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Wow! A Full Metal Chromebook for a Budget Price – Meet the Acer 14

The Acer Chromebook 14 is a highly-debuted laptop and is geared towards higher-end power users.

It’s a mixed bag of specs, features, and offerings at a very, very attractive price.

This is a detailed review of the Acer 14. I’ll be reviewing it coming from budget-friendly devices, such as the Acer bestsellers that are priced right around $160. This is actually my first “high-end” laptop, so I won’t be comparing it to other premium models, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook. This review will be specifically from an “upgrade” perspective from the budget laptops.

I’ll be referring to my CB3-131 as the “cheap” one interchangeably throughout this review. If you’re not familiar with this model, it’s basically a cheaper version of the Acer 14. You can see some specs about it here on amazon.

Anyway, let’s get on with the review.

First Impressions

First, the price. It comes at a very attractive sticker price of only $299, which is about double of what I paid for the entry-level model, for those who are new to it. Just to let you know the specs of mine, it’s the Acer CB3-131 with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 16GB SSD. It has an 11.6 inch IPS display. It’s the most popular Chromebook on amazon’s marketplace and it’s made by Acer.

Why did I decide to purchase one? Well, it’s an upgraded, higher-end model. After reading about it earlier, I decided that I wanted to try it out, after being impressed with what one of these can do and all the benefits Chromebooks have over Windows laptops.

The first thing I noticed after unboxing it is the shell. It comes with an all-metal build, which feels very sturdy, expensive, and nice to the touch.

To be honest, I’m not really a laptop user. I’ve always depended on desktops until I had to snag a laptop for mobility. Even though I do most of my work on a desktop, I’ve realized that I can do nearly everything I need on my laptop. And my desktop is running Windows. This just goes to show how the majority of activities performed on a traditional Windows computer can be replaced by a Chromebook. I use my laptop when I can’t use my desktop.

Why is this important? Because I’m not really a laptop user, so I can’t speak much about laptop material, but just based on the differences between the two models, the metal body is amazing. The aluminum casing feels like a premium machine, but this sub-$300 laptop screams budget. If I didn’t know the price beforehand, I’d guesstimate at least double.

Full Aluminum body means a lighter and thinner form factor

The laptop with a closed lid is less than an inch in width. It also feels heavier and thicker compared to my current budget laptop. However, the Acer 14 is obviously a 14-inch machine, whereas mine is only 11.6”. The difference in screen sizes comes as a big burden since I don’t want to go back to 11.6” after seeing 14”. I often found myself zooming in on my main machine.

The Acer 14 also has a full HD, 1080p resolution. It’s noticeable when watching YouTube videos that have the option for HD. Watching full HD videos on a bigger screen felt like a blessing. Again, I come from desktops, so I’m used to a big monitor (or at least bigger than a laptop). After watching videos on the Acer 14, there’s no reason to go back to the cheap Chromebook. The resolution is crisp and clear. The Acer 14 sports Intel HD graphics, which is basically a co-processor built into the CPU itself. It can run all but the most demanding videos and images and play nearly all the games on the app store. And yes, it can definitely run Minecraft.

One thing I didn’t like about the screen is that it tapers down from the body.

The Acer Chromebook 14 has a taper down the aluminum frame.
It has a taper down the aluminum frame which gives it a unique look from the profile view.

 

As you can see, there’s a taper that goes towards the opening of the lid, opposite from the hinges. It just looks weird from the profile view and I find myself grabbing more of the machine to open it when the “gripping point” is actually very thin and I had to use my fingers to dig into the crack between the lid and keyboard rather than gripping it and opening it with two hands. Not sure if this is just because I’m a newbie.

It weighs 3.5 pounds, according to the spec sheet. It’s pretty heavy compared to my current one. The current one I use is about roughly half the weight, so this is about a pound heavier and it’s noticeable when I pick it up to transport it between desks or workstations.

It has a sharp screen and full HD resolution

Opening up the lid, the screen itself is sharp and has a noticeably sharper resolution. The screen is huge compared to my current laptop, but for others who may be used to 14+ inch screens, it’s nothing special. The bezels are also pretty lengthy. That was something I didn’t particularly like and it’s also something that adds to the weight of the laptop. The screen has vivid colors, but a dull overtone to it. It’s hard to describe. For one thing, the 14 doesn’t seem to be as bright as mine and doesn’t even adjust as bright either when I play with the settings.

