Acer Chromebook 14 review: A standout Chrome OS laptop

Acer's "MacBook Air" Chromebook is an exquisitely made Chrome OS laptop

Nathan Spendelow
18 Jan 2017
4
Price when reviewed 
199.99
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Chromebooks are typically small and basic laptops that sacrifice looks for affordability, but Acer’s new Chromebook 14 looks to shake up that trend. In an effort to prove it’s possible to build a cheap laptop without the usual trade-offs, it's treading an unusual path with its latest Chrome OS portable. You can nab one on Amazon UK for £199 (or on Amazon US for under $270).

In fact, you could be forgiven for mistaking the Chromebook 14 for a MacBook Air at first glance. The Chromebook 14’s wedged shape and gold or silver aluminium chassis, black plastic hinge at the rear and sunken keyboard are all reminiscent of Apple’s classic laptop; only the brushed finish on the lid and Acer logo give the game away.

Still, the whole thing feels reassuringly expensive and barely flexes a millimetre if you try to twist and bend it. It’s as chunky as a MacBook at 17mm thick, yet isn’t quite as lightweight, with a 1.6kg heft.

There’s only one model available in the UK right now and for £200 you get a 14in 1,366 x 768 resolution display, an Intel Celeron processor and 2GB of RAM. This being a Chromebook, there’s only 16GB of flash storage, so you’ll be reliant on cloud-based storage solutions for most of your files.

If you’re after something a bit speedier, there’ll be a higher spec version launching soon, with a full HD screen, twice the RAM and storage, and a speedier quad-core processor. Acer has remained tight-lipped about pricing for the time being.

Keyboard and touchpad

The Scrabble-tile keys are another aspect of the design that seems to pay homage to the MacBook Air, and the keyboard is also similar in layout. Critically, the keys are all nicely spaced out and large, with decent travel resulting in comfortable typing.

The sizeable touchpad is responsive, too, but since it’s running Chrome OS, there aren’t as many multi-touch gestures to take advantage of when compared with other operating systems.

Display

Sadly, as is the case with most Chromebooks I've reviewed, the display isn’t quite up to scratch. It’s a decent size at 14in, but quality-wise it’s a letdown. It’s not particularly sharp at 1,366 x 766, peak brightness is merely acceptable at 213cd/m2, but it’s the contrast ratio of 287:1 that really lets it down.

It’s the same sorry case with colour accuracy, too, with the TN panel displaying only 54% of the sRGB colour gamut. It all leads to a washed-out, dull display, with a clear lack of richness and vibrancy. While this is largely par for the course with entry-level Chromebooks, there have been a few exceptions over the years, such as the Toshiba Chromebook 2 with its impressive full HD IPS display, and Acer’s own Chromebook R11, which has a smaller, far better quality touchscreen.

Buy the Acer Chromebook 14 now from PC World

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