The Acer Chromebook 14 delivers strong battery life, sharp visuals and impressive usability for a respectably low price.
- Smart design
- Commendable battery life
- Crisp display
- Not exactly compact
- Limited connectivity
- Review Price: £299
- 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3160
- 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
- 32GB SSD
- 14-inch IPS Full HD display
- 2xUSB 3.0, HDMI
What is the Acer Chromebook 14?
Acer is one of very few manufacturers to fully embrace the wonderful world of Chromebooks. These stripped-down, simplified laptops use Google’s Chrome OS instead of Windows, with more of an emphasis on online work and play. And in the case of Acer’s collection, they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to suit your own personal needs. Sitting somewhere in the middle of this range is the Acer Chromebook 14.
When Trusted Reviews picked up the 2017 version of the Acer Chromebook 14, we found plenty to love. However, the meagre memory and low-res screen detracted from an otherwise great value package.
Thankfully, these issues have been addressed for the Chromebook 14 CB3-431-C5CQ, which doubles the memory and boasts a Full HD display for crisp visuals. So is this the ideal Chromebook and all-round portable pal?
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Acer Chromebook 14 – Design and Build
The Chromebook 14 can’t transform into a tablet like Acer’s Spin 11, although I still like that simple-yet-sleek design, especially considering the low asking price. There’s a whiff of Apple MacBook stylings about this laptop, even though it’s less than a third of the price. A brushed metal finish on the lid makes it feel more premium, and that aluminium alloy chassis is solid throughout. No flex points or awkward joins to speak of.
This is certainly one of the larger Chromebooks we’ve tested out, although it doesn’t quite reach the bulk and weight of the 15.6-inch Chromebook 15. I didn’t have any trouble slipping the Chromebook 14 into my backpack, but smaller satchels will obviously struggle to accomodate. At 1.68kg, you’ll certainly feel it tugging on your shoulder too, even if it’s not too much of a chore to lug around. Of course if you’re after something for daily portable use, I’d recommend a more compact model like that Spin 11 instead.
Connectivity is also surprisingly limited, considering how much space is available along the sides. As far as USB ports go you only have dual 3.0 connections, both housed on the left edge. This gets particularly awkward when you need to slap in a bulky USB key and a mouse at the same time (just as one random example). And if you’re hoping for a Type-C port, you’re bang out of luck.
As some form of redemption you do get an HDMI port, but that’s it. No microSD memory card slots or anything else of note.
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Acer Chromebook 14 – Keyboard and touchpad
That impressive build quality thankfully extends to the laptop’s keyboard and touchpad, just as it did on the Chromebook 15. If you’re after an affordable machine for smashing out endless essays, emails and other bits, you really can’t go wrong.
For one, the keyboard is pretty much perfectly sized. The chiclet arrangement gives each key plenty of space to breathe, so touch typing is a comfortable and intuitive experience. And while travel is limited, the board feels reassuringly firm and keys pop up instantly once hit.
Acer has managed to avoid pretty much all of the usual pain points too. For instance, the cursor keys are actually a decent size and not crammed in alongside PgDn and PgUp keys, which are just begging to be struck by accident. Likewise the return key is gifted two rows, rather than squashed down into a single line. Lovely stuff. You also get the standard row of Chrome shortcuts up top, which work as expected (and once again fails to include any dedicated media controls).
Sadly there’s no backlighting, which makes working in darker environments quite tricky, especially if you’re trying to get some work done in bed without disturbing a sleeping partner. Besides that, it’s difficult to find any fault here.
I’m also a fan of the spacious touchpad, which stretches across most of the generous palm rest. Even subtle pinches and swipes are accurately picked up by the smooth surface, while the cursor doesn’t go careening across the Chromebook 14’s screen every time you push to click.
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Acer Chromebook 14 – Screen
One of the upgrades over the basic entry-level Chromebook 14 is that Full HD display, which is certainly a joy to use. Whatever you’re up to, be it editing documents or streaming a cheeky bit of telly when you’re supposed to be working, those visuals stay perfectly crisp.
Contrast is perfectly fine for a budget panel, so you can make out plenty of detail even on those murky Marvel shows. Colours are also quite punchy. Just don’t expect hyper realism.
Visibility is never an issue with this laptop either. Impressively, Acer’s display hinge allows a full 180-degrees of rotation, so you can tilt that screen all the way back until it’s laid completely flat. You’ll certainly have no trouble finding a comfortable view. Likewise the matte surfacing helps to temper any glare, so you won’t be squinting through reflections on a sunny day. Only direct sunlight proved a bit of a stumbler, as the display isn’t exactly retina piercing on top brightness levels.
Some Chromebook displays are touch compatible, which makes sense as the OS is basically a spin-off of Android. Unfortunately you don’t get any touch support here, so it’s just as well that the touchpad is decent.
Acer Chromebook 14 – Audio
Beneath the Chromebook 14 you’ll find a pair of stereo speakers, which fire your audio straight into your desk, lap or whatever else the device is sat on. Pretty standard for a budget laptop, although at least that audio is quite powerful. On top volume levels I had no trouble making out dialogue in movies or shows, even when watching in a noisy environment. Only the desperate wailings of a distraught three-year-old were enough to conquer that output.
As expected, however, the sound quality takes a dive on those top levels. For enjoying music you’ll want to plug in some ‘phones or a dedicated speaker.
Acer Chromebook 14 – Performance
Like pretty much every other Chromebook out there, outside of confusingly premium models such as Google’s own Pixelbook, Acer’s 14-inch device packs some low-powered specs. After all, Chrome OS is nice and light when it comes to resources, so you don’t need much grunt for smooth results.
The Chromebook 14 packs an Intel Celeron N3160 chipset, backed by 4GB of memory. That proved perfectly fine for the most part when running Android apps and messing around with plenty of tabs in Chrome. I did see the occasional little stammer here and there with everyday use, although nothing too troublesome.
That said, the Chromebook did have one total meltdown where all of my apps simultaneously crashed and shut down. Thankfully the laptop recovered immediately and I didn’t see a repeat performance. Of course, restarting everything was a major pain in the posterior.
Acer Chromebook 14 – Battery life
One of the main benefits of Chromebooks is the generally dependable battery life. Google’s undemanding OS and the low-powered components are a boon for longevity, although not all of these laptops live up to expectations.
Thankfully Acer’s Chromebook 14 is one of the better devices for battery performance. With mixed use, I found I could get a full working day of life from a single charge, no problems. That includes working in the Chrome browser while also chatting on Skype and streaming music via Spotify.
You can stream Netflix for a solid nine to ten hours before the battery dies. That battery indicator ticked down just over 10 percent every hour, as reliable as clockwork.
Should I buy the Acer Chromebook 14?
The Chromebook 14 is very much a typical Chrome OS laptop in most respects. Basic performance complements the low demands of Google’s operating system, while also boosting the battery life. However, Acer’s laptop also offers quite sleek and reassuringly solid construction for a budget price, while that HD screen is decent for the asking price. Usability gets a thumbs up too, despite the lack of a touchscreen.
It’s not all roses and slaps on the back, however. Connectivity is surprisingly limited, while anyone after a truly portable Chromebook for taking on the road each day should look to more compact and lighter rivals.
It’s not particularly compact and connectivity is weak, yet the Acer Chromebook 14 delivers strong battery life, sharp visuals and impressive usability for a respectably low price.
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