Acer Chromebook 14 review: A 14-inch Chromebook that looks expensive, but isn't

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The Good The inexpensive Acer Chromebook 14's aluminum body is much nicer than the plastic competition. The matte-finish, 14-inch full HD IPS display is a great size for work and play, but still keeps this laptop's footprint small enough for commuting.

The Bad It has no SD or microSD card slot for expanding its 32GB of storage. The keyboard isn't backlit and shallow. Power users will want to step up to the Work version of this Chromebook or look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line The Acer Chromebook 14 stands out for its stylish design and big screen at an affordable price. If you're looking for a classier Chromebook, this is it.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 8

Chromebooks -- laptops running on Google's Chrome operating system -- are more known for being small and cheap than for stylish design. The majority of them have 11.6- or 13.3-inch screens and are plastic, which keeps the prices low. That's what makes the Acer Chromebook 14 all the more remarkable: Not only does it have a 14-inch screen, but it's thin and clad in aluminum and sells for less than $300.

The Acer Chromebook 14 has a starting price of $280 (£250, AU$450) with different configurations featuring:

  • 14-inch screen with either HD (1,366x768) or full HD (1,920x1,080) resolution
  • Intel Celeron processor, either quad-core N3160 or dual-core N3060
  • Either 2GB or 4GB of onboard memory
  • Either 16GB or 32GB of storage (eMMC)

Standard for all configurations are:

  • Intel integrated HD Graphics 400
  • 720p forward-facing camera
  • 3.4 pounds (1.6kg) and 0.67 inch (17mm) thick
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2
  • HDMI-out, headphone/mic jack and two USB 3.1 ports

Acer's all-aluminum Chromebook 14 sports a thin profile.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Reviewed here is the CB3-431-C5FM, a $300 configuration with a full HD IPS display, Intel Celeron N3160 quad-core processor, 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage. (Note: Pricing and configuration availability varies by region and this particular configuration was not available in the UK or Australia.) These aren't powerful components, but it's enough for the Chrome OS and web apps. It should also be enough to run Android apps when support is added later this year, but I won't know for sure until then.

Under what I would consider a normal load -- six to 10 open tabs while streaming music or video -- the Chromebook 14 was reasonably quick and responsive. Pushing it beyond this by working in more than a dozen tabs and leaving a couple web apps running in the background while streaming music from Spotify caused the music to frequently stutter or there'd be some lag when switching and loading tabs.

Basically, power users will need more power, which Acer does offer with its Chromebook 14 for Work that has Core i-series processors, better graphics and more memory as well as a sturdier case and spill-resistant keyboard.

Acer claims a battery life up to 12 hours for this configuration (14 hours for versions with an HD screen). We hit 9.5 hours with our streaming video test, which is in line with what Acer told us to expect using wireless to rundown the battery. Playing video on the laptop, you should be able get to that 12-hour mark, but it's safe to say you'll get about 10 hours with mixed use.

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