The less-than-optimized touchscreen and swivelling hinge aren't really deal-breakers, and the rest of the package is well-suited to the Chromebook R 11's primary mission of getting stuff done at a decent price. The keyboard is spacious, offering ample travel distance with every press. The trackpad feels responsive. It isn't as smooth as some at the higher end of the spectrum, but it's precise enough to get the job done. The white plastic body is a little bright, and I wish there were more color options. But the aluminum lid is a nice touch, and lends the machine a bit of style (when closed, at least).
Connections and Performance
The Chromebook R 11 is outfitted almost identically to the Lenovo 100S Chromebook. A full-sized SD card slot sits on the left, joined by a USB 3.0 port and the HDMI output, while a USB 2.0 port sits on the right side. The Chromebook R 11 also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The entry-level $279 model has an Intel N3150 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage space. Bumping the price up to $329 (£230, AU$465 converted) doubles the RAM to 4GB, which is the model reviewed here. I have a habit of getting a little reckless with tabs in Google Chrome, which can cause the machines equipped with 2GB of RAM, like the Lenovo 100S Chromebook, to slow to a crawl. But navigating plenty of sites while streaming music or videos never seemed to bog the beefier Chromebook R 11 down.
The Chromebook R 11 also chugged along for 8 hours and 11 minutes on our streaming video battery drain test. That's a pretty good showing, and squeaks past the aforementioned Lenovo 100S Chromebook, which clocked in at 7 hours, 26 minutes. My own use was largely focused on a far less demanding regimen of writing and web surfing, and the Chromebook easily made it through two workdays before I needed to track down the charger.
Competition from Windows 10 machines like the HP Stream 11 have left Chromebooks in an awkward place, but Acer takes the right approach. The Chromebook R 11 keeps things cheap, but introduces enough stylish embellishments to lure in folks who might want a bit more than a bottom-end PC. Asus took much the same route with the hybrid Chromebook Flip C100, but that PC's weak Rockchip CPU leaves much to be desired in the performance department.
There's a lot riding on that hinge. Were I in the market for a cheap notebook, I'd still take the Windows 10 route. Pricing between Chromebooks and cheaper Windows 10 notebooks is competitive, and Windows leaves you with the option to load up on apps you're already familiar with, instead of being tied to a browser. Performance could be problematic if you skimp on RAM, but opt for the version with 4GB of RAM, temper your expectations, and you'll be fine.