Fantastic battery life, solid construction and a gorgeous exterior make up for a low performance ceiling in Acer’s 15-inch Chromebook for the masses. When compared to the best Chromebooks out there, this is an excellent value.
- Unbelievable battery life
- Attractive, fanless design
- 1080p touch display
- Trackpad feels clunky
- Easy to weigh down with tabs
With Chromebooks starting to embrace hybrid designs, it’s a shame the Acer Chromebook 15 sticks to the basics. There’s a lot here to like, but a convertible design or stylus support and a little more power could have made this king of the Chromebook hill.
As it is, this Acer model is a gorgeous, quiet Chromebook with a beautiful 1080p display, fanless design, and aluminum body. The 15.6-inch display is the largest available on a Chromebook, and its available in touch and non-touch configurations. Since it’s not convertible, like the Samsung Chromebook Pro or the Google Pixelbook, having a touch display is more of a nice-to-have than critical to functionality.
Where the Acer really puts itself above the competition is price and battery life. The Samsung and Pixelbook are both 2-in-1 laptops, with the Samsung being a hybrid Android/ChromeOS device, but both are significantly more expensive. While they have all-day battery life, they can’t even come close to the staggering longevity of the Acer.
Price and availability
The top-end Acer Chromebook 15 we reviewed, a Best Buy exclusive in the states, is $399 (£279, not available yet in Australia). Comparing that to the $499 (about £359, AU$629) Samsung and the $999 (£999, about $1,259) Pixlebook makes it way easier to focus on what it offers instead of what it lacks.
For that money, there are some definite trade-offs in performance. But, where it falls behind in power, the Chromebook 15 makes up its value in its phenomenal battery and gorgeous, giant HD screen.
This is not the first Chromebook to feature a 15.6-inch, FHD display, but it looks absolutely lovely nevertheless. If you’re just after a bunch of screen real estate, there are cheaper, less powerful 15-inch Chromebooks available with similar screens minus touch functionality.
The Samsung and Pixelbook offer more in power, and the 2-in-1 design is not available in the Acer Chromebook 15. But, they’re just so much more expensive, and they have other trade-offs, particularly in battery life, making the Acer a solid value.
This isn’t some chintzy, disposable plastic Chromebook. This is a sharp, business-ready machine that steals a lot of its design cues from the MacBook and other high-end business laptops. The gorgeous aluminum shell is milled on the edges, letting them capture and intensify light reflecting off the milled edges. It almost glows with metallic light.
The chiclet-style keyboard is brightly backlit and feels excellent. Its keys are responsive, and the 15-inch design allows for excellent spacing between the keys. It’s not a full-sized keyboard, but that would have been too crowded, especially given the upward-facing speakers on either side of the keys.
The same milled-metal effect on the edge of the computer follows the edge of the trackpad, which is the only part of the Chromebook 15 that feels off. It lacks the solid feeling of the rest of the computer, feeling loose and clunky. Clicking the trackpad feels mushy and imprecise, and just touching it is unpleasant, moving slightly from the mere weight of a finger resting on it.
At 4.2 pounds (1.95kg), Acer’s Chromebook 15 is significantly heavier than either the Samsung or Pixelbook, both of which are just 2.4 pounds. It never feels heavy in spite of this. All that screen seems to spread the weight around. It’s thin, too, easily sliding into a laptop bag.
When it comes to power, the Chromebook 15 is completely adequate. Chrome OS is deliberately lightweight, cloud-based computing designed specifically to allow these sort of low-cost computers to exist.
The lack of power compared to its competition never came into play using the Acer, even with multiple tabs open.
At no point did the Chromebook feel noticeably sluggish or underpowered, but it also lacks the cool stylus features and UHD displays of its competitors.
On paper, with the exception of battery life, the Acer falls way behind its competition, putting up numbers less than half as strong as both the Pixelbook and the Samsung.
The Kraken test takes close to three times as long on the Acer as it does on the Pixelbook, but the tradeoff is the Acer’s battery life is absolutely ridiculous.
In fact, it’s so ridiculous that we actually had to run the battery test twice on this laptop, because it became apparent our first attempt started too late in the day. With the screen and volume set to 50%, and a local copy of Guardians of the Galaxy running on loop, the Acer refused to die.
The second battery test attempt started at 6:45am, with the Acer finally giving up the ghost at 11:32pm – that’s astonishing. The manufacturer claims 12 hours of battery life, and it’s rare to see actual numbers come close to manufacturer claims, much less exceed them by such a large margin.
The trade-off between power and longevity is worth it, especially when the battery life is so incredible. The Acer has no fans to drain the battery and, with less rugged hardware than either the Samsung or Pixelbook, and it never felt hot.
The Acer’s screen is bright, colorful and roomy. It’s ideal for watching movies and surfing the web. That extra real estate also makes it easier on the eyes for productivity, especially during tasks like word processing and managing spreadsheets. General web surfing is also lovely on the Acer Chromebook 15, with enough power to keep up with multiple tabs and streaming video.
That said, the fantastic battery is what’s really to love here. Yes, it’s a good looking laptop, and the screen and speakers work well together for watching movies, but it’s that battery life that puts this computer at the same level as more powerful Chromebooks. You just won’t find a 15-inch laptop with this sort of battery life – it’s exhausting. And, the icing on the cake is that, even after almost 17 hours of continuous run-time before the battery died, it took less than two hours to charge it back up using the USB-C charger.
Even though it holds its own in most circumstances, that lack of power eventually catches up to the Chromebook 15. Once the screen starts to fill up with Ajax-heavy browser tabs, there is a noticeable lag when opening up new pages or Google Doc files. It’s small, but noticeable.
The speakers are mightily loud but lack depth, stripping all subtlety from music, producing a loud but flat sound that’s like listening to music from another room. Essentially, they sound like very loud phone speakers, with the benefit of being in stereo.
Chromebooks are a great way to get stuff done online at a reasonable price. To that end, the Acer Chromebook 15 is more of an attractive tool than anything else, a way to get the job done and look good doing it.
It also benefits massively from the sharp, colorful 15.6-inch touch display. Movies and online video look great on this screen, and text is crisp and clean. Using the Acer to work online is a treat, with eye strain reduced by the ample screen and its excellent text rendering abilities.
The most difficult thing in making a judgement call about the Acer Chromebook 15 is weighing its relatively low power against its magnificent battery life – it’s just unbelievable. Working on the train or watching movies without fear of a dead battery is huge, and with such a gigantic reservoir of electrons from which to draw, the battery more than makes up for any sluggishness it might have running a dozen or more tabs.
Ultimately, the Acer Chromebook 15 can’t compete against the Samsung and Pixelbook in terms of power and functionality. But its price, coupled with a sharp display, handsome exterior and absolutely jaw-dropping battery, make up for its shortcomings.