Acer Chromebook 15 review: This Chromebook lets you see the big picture

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The Good The Acer Chromebook 15 is available with an excellent 15.6-inch 1080p IPS display at a budget-friendly price. Battery life is very good as is performance from the fifth-gen Intel Celeron processor.

The Bad Larger size and weight make it a little less travel-friendly than other Chromebooks. The white casing gets dirty easily and it's not the most attractive Chromebook we've laid eyes on.

The Bottom Line If your one gripe about Chromebooks is the small screen sizes, the Acer Chromebook 15 is the solution and it's a very nice solution at that.

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

Editors' note: The 32GB SSD in the Acer Chromebook 15 was incorrectly reported as an mSATA drive. It is an M.2 SSD.

For however you might feel about Google's Chrome OS and Chromebooks, there's no denying that they are popular alternatives to Windows and Mac computers mainly because they're inexpensive, relatively secure and what can be done within the confines of its browser-based environment continues to grow.

What doesn't seem to be growing are their screen sizes, which for the most part are 13.3 inches or smaller. Acer's Chromebook 15 addresses that very issue by matching up a 15.6-inch display with the budget-friendly components we're used to seeing and selling it at a reasonable price.

As is the case with any laptop, just because this Chromebook is bigger doesn't mean it's more powerful. It does have a new fifth-generation (Broadwell) Intel Celeron processor, which does improve its performance over older Celeron-based Chromebooks we've reviewed, but for the most part it simply has a bigger screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

The bigger panel is nice, though. Having more screen space is always handy, whether you're working in Google Docs or watching a movie on Netflix. For doing things like image editing with Web apps such as Polarr, the 15.6-inch LCD means you can view your pictures larger and still have room for the app's tool panels.

The version I reviewed, the CB5-571-C09S, had a 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution display; configurations with a 1,366x768-pixel-resolution display are also available. Acer never explicitly calls out the full HD display as an IPS panel in the laptop's specs, but I confirmed with Acer that it is.

It certainly has the wide viewing angles you'd expect for an IPS panel and the screen doesn't invert or wash out if it is angled too high or low. It does seem to lose a bit of brightness when viewed off to the sides, but it's barely noticeable and the matte finish means you're not fighting much glare, either.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Of course, in order to have such a large display, you have to have a fairly large chassis: it measures 15.1 inches wide by 9.7 inches deep by 1 inch thick (38.4x24.6x2.5 cm). It also weighs nearly 5 pounds (2.2 kg).

There is a microweave pattern on the all-plastic casing that helps keep it from looking too generic and gives it some grip. Unfortunately, the white body picks up stray dirt easily, making it look a bit dingy after a little use. Just expect to wipe it down every so often or buy it in black.

The keyboard is oddly small given how much room Acer had to play with here. The extra space is used for the stereo speakers instead that flank the keyboard. They sound good, so if you're planning on using this Chromebook for entertainment, you're in luck. But if you were hoping for a more spacious keyboard, this one is the same size you'll find on smaller-screen Chromebooks.

The touchpad is large and responsive and showed no signs of jumpiness. It works well with Chrome's multitouch commands like two-finger swipes to the left or right for moving back and forth through Web pages or swiping three fingers up to see all of your open windows.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as ports and connections are concerned, the left side has a full HDMI-out, a headphone-and-mic jack, a standard USB 3.0 port and the power input. The right side has a USB 2.0 port and a full-size SD card slot supporting capacities up to 128GB. Wireless communications include dual-band 802.11AC and Bluetooth 4.0.

Rounding things out is a serviceable 720p HD Webcam and a microphone above the screen.