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Acer C7 Chromebook review

Verdict

A usable, top-value Chrome OS laptop that edges the official Samsung model for value and performance

Review Date: 17 Jan 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £162 (£194 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £255
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The Acer C7 Chromebook is the second Chrome OS laptop we've seen recently, and it follows hot on the heels of the excellent Samsung model we reviewed a few weeks back. With netbooks disappearing fast, it appears manufacturers are keen to fill the void.

As with the Samsung Chromebook, the Acer C7 is a compact, light laptop running Google’s browser-based Chrome OS. The software means it isn’t as flexible as a full-blown Windows 8 laptop, but the OS’s recently introduced offline capabilities, and the huge collection of extensions, games and apps available through the Chrome Web Store, means it’s still a practical proposition.

The C7’s hardware is more than serviceable. There’s nothing that makes you sit up and say “wow” about the design, with nondescript grey plastics cladding the lid and base – but it isn’t ugly, it’s light at 1.32kg, and the 11.6in 1,366 x 768 display provides a usable space in which to browse the web and work.

Acer C7 Chromebook

The quality of the display is middling. The maximum brightness of 213cd/m2 makes it usable indoors, if not in brighter conditions, and the contrast ratio of 234:1 is acceptable, too. These are similar to the Samsung Chromebook’s figures; the main difference is the Acer C7 has a glossy finish, lending movie scenes and photos a fraction more saturation and depth.

When it comes to ergonomics, it’s close once again. The Acer is equipped with a similar Scrabble-tile keyboard and a broad, buttonless, multitouch touchpad. Typing and mousing is largely comfortable. The keys don’t have much travel, but they’re well spaced and we found it easy to get up to a reasonable touch-typing speed.

The fact that the dedicated Search button doesn’t replace Caps Lock as it does on the Samsung Chromebook is another bonus. We can see ourselves getting used to the tiny cursor keys in time, although our first few days saw us repeatedly hitting Pg Up and Pg Down, which are located just above the left and right keys.

Acer C7 Chromebook

Under the hood, however, the two laptops couldn’t be more different. Where the Samsung has an ARM CPU, the Acer C7 boasts a more powerful dual-core 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847, backed up by 2GB of RAM; it delivered a time of 520ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test - faster than the Samsung’s 892ms. It took 20 seconds to boot, and in general the C7 felt nippier in use than the Samsung Chromebook, especially when multiple tabs were open.

The improvement in performance is most keenly felt when playing video. Where the Samsung spluttered and puffed, this Chromebook played back both BBC iPlayer and YouTube HD content smoothly, and coped well with high bit rate MP4 files played from local storage.

Another point of difference for the Acer C7 is the presence of a 320GB 5,400rpm hard disk, an unusual inclusion for a Chromebook (the latest Samsung had only a 16GB SSD), giving extra space for a sizeable video, music and photo collection. The selection of ports around the edges is also more comprehensive. Although there aren’t any USB 3 ports, there are three USB 2 sockets, D-SUB and full-sized HDMI video outputs, a combined headphone/microphone jack, an Ethernet port and an SD card slot.

Acer C7 Chromebook

The Acer C7 is altogether a more powerful and capable machine than its Samsung rival, but the downside is battery life isn’t stellar. We can’t run our standard laptop-based tests on Chromebooks but, even with the screen dimmed a little, we were able to extract only four to five hours’ work time from the C7. This was with Wi-Fi turned on, however, so you can expect an hour or so more in offline mode.

Still, we can see people taking the plunge and buying the Acer C7 simply because it packs so much in for so little. It costs £194 - £30 less than the Samsung - and thanks to its sizeable hard disk and Chrome OS’s offline capabilities, it could be all the laptop many people need. For anyone requiring a machine for basic computing and browsing the web, it’s a bargain.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

Overpriced?

I think most people would be better off buying a normal laptop. I picked this up a year ago from the Dell Outlet store for £202 inc VAT and delivery:

Inspiron 15 - N5030
15.6in 1366X768 WLED
Intel T4500 2.3Ghz
3 GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz
8X DVD+/-RW Drive
320 GB SATA Hard Drive
Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium (64 BIT)

By grimerking on 17 Jan 2013

The more compact size is part of the price I imagine. If it is possible to wipe chrome OS and put windows 7 or ubuntu on it might be very interesting.

By JamesD29 on 17 Jan 2013

@JamesD29 Its an ARM cpu so Windows is pretty much off the menu. I guess there are some ARM Linux distros. I'd be interested to know if that were technically possible?

By NR5674 on 17 Jan 2013

@JamesD29 - my mistake, I've read it again, this has a celeron. Sorry, I got confused with article talking about 2 different specs! So would windows be possible then?

By NR5674 on 17 Jan 2013

Overpriced - +29%

This model lists for $199.99 in the USA so the before VAT price is 29% higher. At £156 vat incl I'd buy one of these as a toy.

By milliganp on 18 Jan 2013

Not so overpriced.

@ milliganp
You have to not forget the prices shown in the USA are without taxes added.
With the taxes they work out about the same as UK price with VAT.

By curiousclive on 23 Jan 2013

Definitely overpriced

@curiousclive if the $ price (ex tax) = the £ price (inc tax) then its overpriced.

To expand on that a bit: if we're generous (to google) with the exchange rate then 199 / 1.5 * 1.2 gives us £159.2 as inc VAT retail (and takes account of the US price being before tax).

By Murph on 29 Jan 2013

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