Acer showcased its new 15-inch Chromebook, the C910, at the BETT 2015 conference, and we managed to spend a little time with the super-sized device that's built for classroom use.
The Taiwanese technology giant claims the C910 is the first Chromebook of its size to hit the market, and that's where its greatest strengths lie. It's an absolute beast of a machine. With dimensions of 393 x 256 x 24.2mm, even the most mischievous of students – or, dare I say, absent-minded teachers – would struggle to misplace or mistreat this monster.
Despite its hulking proportions, it's not as heavy as you might expect it to be, at 2.2kg. We found it pretty easy to hold aloft from the base in one hand, but you'd struggle to keep it there for an extended period of time.
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The huge 15.6-inch IPS display has a 1366 x 768 resolution, but we understand that a Full HD version will also be available. The highest brightness setting is a little disappointing, as are viewing angles, which is a blow if you'd want to use the C910 for collaborative tasks. We reckon you'd struggle to use it outside the classroom, and sharing the screen between any more than three people would be difficult, since colours tend to invert themselves (pinks turning to blues) from an angle.
Acer says that the display's anti-glare properties, dubbed 'ComfyView', should reduce any risk of eye strain, which would of course be useful for teachers and students alike.
Size is again the biggest talking point when we come to the trackpad, which is massive. It's nice and responsive, with two-finger scrolling as smooth as butter, but it feels a tad too flimsy for our liking, with even a gentle taps causing depressions. We'd ideally like a little more resistance, but this is only a minor issue. Annoyingly, you have to tap with two fingers to bring up the right-click menu, instead of pressing down on the right-hand side of the trackpad.
The keyboard is a chiclet offering in the typical Chromebook style. This leaves out PC mainstays, such as Caps Lock, Delete and Print Screen, but includes most of the buttons you'd expect to find. During the short spell we had with the C910, it felt good to type on, with the individual keys offering a decent amount of travel, so typing at speed shouldn't be a problem. The keys are also well-sized and spaced out nicely.
Either side of the keyboard are two massive speakers, which Acer reckons will appeal to students. We unfortunately didn't get the chance to test these out, due to the excessive amounts of background noise at the ExCeL, but they certainly look impressive.
In terms of connections, you'll find USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, as well as HDMI and an SD card slot. It also boasts Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Depending on how much you're willing to splash out, there are several purchasing options available. The two different screen resolutions have already been mentioned, but you can also opt for either 16 or 32GB of storage, 2 or 4GB of RAM and a 5th generation Intel Core i3 processor or a less slick Intel Celeron chip. Pricing starts at a very affordable $249.99, which roughly translates as £165. Eight hours of battery life should be enough to get you through the school day (detentions aside, of course).
Since this is a Chromebook, everything is done in the cloud, which makes it ideal for classroom use. This is oviously a limiting factor though, which makes this type of device such a hard sell for regular consumers.
Design is just as important as software and specifications when it comes to any device that's built to be used in the jungle that is school, and Acer looks like it's got things bang on. The company says that the C910's reinforced covers can soak up 60kg of force, while the corners can survive drops of up to 45cm without caving. Even Horrid Henry would find it tough to cause damage.
Despite our appeals, Acer's staff didn't seem to keen on us putting these claims to the test, but we were impressed with the overall build quality. The hinges felt robust and stable, without being overly stiff, and the textured plastic-coated body felt very solid indeed.
The C910 will come in black and white variants, with the former targeted at schools and the latter at consumers. An Acer spokesperson rather amusingly told us that he imagines the white model would turn a horrible shade of green if it were to spend some time in the classroom, indicating many schoolkids' fondness for picking and wiping bogies.
The Acer Chromebook C910 looks like a very decent offering. It's large, built to last and, because it's a Chromebook, teachers won't have to worry too much about students getting up to mischief in the classroom. Screen quality isn't the best, but we don't expect the classroom to host too many high-quality movie viewings.