Acer Chromebook R11 review: Chromebooks don’t get much better than this
The Chromebook R11 is powered by one of Intel’s low-powered Celeron processors. It’s a dual-core 1.6GHz Celeron N3050, based on Intel’s new Braswell architecture and as this shrinks the manufacturing process down from 22nm to 14nm, you can expect lower running temperatures and better power efficiency than the previous generation.
This Celeron CPU isn’t going to wow anyone with its performance. Coupled with a basic 2GB of RAM, and the usual 16GB of eMMC storage, it only takes a few ad-filled, image-heavy websites loaded simultaneously in Chrome and things start to clog up and stutter. Once pages have loaded, it’s generally fine, with smooth scrolling, panning and zooming, but open too many Chrome tabs and you can expect the R11 to struggle.
Battery life is where you see the benefit of the power-efficient CPU. With the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2 – more than bright enough for most indoor office conditions – the Chromebook R11 lasted for a very respectable 8hrs 42mins playing a video on loop. I’m confident it would last longer than ten hours if you drop the brightness further.
Keyboard, touchpad and connectivity
The keyboard and touchpad are easily the Acer’s weakest suit, but even then they’re not bad, just rather middle-of-the-road. The keyboard is the stronger of the two, and while the keys do feel a tad spongy and lacking in feedback, I was perfectly happy tapping away for several hours. But it isn’t the best keyboard I’ve used on a Chromebook.
Admittedly, the buttonless touchpad isn’t so execrably bad that it would drive me potty, but as it’s hinged along its top edge, there’s far too much travel to every click. What’s more, the wobbly-feeling plastic lacks the nice firm click I like from a touchpad. It works, but it’s lucky that there’s a decent touchscreen a few inches away.
The R11 is pretty well appointed in the connectivity department, too. There are two USB ports (one USB 2 and one USB 3), a full-sized HDMI output and SD card reader, a headphone jack and a Kensington lock slot. Acer rounds things off with Bluetooth 4, and 2×2 MIMO stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
There’s also a basic 720p webcam, which serves up grainy, pixellated images, and a pair of tinny-sounding speakers on the base that, due to rather poor design, produce a muffled sound when you use the R11 in tablet mode.
All things told, though, I like the Acer Chromebook R11. I’ve always been a fan of the Chromebook way of doing things – like most people, my digital life is lived almost entirely in a browser these days – and Acer’s decision to add in a welcome bit of flexibility without sending the price rocketing is hugely welcome.
I’d love a slightly quicker processor and more RAM (plus a slightly clickier touchpad), but then I’m probably just being picky. If I was in the market for a cheap, do-it-all hybrid, then the Acer Chromebook R11 would be right at the top of my list.