Acer has been selling its Chromebook 15 in a variety of configurations since January of 2015. In fact, they currently list 8 different varieties on the Acer online store and somehow more at Amazon.  There are bare bones versions of the Acer Chromebook 15 for as little at $179 at Walmart, but what we’re here to talk about today is a relatively high-end model affectionately named the “CB515-1HT-P39B.”

Most important, is its aluminum shell or at least half the shell, which your friends, if their vision isn’t great, might mistake for a 2015 MacBook Pro. It also has 2 charge capable USB-C ports on either side with 2 legacy USB-A ports, as well.

I took my first look at this year’s model at IFA in August and last week Acer sent me one for review. Here are my thoughts after a week.

The overarching problem for folks who want a good Chromebook is that there are a ton of $200 low-end Chromebooks and of course Google’s $1000 Pixelbook at the top but not a whole lot in between for people who can’t drop MacBook type cash. Samsung’s Chromebook Pro and HP’s Chromebook 13 come to mind but what if you want a 15-inch display that can put 2 browser windows side-by-side?

Acer is hoping to close that gap with the first of what I assume will be will be many more aluminum Chromebooks. As far as the aluminum is concerned, I’m pretty sure the bottom is plastic. But I’ll digress here. It feels very solid for a $400 computer.

Apps

One nicety about this Chromebook is that it has Android apps right out of the box so you don’t have to install updates to get that functionality enabled. The bad news is that many, if not most apps don’t yet work properly on any Chromebook screen, let alone a 15-inch 1080P display. The ones that did work here are buggy and even cause some crashing so we’re definitely still in the beta world of Android apps on Chromebooks.

Display

Speaking of display, the 15.6-inch 1080P IPS touch display is very nice.  It has solid angles and side by side window browsing is very possible – or have a few Twitter/Hangout windows next to the browser window as well. Colors don’t pop like they do on a high-end PC or Mac but seem accurate. The bezels are big all around, but they especially scream low-cost laptop on the bottom, even if they are made out of aluminum. It is a touch display but the screen only bends 180 degrees so you can’t use it like a tablet or a tent for watching videos.

Keyboard/Trackpad

The keyboard is backlit and has plenty of movement and the keys are spaced nicely apart. Very similar to older Mac laptops (pre-Butterfly keyboards) but perhaps a little bit softer. The trackpad has worked fine for me and it is again just a few years behind what you’d find in a MacBook. I’d take both the trackpad and mouse over the oversized trackpad and no-movement keyboard of Apple’s current MacBooks.

There are shiny chamfered edges around the keyboard and trackpad which ads to the perceived build quality. The stereo speakers, on either side of the keyboard sound very good for a Chromebook (also helps that this is fanless).

MIMO Wireless

I don’t have a router to test this but big downloads were as fast as I’ve seen on my wireless network at home. This is a step up from other Chromebooks I’ve used where the wireless seems to be a few generations behind current in speed and signal strength.

Size and Weight

At under 4 lbs and .7 inches thin, this machine is about as small as you’d expect but those big bezels around the screen make this feel almost like one of those 17-inch laptops. It barely fit into the case built for my 15-inch MacBook laptop with is only a few millimeters thinner

Processor / Memory / Storage / Battery

Boo. For $400, I would have at least expected a Celeron i3 but not the 1.1Ghz quad core N4200 chip in here. In real life usage it seems fine for most mundane tasks but it certainly won’t mine any Bitcoins. Acer puts Core i5s in similar plastic Chromebooks so if you want more raw power look elsewhere.

It comes with a solid 4GB of fast RAM which is about what you’d expect from a $400 Chromebook. The SSD is also on par at 32GB.

Battery life is quoted at 12 hours which seems on par. I had no trouble using it a whole 8 hours day. It also charges in about 2 hours with the included USB-C plug.

Experience:

I’m not going to lie. I had some trouble coming up with an interesting angle for this Chromebook 15. It is shiny on the outside but pretty lackluster on the inside. It is pretty big, but not heavy to carry around. Its port layout (USB-C and USB-A on both sides), headphone/mic, and microSD are as perfect as you could hope. The only thing I think I would add is HDMI out, but a USB-C to HDMI dongle is pretty easy to find.

Typing and navigating with the trackpad is great. The webcam is solid with HDR imaging and 720P resolution. Hangouts and Skype calls are nice. Tons of tabs on multiple Chrome browser windows? Not a problem. Speakers? Sound really good.

Google seems to be trucking along with Chrome OS quite nicely but this isn’t a monumental upgrade along the evolution of Chrome OS. It is however a very solid, good looking computer that will, like all other Chromebooks, improve significantly over time.

