Chrome OS is my favorite platform for “grab and go” work, especially writing. Over the past few years I’ve had the chance to play with several Chromebooks from the uber-cheap to the top-of-the-line, but last year I found a happy medium, the Acer Chromebook 15.
With a reasonable price point, capable specs, and a fantastic display, it was my perfect machine for using around the house and on the go for work, despite being a little large. Eventually, I gave it up to upgrade to the Dell Chromebook 13 for the sake of a bit more power, but the Chromebook 15 remained one of my favorite options, and one I recommended when the prices started dropping even further.
Now, Acer has launched a refresh to the Chromebook 15 just ahead of the holidays, and it’s sure to get people’s attention with a super affordable price tag. However, is it actually worth picking up? Let’s take a quick look.
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Priced at $200, the Acer Chromebook 15 offers a 15-inch display, as you probably guessed, and mid-range specifications. For a Chromebook, that means an Intel Celeron Processor, in this case, the silent N3060 dual-core processor. That comes paired with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of eMMC storage, and a 1366×768 resolution on the display, at least on the CB3-532 model I tested.
Is any of that bad? Actually, it’s not. For $200 I don’t expect much out of a Chromebook, especially a large one. Sure, I’d appreciate a higher resolution display or a bit more RAM (especially the latter), but I’m not complaining.
Performance on the Acer Chromebook 15 is actually quite respectable, yet you can definitely tell this machine is one which is limited by its processor and RAM. Scrolling around pages is noticeably slowing than other Chromebooks, and multitasking is just painful at times. Opening up 3-4 tabs and trying to stream Spotify through the web app really stresses this Chromebook. It would be great if the machine was slightly more expensive and packed a couple of extra GBs of RAM, but again, for $200, it’s understandable.
As for the display, well, it’s not great. The 15-inch panel has a 1366×768 resolution which, if I’m honest, it’s not all that bad. The resolution is not ideal for a screen this big, but it works. For me, it just meant launching my apps or webpages in fullscreen. The biggest problem for me was the panel itself. Maximum brightness is not very bright, and at 50%, things are way too dim. Viewing angles, however, are shockingly decent.
In hardware, I was pretty impressed. The Acer Chromebook 15 I owned this time last year was completely white, and while it felt good, it didn’t look great, and it stained easily. This new design takes after the C740 Chromebook with a faux brushed metal design on the outside which feels a little cheap but looks great. The bottom is a textured and rigid plastic material which is excellent.
Inside, the border around the display is thick compared to some premium laptops, but not overly so. The gray plastic around the keyboard is glossy but works well as a palm rest while typing. As for the keyboard and trackpad, both are great. The trackpad is a bit mushy, but works well and has a satisfying click. Meanwhile, the keyboard is well-spaced and despite having minimal key travel, is a pleasure to type on.
Battery life on the Acer 15 is also solid. Acer claims 12 hours of usage, but I found somewhere around 8 hours to be a bit more realistic.
If I sound like I’m bashing this Chromebook for its flaws, I’m not. For the price this is actually a very respectable machine, it’s just not meant for users like me who want to use a laptop for a lot more than just browsing the web. So, I passed the Chromebook 15 over to my parents. Coming from an Acer C720, the Acer 15 was a big step up regarding size. Why did I pass the Chromebook along to my parents? The main reason, they are the target market. This machine is built to be a bare bones, affordable, but capable Chromebook, and for them, that’s exactly what it was.
The Chromebook 15 was easily able to run through all of their tasks which involved online shopping, general web browsing, and typing out short documents and emails. My family knows the basics of Chrome OS, and on the Acer 15, they didn’t have a single issue to report. The main highlights for them were the size of the display, the keyboard, and the battery life. Over the course of a week, they only needed to charge the Chromebook twice, compared to at least three times on the older C720 Chromebook.
So in the end, what’s the verdict on the Acer Chromebook 15 (2016)? Long story short, it’s a big, but not so powerful Chromebook which is aimed at those who need a large, affordable machine. For those users, it’s a fantastic option. It simply gets the job done, and that’s all. At $200 it’s priced just right and is certainly worth consideration. You can pick it up at Walmart. If you need a big Chromebook, but a bit more power and a better display, the 2015 release of the Chromebook 15 is still available over on Amazon.