However, it’s barely noticeable and even in bright sunlight, I can still see the screen perfectly when I turn up the brightness. The IPS LCD screen also works well. I tried viewing videos at multiple angles and it works decently. The only way to make it hard to see is if you intentionally look at the screen from a weird angle. But for all other intents and purposes, the screen is very nice. There is a slight reflection from the matte display, but it’s honestly not horrible. It’s dull and only noticeable when it’s bright in your environment and the screen is dark. The bezel around the screen is also not as reflective. It’s white, but it doesn’t really reflect any light, which is nice.

The display is an excellent piece for media. I watched YouTube videos in HD and it plays them smoothly with crisp and clear playback. Netflix was also a delight. If anything, the $300 really went into the screen quality. The quality of the display feels equivalent to my desktop monitor, and it’s a $450 monitor with almost double the resolution.

The webcam is your typical low-megapixel built-in camera. It’s nothing special. The picture is sub-par quality and has a slight lag. You can customize and add filters just like any other laptop, as it’s native to Chrome OS. Nothing special here.

Keyboard and trackpad

The Acer 14 has a decent keyboard and spacious trackpad.
It has a decent keyboard and spacious trackpad.

The keyboard is your standard Chrome keyboard, complete the Finder (Search) key, lack of F1-F12, and no numerical keypad (and no caps lock). The bezels, again, are pretty big for the keyboard, but not so much as the screen. Compared to my current one, the bezels are nearly three times bigger. My CB3-131 has a very thin border around the screen and keyboard, which minimizes the footprint. This is probably my biggest complaint. It’d be much smaller without the bezels taking up so much space. It’s unnecessarily large and adds weight for no reason.

However, performance-wise, the keyboard shines. The keys are spaced perfectly and the keys themselves are a little bigger than what I’m used to. This is fine, though, since bigger keys are well-appreciated. The keys have a shallow travel, as with mine, but personally, I don’t mind. They don’t have the click nor feedback that desktop keyboards have (and probably other Windows laptops or other Chromebooks, for that matter), but I don’t care. In fact, I feel like I can type faster with less travel since I don’t have to push down as much. The new Macbooks have a similar feel. They don’t travel as much either.

The trackpad feels spacious. You’re given much space to move around and you can place multiple fingers on it easily (perfect for swiping down with three fingers to bring up all windows on Chrome OS). It feels accurate enough, but there are points where it seems to be unresponsive. I did have the same problem on my other one as well. It seems like the bottom half of the trackpad is much more accurate than the top half. This problem seems to be the issue with it.

However, with the ample space you’re given, you can simply use the bottom half and still not feel cramped. The top half works, but you have to put in more effort, or so it feels like. This is an area where the $300 feels like $300, so to speak.

Very loud speakers with excellent, auroric sound

The speakers are loud. If I had to summarize, it’d be that. They’re located on the bottom corners and when you turn it up, it really gets loud. Compared to mine, the speakers are even louder. And I thought my cheap one was loud. You’ll likely not need to ever use it at maximum volume. I found that I’d only use about a quarter of the total volume output for most videos, and adjusting it higher for quiet videos. However, the output was more than enough.

The quality of the speakers is decent, even at high volume levels. As I mentioned, the speakers are placed on the bottom corners of the device, which literally means that they’re under the laptop. If you’re using your laptop on an uneven surface (such as a mattress or your lap), the sound may be muffled and come out of one side more so than the other. If you use it on your desk or a flat surface, it’s even and it boosts the sound. If you’re an audiophile and you plan to use the speakers, use it on a flat surface for best results.

Peripherals, ports and connectivity

As for input/output ports, the Acer Chromebook 14 isn’t lacking. It comes with your standard HDMI output, two USB 3.0 ports, security lock, headphone port, and power. Surprisingly, the 14 has no SD card slot. The one I have comes with the same port setup, except it has one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 rather than two USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader. Not sure why Acer removed it, as I actually don’t use USB sticks much and prefer SD cards.

