and resolution
  • RAM (GB)
  • SSD (GB)
  • Weight (Lbs)
  • USB Ports (3.0 and 2.0 – quantity of each)
  • HDMI (Yes/No)
  • Touchscreen (Yes/No)
  • 4G Wireless (Yes/No)

I’ve also listed some miscellaneous notes or comments about the models at the end.

Note that for those looking to install Ubuntu on their system, either through Crouton or a dual-boot, my recommendation is to get a model that has:

  • RAM:  4 GB
  • Processor: 1.4 GHz Celeron 2955U (Intel – Haswell microarchitecture)

This will maximize both your performance and compatibility with Ubuntu (and WINE, if you want to use .exe files). Among the models available right now, this pushes you toward the Dell 11 or HP 14.

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Chromebooks, Part 2: What can I do with a Chromebook?

Note:  This is part two of a multi-part series about Chromebooks, consisting of the following:

Part 1:  What is a Chromebook?

Part 2:  What can I do with a Chromebook?

Part 3: Beyond Chrome OS: Ubuntu and Crouton



Chromebooks, Part 2:  What can I do with a Chromebook?

Chromebooks are Made for Chrome

It seems obvious, I’m sure, but the thing that a Chromebook does best is, well, run Chrome.

If you’re not familiar with Chrome, you should be.  Chrome is Google’s web browser and it is available on Android, iOS, Windows, and OS X. If you have OS X, however, I’m not sure you’ll have much reason to use it over Safari.  However, if you have an Android phone, you’re probably browsing with Chrome, and you should be doing so on your PC as well.


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Chromebooks, Part 1: What is a Chromebook?

Note:  This is part one of a multi-part series about Chromebooks, consisting of the following:

Part 1:  What is a Chromebook?

Part 2:  What Can I Do With a Chromebook?

Part 3: Beyond Chrome OS – Ubuntu and Crouton


Chromebooks, Part 1:  What is a Chromebook?

Chromebook Overview

Simply stated, a Chromebook is a laptop running Google’s Chrome Operating System, which is based around the concept of a computer doing everything out of Google’s Chrome browser.  Similarly, a Chromebox is a desktop system running Chrome OS. When the platform was launched in 2011, Chrome OS was basically the Chrome web browser only and had no file management system and little to no offline capability.  Since that time, the OS has come a long way, and is now a fully functional operating system that has file management and offline capabilities, albeit one that is still tied to Chrome and geared towards the cloud and online functionality.

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