Acer’s Chromebook

The Acer Chromebook is a slick-looking, lightweight one-inch-thick clamshell device with an 11.6-inch 1366 × 768 screen (135 PPI) powered by an Intel Celeron processor. It runs the Google proprietary Chrome OS (this is not Android), and that creates a few problems. But this lightweight machine (3 pounds) is an easy-to-tote device with a full-sized keyboard.

The device has three USB 2.0 ports, as well as a RJ45, a VGA port, and a HDMI port (courtesy the Celeron). Also, as part of the Intel chipset, there is built-in Wi-Fi that finds your network almost instantly. This is an always-connected, continually updated device, so it better be good at connecting to the Internet.

The device is very smart, and when you plug in a second monitor, it finds it instantly and makes an extended desktop. You can then go into setup (by clicking on the clock in the toolbar in the lower right) and put the exter¬nal display on the left or right of the Chromebook. When we first tried it, the second screen was limited to 1024 × 768 resolution. However, recycling the second monitor allowed the Chromebook to properly read the EDID and see that it was an Acer GD235 HD screen and run the display at full resolution.

The unit also has a HDMI port, and we plugged in an external 1280 × 720 HDMI display—it was almost instantly found and run at max resolution.

If you plug in a VGA display with the HDMI display (two external displays), the machine defaults to VGA. That’s normal in many machines and is usually due to rights management by the HDMI logic.

We clicked on Apps, then on Google Slides, then clicked on the directory of a USB memory stick, clicked on a Microsoft Office PPTX, file and it instantly opened in the browser and (sub-ject to the second monitor’s resolution) looked fine. So if you wanted to run a presentation on a projector, you could.

MIGHTY MITE: Acer Chromebook with second monitor (left) attached.

 

Likewise, when we clicked on a XLSX file, a new window popped open and the spreadsheet and the chart were displayed in the browser window. Going to the tools icon (upper right), we could adjust the zoom factor.

The unit we tested, the C710-2457 with a 1.1-GHz Celeron, 4-GB DDR3 memory, and a 16-GB SSD sells for $230. Acer also has a 6-hour battery unit, with a 320-GB HDD, the 2055 for $280, and a 4-hour unit, the 2487 for $260.

Off-line too

All of the above was impressive, but what if I was in some government building with no Wi-Fi? We tested that and turned off the Wi-Fi connection. The spreadsheet disappeared. But, when we clicked on the XLSX file again, it opened up in a local browser window. Just to make sure, we opened up a new browser window and clicked on a web page and were told you can’t do that off-line. So the machine works perfectly fine as an office device on-or off-line.

What do we think?

One of our staff, Randall Newton, bought a Chromebook and uses it and loves it. I dismissed him as having a toy, not a real PC. Now I have to eat those words. It’s a damn fine machine, and very useful, and for the price it’s somewhat amazing. I’m still a screen-res Nazi, so I can’t live with 768 as a main machine, but if you were just going to a meeting, or sitting in bed and wanted to make some notes, or edit a doc, the Chromebook is an ideal device—and it’s a laptop, not a lap burner. You could easily and comfortably hold this thing on your lap in an airplane or on the sofa for hours with no discomfort.

Acer president Jim Wong said he sees a growing market for Chromebooks, which he said made up nearly 3% of the company’s shipments during the quarter that ended in June (approximately 193K units), and he thinks the sales will climb. He also said that by 2014, sales of Android and Chrome devices might contribute as much as 30% of Acer’s total revenue.

HP and Samsung are also making Chromebooks, so it’s clearly a category that’s going to have some legs.