Hardware

Acer Chromebook 13 Review: A Battery That Almost Makes Up For Display Flaws

Comment

Image Credits:

Acer has a new Chromebook that’s looking for the crown among affordable, minimal laptops – The Chromebook 13, which boasts a 13-inch display as per its name, albeit with unique high-definition display options that set it apart from some of the competition. With HD screens and battery life that ranges between 11.5 and 13 hours depending on which model you choose, Acer’s new Chrome OS hardware is strong – but it still isn’t great, despite impressive abilities made possible by the Tegra K1 processor under the hood.

Basics

  • 2.1GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 quad-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB SSD
  • 13.3-inch 1920×1080 display
  • Nvidia Kepler graphics
  • Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11AC Wi-Fi, HDMI, USB 3
  • 11 Hour Battery
  • MSRP: $299.99
  • Product info page

Pros

  • Good hardware design
  • Battery is the real deal

Cons

  • Display quality is poor
  • Performance isn’t up to snuff

Design

The Acer Chromebook 13 is a well-designed computer, given that it’s an all-plastic affair. It feels solid, in both open and clamshell mode, and the matte white finish is attractive both to the eye and to the touch. The textured bottom half of the notebook makes it even more grippy, and also adds a design distinction that makes it hard to accuse Acer of copying Apple’s MacBooks.

Opening and closing the lid isn’t the easiest as there’s a lack of a definable latch and the lip is shallow, but it’s fine once you get used to it. Once open, the Chromebook also sports a nice chiclet keyboard, with a Mac-ish feel, and a large, responsive trackpad with a surface that is textured in such a way that it’s nice to use.

The screen is bounded by a wide bezel, which has the effect of making the notebook appear somewhat cheap-looking, but then again, this is a $300 computer, so it’s bound to be cutting costs somewhere. Unfortunately, the screen in general appears to be where they’ve cut more than a few of those costs, but I’ll get to that a little later on.

Performance

The Acer Chromebook 13 is very impressive in some specific ways – its claims regarding battery life aren’t exaggerated, the thing really will get 11 hours of use out of a single charge, which is more than enough for a full day of computing for most users. That’s thanks mostly to the use of Nvidia’s K1 mobile chipset, which is usually reserved for smartphones and tablets. The K1 also helps account for the Chromebook’s quiet operation, which is made possible by a fanless design.

chromebook-13-nvidiaOverall, though, most users won’t notice any perceptible performance improvements between the Acer Chromebook 13 and any of the other options available on the market. The Tegra guts may help it do better when it comes to graphics or 3D content, but it doesn’t show perceptible improvement in terms of multitasking or streaming media while trying to do something else.

Chrome OS has also come a long way, including an update today that adds multiple account switching, but it’s still insufficient as a daily driver desktop operating system in my opinion, and Acer’s work on the hardware side can’t change that. For light users, however, who can otherwise get by with just a phone or tablet, it should fit the bill.

Screen

chromebook-13-screenThis is possibly the most disappointing part of the Acer Chromebook 13, because it touts its graphical capabilities. The higher resolution display that ships with the notebook is admittedly a great addition, and really works for making Chrome OS more usable since you can line up more windows side-by-side. I’ve heard complaints from others that interface elements are two small when rendered at the full 1920×1080 resolution of the FHD version I tested, but it doesn’t pose a problem for me.

What is disappointing, however, is that the display is still dim, terrible from off-center angles and generally cheap looking. This is again not tremendously surprising in a computer that costs $300, but this is the place where OEMs stand to make the most progress in terms of improving the value proposition of the Chromebook, and it would’ve been a nice match with an increased resolution screen to also get one with better viewing angles and color rendering.

Battery

This is the Acer Chromebook 13’s true strength, and the one area where it really excels above the competition. Near-12 hour battery life in testing means that can go the extra mile when you need a computer that can travel with you, and again, despite its failings, that power is being fed to a high-resolution screen that almost certainly demands extra juice.

Acer doesn’t really need to do anything more than tout this battery accomplishment if it wants to attract buyers: It may have its failings, but a marathon powerhouse like this is enough to sway many a buyer’s decision in its favor, at least when compared to the general field of current Chromebooks.

Bottom Line

For $300, the Acer Chromebook 13, not surprisingly, isn’t perfect. But it’s got some practical improvements made possible by its unique use of Nvidia’s K1 mobile chip architecture that will deliver real results for everyday use. I’d still recommend hanging back if you don’t have an urgent need for a Chromebook, but if you do, this is where you should be looking.

More TechCrunch

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares