Acer Chromebook R11 review: Chromebooks don’t get much better than this
Acer has been making some serious headway with Chromebooks in recent years, greedily snaffling more than a third of the global market. Now, the company is looking to cement its number one position by taking inspiration from Lenovo’s Yoga line-up. Behold, the company’s first Chrome OS-powered convertible – the limber Acer Chromebook R11.
There’s more than a little hint of deja-vu to the Chromebook R11. The white plastics and curved edges are reminiscent of the HP Chromebook 11 – but the star of the show is the hinge. The Chromebook R11’s “patented dual-torque hinge” allows the screen to bend back through 360 degrees, allowing it to work in laptop, tablet, tent and stand modes with a mere flick of the wrist.
This is, quite simply, a brilliant idea, and one that makes the Chromebook R11 far more versatile than most of its Chromebook peers. Grab the R11 and, once the hinge bends back past the halfway mark, the keyboard and touchpad are automatically disabled (unless you’re in setup mode). The screen orientation sensor is also activated automatically and this allows you to flip between landscape and portrait modes, the latter proving perfect for reading long-form articles on the web, or, in my case, proof-reading this review.
Nifty design aside, though, this isn’t a Chromebook that’s going to win awards for beautiful design. The Acer’s 1.2kg body is mostly built from textured white plastic that looks rather cheap. As one of my colleagues noted, it’s a touch reminiscent of Asus’s old-school Eee PC netbooks. It’s not all plastic, though, and Acer’s marketing materials are keen to point out the R11’s lid is made from patterned aluminium.
Pretty it certainly isn’t, but then this does feel like a laptop that’s going to last. There’s very little in the way of flex or give in the R11’s body, and the lid feels impressively taut and tough – I had to prod very hard on it before it caused any show-through on the display. For a laptop destined to be hurled in and out of bags on a regular basis, trust me, this is a very good thing.
It’s also great to see Acer has equipped the Chromebook R11 with a decent display. As Acer has opted for an IPS panel, viewing angles are more than wide enough to make the most of the super-flexible hinge. Contrast and brightness drop off when viewed off-axis, but colours don’t look unnatural or horribly washed out as they so often do on Chromebooks using cheaper TN LCD technology.
It isn’t the brightest display around, reaching an uninspiring maximum brightness of 226cd/m2, but although that’s low, it’s still bright enough for most purposes. Similarly, while the measured contrast ratio of 1,210:1 sounds pretty amazing, it’s not worth getting excited about – the high figure is due to dynamic contrast, which tweaks the brightness depending on what’s onscreen.
Geeky niggles aside, the image quality is great for a £230 Chromebook. The 1,366 x 768 resolution feels cramped – I prefer Full HD on my Chromebooks – but the flipside is the IPS panel delivers vibrant colours and makes a good fist of movies and photos. It’s much easier on the eyes than the many Chromebooks I’ve seen with TN screens.