Chromebooks are relatively new in the world of computing offerings. Still just a few years old, they have been offered by Google as an alternative to Windows PCs as well as Macbooks. The bigger charm is the fact that they offer you a full computing solution at a fraction of the price of their competitors. Most of the ones you find in the UK are under £300, and the Acer Chromebook R11, Acer’s offering, starts at around £189, making it a very good prospect under £200.
Specs and features
At that price, you can’t be very fussy about what you get. The device offers the following specs:
- 360 degree hinge featuring torque technology, meaning you can bend and twist this as you like.
- Metallic styling
- Chrome OS™
- Intel® Celeron® N3150 processor Quad-core 1.60 GHz
- 11.6″ HD (1366 x 768) 16:9 IPS, touchscreen
- Intel® HD Graphics with Shared Memory
- 2 GB, DDR3L SDRAM
- 16 GB storage
- 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, HDMI port, SD Card Slot, Kensington Lock Slot, 3.5mm audio port
Look and feel
We had the white R11 to try, and it features a look that is a mix of ceramic white plastic look mixed with a textured top and a shiny metallic Acer logo.
Open the device and you notice how well design the hinge is. You can hold and bend it at any angle you like, and the device just holds itself. This makes it quite an ideal device for portable use, as one is often crammed on public transport and such like. It also means that you can use it on the sofa, in bed, or wherever, without the fear of it falling over.
The 11″ screen has a big bezel around it, which means that there is potential for the future generations of this device to be even smaller.
Also noticeable is the full sized keyboard, which means you have a good keyboard to type on. Of course, being a Chromebook means that you get a Chromebook keyboard, which comes with a top line of Chrome OS function keys instead of the usual function keys. You also have a search button instead of the Caps Lock key, though this can be configured to a Caps Lock if needed.
On the front are also a couple of LEDs to show you if the device is running and if it is charging.
On the right, you have the USB 2 port, the aux port, the power key and the lock slot.
On the left, you have the power port, the HDMI port, the USB 3 port and the SD card slot.
Below the device are the speakers.
Bend the screen back lets you put it in the tent mode, and this is useful for both presentations as well as watching movies.
Of course, if you’re really tight on space, or just want to access the screen, turn it all the way back and you go into tablet mode.
At 1.2kg and with a screen size of 11″, this is highly portable, and fits easily in pretty much any bag.
With an Intel Celeron processor and 2GB of RAM, the device is by no mean a workhorse. What Acer have done here is give you a portable device at a very low cost that you can easily take anywhere you like, with a great battery life, and no fuss. However, being a pure browser based OS means that all you need to be able to do is visit websites.
The device happily runs a few browser tabs, such as email, social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc), watch a few videos, and do most of your work.
You can even do websites that will do image processing for you.
It isn’t lightening fast, but the speed is very decent for a day to day usage.
Limitations of the OS
With only 16GB of space, you’re pretty much restricted to cloud based computing. Chrome OS gives you pretty much everything you need apart from a mail client. With the latest advent of Android apps being allowed on the OS (and the Acer Chromebook R11 is one of the laptops that will get the feature) it should only get better.
As of now, you have Google Drive, Google Docs, and many other Chrome plug ins that do the job.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is perfectly sized, which means it doesn’t take any extra getting used to. However, the key movement is very small, meaning that it does feel a bit odd.
The touchpad, however, is not as smooth. It can be a bit funny registering clicks, and there were times when there was a clear delay between a click and it being registered. Right clicks, which are done as two finger clicks on the Chromebook, seemed to work fine. In fact, on a very good device, this is the only major bad point I could find.
The laptop comes with a touch screen as well. However, Chrome OS is not really designed for the touch feature, so it seems a bit redundant at the moment. It does come into its own when you go to tablet mode. The on-screen keyboard works, but obviously not as good as the real one.
With Android apps being released on Chromebooks this year, this should become less of an issue, and you should see more usage for the touch screen.
A good battery life is the cherry on top every device needs. The device offers over 8 hours of consistent usage, and can go up to 10 hours depending on usage.
The Acer Chromebook R11 is the best of Chrome OS on offer. It is cheap, portable, offers decent specs, and has a great battery life.