Google may be trying to shoehorn some Chrome OS features into its Windows 8 software, but it's not stepping back from devices powered solely by its Linux-based operating system. We've seen HP's 14- and 11-inch Chromebooks, and now it's Acer's turn, with the C720.
One of the previous complaints against Chromebooks has been mediocre battery life - both previous efforts by HP and Acer only clocked in at the 4 hour mark. Thanks to Intel's new low-power core technologies, however, that complaint has gone out the window. The new C720 is rated at 8.5 hours
The first model in the new lineup is the C720-2800, which will ship with 4GB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage, and a Haswell-based Intel Celeron 2955U. There's also 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, one USB 3.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port. To help mitigate the pain of dealing with only 16GB of on-device storage, Google is including 100GB of free Google Drive storage for the first two users.
Acer is pushing the C720 to education buyers, suggesting that Chrome OS' secure boot and separate account features would be ideal for multiple people collaborating on a single device.
When I spent some time with the C720, I found it to be pretty light (it's just a tad heavier than an 11-inch MacBook Air, at 2.76 pounds), with an average build quality. The keyboard felt a little bit mushy, but easy to type on - and it's important to remember that the hardware I saw was pre-production.
The C720 Chromebook will come with an 11.6-inch, 1366x768 resolution display. It's also matte, which is a nice feature for outdoor use (despite the ridiculous 'ComfyView' brand name that Acer applies to its matte/anti-glare notebook screens).
For the moment, its largest competition will be the recently released HP Chromebook 11. The HP offers a lighter experience at 2.3 pounds, and a much sharper design - plus an IPS display with 178° viewing angles. However, it also has worse battery life at 6 hours, and half the RAM, and on paper, a lower-performing processor (though real-world Chrome OS performance may not be too different between the two devices).
There's also the $350 Asus Transformer Book T100 to consider, which offers a Windows 8.1 tablet and notebook experience, as well as an IPS display, but only 2GB of RAM.
Overall, the C720 seems like a solid choice for buyers looking to get a basic computing device without spending too many of their hard-earned dollars. After all, it's hard to say no to a laptop with seven second boot times for $250, Chrome OS or no.
The Acer Chromebook C720 comes with a one-year warranty, but users can purchase an additional two years of covereage through Acer's 'Acer Advantage' service. It's currently available for pre-order at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com; Acer says that additional configurations (likely models with varying amounts of on-board storage) will be available in the following weeks.
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