Right now, a week after launch, you can buy these at eBay and direct from Acer for $399.99

Specs follow:

Included Items

  • Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-P39B
  • 4-cell battery
  • USB-C power adapter

Features

Google Chrome OS

    • Automatically downloads and installs security and software updates, so you don’t have to waste your time managing patches and waiting for restarts.

15.6″ Full HD multitouch screen for hands-on control

    • CineCrystal glossy screen technology maintains the vivid colors in your photos and videos. The 1920 x 1080 resolution boasts impressive color and clarity. IPS technology. LED backlight.

4GB system memory for basic multitasking

    • Adequate high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run multiple applications and browser tabs all at once.

32GB eMMC flash memory

    • This ultracompact memory system is ideal for mobile devices and applications, providing enhanced storage capabilities, streamlined data management, quick boot-up times and support for high-definition video playback.

Built-in cloud support

    • Easily save your files to your Google Drive account for secure access wherever you go. You can also sync with your other devices running Chrome and even work offline when needed. Fees may apply.

Intel® HD Graphics 505

    • On-processor graphics with shared video memory provide everyday image quality for Internet use, basic photo editing and casual gaming.

Weighs 3.97 lbs. and measures 0.7″ thin

    • Ultrathin and ultralight for maximum portability, featuring a smaller screen size and omitting the DVD/CD drive to achieve the compact form factor. 4-cell lithium-ion battery

Aluminum chassis

    • Offers a sleek look

Bluetooth 4.0 interface syncs with compatible devices

    • Wirelessly transfer photos, music and other media between the desktop and your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or MP3 player, or connect Bluetooth wireless accessories

2 USB Type-C ports

    • To maximize performance on the latest high-speed devices.

2 USB 3.0 ports maximize the latest high-speed devices

    • USB 3.0 ports are backward-compatible with USB 2.0 devices (at 2.0 speeds).

Built-in media reader for simple photo transfer

    • Supports microSD and microSDXC memory card formats.

Next-Gen Intel® Wireless-AC connectivity

    • Connect to a Wireless-AC router for nearly 3x the speed, more capacity and wider coverage than Wireless-N. Backward-compatible with all other Wi-Fi networks and hotspots.

Built-in HD webcam with microphone

    • Makes it easy to video chat with family and friends or teleconference with colleagues over Google Hangouts or other popular applications.

Built-in virus protection and Google products

    • Work, play and do right out of the box with Search, Gmail, Talk, YouTube and Hangouts, then personalize with the Chrome Web Store. Multiple layers of protection defend against viruses and malware.

Additional port

    • Headphone/microphone combo jack.
    • Note: This Chromebook does not include a built-in DVD/CD drive.
    • Intel, Pentium, Celeron, Core, Atom, Ultrabook, Intel Inside and the Intel Inside logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries.

Specifications

Cache Memory: 2 megabytes
Cooling System: Air
Screen Size: 15.6 inches
Wireless Networking: Wireless-B, Wireless-A, Wireless-G, Wireless-N
Number of USB 3.0 Type C Ports: 2
Battery Life: 12 hours
eMMC Capacity: 32 gigabytes
Manufacturer’s Warranty – Parts: Not Available
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505
Number of USB Type A Charging Ports: 2
Hard Drive Type: eMMC
Color: Pure silver
Graphics Type: Integrated
Hard Drive Accelerator: None
Number of USB 3.0 Type A Ports: 2
Processor Speed (Base): 1.1 gigahertz
Speaker Type: Stereo speakers
Video Memory Type: Shared
Embedded Mobile Broadband: None
Storage Type: eMMC
System Memory RAM Expandable To: 8 gigabytes
Number of USB Type C Charging Ports: 2
Type of Memory (RAM): Not provided
Built-In Webcam: true
Battery Type: Lithium-ion
Display Type: Full HD Widescreen LED
Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
Bluetooth Enabled: true
NFC Enabled: false
Casing Material: Aluminum
Additional Accessories Included: USB-C power adapter
Media Card Reader: true
Battery Cells: 4-cell
Color Category: Silver
Model Number: CB515-1HT-P39B
Processor Brand: Intel
Number of USB 3.1 Type C Ports: 2
Touch Screen: true
Operating System: Chrome OS
Product Name: 15.6″ Touch-Screen Chromebook – Intel Pentium – 4GB Memory – 32GB eMMC Flash Memory
Processor Model: Intel Pentium
Manufacturer’s Warranty – Labor: Not Available
Brand: Acer
Number Of Memory Slots: 1
Keyboard Touch Screen: No
System Memory (RAM): 4 gigabytes
ENERGY STAR Certified: false
Number of USB Ports (Total): 2
Number of Memory Sticks Included: 2
EPEAT Qualified: false
Processor Model Number: N4200
Optical Drive Type: None

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