March 7, 2013

Acer C7 Chromebook review


When it comes to Chromebooks, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Samsung was the only manufacturer of the petite Chrome OS-running laptops, but that isn’t the case. Acer has also been manufacturing Google’s Chrome OS laptops since 2011, but its first and only incarnation of the Chromebook, the AC700, was quickly overshadowed by Samsung’s Chromebooks.
Acer’s new C7 Chromebook may redress the balance, however. With its updated hardware, improved build quality and a 320GB hard disk, the C710 might finally be a serious contender to Samsung’s latest incarnation of the Chromebook, the excellentSamsung Series 3.
Acer C7 Chromebook
It sets itself apart from its predecessor almost immediately with its dark grey exterior and keyboard tray and black glossy bezel surrounding its 11.6in screen. It still doesn’t quite match the stylish, silver tones of Samsung’s Chromebook, but it’s a vast improvement in terms of looks, with its brushed metal effect offering hints of personality in comparison to the dull, all-black plastic of the original AC700.
The C7 is also a fraction heavier than Samsung’s Series 3, weighing 1.4kg, but it feels well-made and sturdy enough to carry around in your bag. It’s almost 10mm taller as well, but this doesn’t detract from the C7’s overall portability, and its thicker waistline means there’s more room for wider range of I/O ports.
Acer C7 Chromebook
Along the sides, you’ll find three USB2 ports, a VGA and HDMI port for connecting it to an external monitor, and a combined headphone and microphone jack. Unfortunately, the C7 doesn’t support Bluetooth like Samsung’s Series 3 Chromebook, but its fast Ethernet port and 802.11n Wi-Fi will help you get the most out of Chrome OS.
Acer C7 Chromebook
The C710’s 1,366x768 TN panel is a bit on the dull side in terms of overall brightness levels. Similarly, its glossy finish makes it quite reflective, which limits how much you can use it outdoors or in direct sunlight, but its viewing angles were good and its large amount of screen tilt makes working on it for long periods of time easy.
Acer C7 Chromebook
Its black Chiclet-style keyboard was very comfortable to use. Its keys are well-spaced but, much like Samsung’s Series 3 Chromebook, the keys could have done with more bounce. The position of its Pg Up and Pg Dn keys was another minor annoyance, as they’re positioned right next to the C7’s miniscule arrow keys. As a result, we accidentally hit the Pg Up and Dn buttons instead of the Left and Right keys, but we’d happily type on the C7 all day despite these minor niggles.
It has two dedicated search keys that replace the standard Windows Home key. You still can’t use them to search through your Gmail account, but they’ll let you search the web, browse your apps and pinpoint your Google Drive documents - as long as you’ve opened them on the C710 before.
We also liked the all-in-one touchpad. It’s quite small, but it’s accurate and responsive, and it offered plenty of tactile feedback despite not having physical buttons. However, multi-touch gestures such as pinch-zooming proved a little more problematic and often took a few goes to implement properly. Two-finger scrolling worked like a dream.
The components used by the C710 match the Chromebook’s low price, and it uses a 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847 processor that’s paired with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. We couldn’t run our usual benchmarks on the C710, so we instead used the JavaScript-based SunSpider online benchmark, which completed in 508.5ms. It’s still a long way off our 3GHz Intel Core i3-540, which completed the test in 297ms, but this is nearly 200ms faster than Samsung’s Series 3 Chromebook.
It’s perfectly capable of running multiple browser windows and playing Full HD video, albeit downscaled. It can also run browser-based games such as Bastion and Cut the Rope, but you’re limited to what’s available through the Chrome web store.
Of course, the C710 isn’t just about hardware. There’s also Chrome OS, the Google operating system based on the Chrome internet browser. This means you often have to be online to get the most out of it as most of your documents will be stored in the cloud, and you also can’t use any third-party programs outside of Google’s own services. You can still transfer documents, music and video files, though, and this is where the C710’s 320GB hard disk really comes in handy. All other Chromebooks have a 16GB SSD, which makes them poor companions for those who like their media collections available on the move. Its integrated speakers are some of the worst we’ve ever heard on a laptop, however, so you should use it with headphones to get the best out of it.
Acer C7 Chromebook
It also has a few offline features that mean you can still use it on the go without losing access to all your files. We had no trouble editing word-processed documents offline or using the preinstalled Google Play Books app, and we could read and write emails in the Offline Gmail app as well. Chrome OS is still limited compared to Windows, but at this price we have few complaints.
Its primary flaw is its poor battery life. We couldn’t run our normal light-use tests, but we only managed four hours and eight minutes of looped audio playback with the screen set to half-brightness. This falls quite short of the Samsung Series 3’s impressive seven hours, but it’s still long enough to get you through a long train journey.
The Acer C710 Chromebook is a vast improvement over its predecessor and it’s finally a worthy rival to Samsung’s Series 3 Chromebook. It’s cheaper, has a bigger hard disk, but falls short on battery life. If you’re not planning on using it on the move, the C7 Chromebook is for you.
Basis Specifications
Part Code C710-B8472G32iii
Review Date 6-Mar-13
**** stars out of 5
Rating
 
Processor Intel Celeron 847
Processor clock speed 1.1GHz
Memory 2.00GB
Memory slots 2
Memory slots free 2
Maximum memory 4GB
Size 27x285x202mm
Weight 1.4kg
Sound Realtek HD Audio
Pointing device touchpad
Display
Viewable size 11.6 in
Native resolution 1,366x768
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000
Graphics/video ports VGA, HDMI
Graphics Memory 128MB
Storage
Total storage capacity 320GB
Optical drive type none
Ports and Expansion
Bluetooth X
Wired network ports 1x 10/100
Wireless networking support 802.11a/g/n
PC Card slots N/A
Supported memory cards SD, MMC
Other ports 3x USB2, headphone, microphone
Miscellaneous
Carrying case X
Operating system Chrome OS
Operating system restore option N/A
Software included N/A
Optional extras N/A



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