Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6-Inch, Haswell micro-architecture, 2GB)

I’ve been reading about Chromebooks all year; the concept was pretty intriguing, despite the fact that I have a bunch of other/similar devices: an entry-level Sony Vaio from 2011, an X51 Alienware desktop PC for gaming, a 2011 Kindle Fire, and a Moto X smartphone. So why add a Chromebook?

I wanted a multi-use device that could…

Stream music from my Amazon Cloud
Stream instant video from Amazon (great selection of kids stuff) and Netflix
Run full versions of websites
Have a full keyboard, for writing emails or various other things

The Chromebook does all this stuff for basically the same price as a tablet, but it is much closer to a full function PC than a tablet is. I like it as a video device far more than a tablet. I like it for using the web far more than a tablet or smartphone. For items not related to gaming, it has basically replaced my laptop in its entirety.

About Chrome OS and this device: I’m currently streaming music from Amazon with 9 Chrome tabs open and have no issues at all. I have a hard time understanding what people need 4GB RAM for with this device; how is it useful to open 15+ Chrome tabs? I haven’t run into any performance issues at all. The boot time is absurd. 7 seconds may be underestimating. It also shuts off instantly when you hit shutdown.

Thus far I’ve had no real issues with the Chrome store or apps; Google Docs is fine so far for working with MS Word items, and in fact Google Drive is now installed on all my devices because I’ve started doing my writing on this device. Remote Desktop lets you connect to any of your Windows PCs for using Windows programs through those computers if you really need to, though I imagine I’d have to be using this more for work to need that for anything.

I’ve used this to watch a decent amount of content on Netflix and Amazon Instant. The screen is… ok. It isn’t all that bright and won’t “wow” you but as a portable mini-TV it does the job. My son loves watching his kids shows on this, which lets us reclaim the real TV for our purposes. Speaker quality is likewise functional but won’t blow you away. Headphones are the way to go when possible. As it relates to both of these, I’m perfectly happy with the quality for the price.

I didn’t have any issues with the keyboard, I’m normally a 90 WPM typer and am probably a bit slower on this, more due to the size than anything. I actually like the trackpad to be honest. Not sure why folks don’t. It isn’t the worlds greatest but is way better than the one on my Dell PC from work and perhaps marginally worse than the one on my Vaio. My basic Logitech wireless mouse worked fine with the Chromebook, but I stopped using it pretty quickly as I got used to the trackpad. The dual-finger scrolling and chrome forward/backward helps a lot.

Battery life is pretty nuts. I’ve gotten about 7 hours of pure video streaming. At the high end, just off the charger, you get some arbitrarily high readings (like 9+ hours) but I think the claimed 8 hours is probably accurate.

The fact that you can “hack” this thing into installing Ubuntu is awesome. I haven’t done it yet, but the concept is very cool. Native gaming in Chrome OS is miserable outside a few highlights; I’d say the main one is the Chrome version of Bastion, which suggests companies COULD make some great games if they wanted to. But with Ubuntu, you can theoretically play Linux-compatible games you may have; I know I have a bunch from Humble Bundle (such as FTL) that should run great on this laptop, even if it wasn’t meant to do so. I bet it can run older games very well also, such as Half Life 2 or the original Portal. My next project is to play around and see if I can pull off Steam and if the 16GB SSD can handle something like that. If so, I’d give this thing… six stars? Can’t really give it more than I already am.

Anyway… know what you’re getting into here. This isn’t a full Windows laptop. You can install Linux and access a lot of full-featured laptop programs that way, but even still, your hard drive space is limited and this may be beyond the basic users capabilities. If you do video compiling, music or photo editing, gaming, etc. as your main laptop activities, this would need to be a 2nd computer for you. If you find yourself using alternate devices like a smartphone or tablet in your house for watching movies, listening to music, or browsing the web, you might get great mileage out of this device. I know I have.

Highly, highly recommended device. I love this thing.

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