That was a pain, as I had to purchase a USB drive just to transfer files. I used Google Drive for some files, but other I prefer to keep a digital copy on a back drive. Having no SD card slot meant less connectivity. It does sport a 32GB SSD though, but even then, I still like to backup my stuff on a physical drive. It depends on the user.

Under the hood – Acer 14 specs

The Acer 14 is powered by an Intel processor.
It’s powered by a decent Intel processor, which is enough to handle most basic tasks on a Chromebook.

It features an Intel Celeron processor, which is enough to handle all my computer needs except the heavy lifting, like video editing and such. The Intel Celeron processor is common in Chromebooks, and it’s also the same CPU that’s also used in mine as well. With the Celeron processor, you can install Linux easily and run a copy of an additional OS if you’d like. And yes, with the Celeron processor, you can play Minecraft on the Chromebook 14.

It also comes with your standard 4GB of RAM, which is enough to handle the majority of your tasks simultaneously. I typically have 3-9 applications running and I switch between them heavily. I also have music playing in the background via YouTube as well. It handled all of this without any constant lag. There was the occasional hiccup here and there, especially when launching an application from a cold start. But besides, that it’s pretty powerful for a $300device.

Claims to have a 12-hour battery

The battery is claimed to run for 12 hours, however, I only found it getting about 10 hours. But that’s with multiple apps running and music playing or video streaming. I use a laptop for the mobility, and by mobility, I mean within my workspace. I don’t take it outside, so I always have an outlet nearby. I’m not particularly worried about the battery since I have outlets everywhere, but after draining the battery on multiple occasions, I’d be comfortable taking this thing out for a whole day and having enough power to get by.

No touchscreen version available

There’s also no touchscreen, which is probably a big issue to many people. Personally, I could go without the touchscreen, and I prefer it that way. I still haven’t gotten used to using touchscreens on big devices, such as laptops, so I prefer it that way. However, if touchscreen support is a necessity, then you may want to skip over this one. I wrote a list of some of the best Chromebooks on the market, and a few of them have touchscreen support. So, check that out if you’re looking for the best touchscreen devices.

Android Play Store integration

Chromebooks have thousands of free and paid apps to customize your Chromebook.
Most are getting the Android update- but not all. The Acer Chromebook 14 will be receiving the update, however, it’ll have to compensate without a touchscreen.

Of the many that are receiving the list of models that are receiving the addition of Android apps, touchscreen versions may be a huge benefit. Of course, there are many supported ones that don’t have the touchscreen functionality but will also be receiving the Play Store update. This model is no exception.

This one, like many on the list, will probably use some sort of ingenious trackpad control or keyboard control for many of the Android apps. In case you didn’t know, the Play store is coming, and since all of the apps on the Play store are built for a smartphone, which utilizes a touch screen, it’ll require a different input to run them on a laptop- especially on a non-touchscreen.

Overall thoughts

Overall, the Acer 14 is an excellent Chromebook for the price. I found that even though it’s heavier, bulkier, and comes with some huge bezels compared to my CB3-131, the higher resolution and overall performance of it is worth it. It was difficult getting used to an 11’’ screen coming from a desktop monitor, so a 14’’ screen is well-appreciated.

The price of the Acer 14 is about double that of my current one, so does the Acer 14 justify the price? Yes, particularly if you want a beefed-up version of the CB3-131 with a bigger screen and sleek finish. The specs are about the same, but the body of the two devices are pretty different. So, you’re paying double for a bigger screen, higher resolution, aluminum finish, and a little less mobility.

It really depends on what you’re going to use your laptop for. If you don’t really care that much about mobility, then I’d suggest the Acer 14. If you need to move around a lot and must have your it with you, then perhaps going with another device would be a smart move. Maybe you’d like to check out a smaller and lighter one, perhaps?. Or you can grab the one I’m using (my favorite), which I’m a fan of since it’s an excellent Chromebook for starters simply based on the high ratings and sales of this model on amazon.

There are tons of newer high-end models out on the market now, made by manufacturers such as HP and Lenovo. But if you want something that looks expensive, performs well, and don’t want to shell out cash, then go for the Acer 14- it’s a win.

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (platy@platypusplatypus.com).

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