There’s something special about Google’s Chrome OS. It’s a versatile platform built for education, entertainment, and enterprise. Whether you’re using a device in the form of a laptop or a desktop, Chrome OS is ready for every day-to-day task you can think of.
Acer’s Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C0AK), too, is special because its premium without that high price tag. It’s made of an aluminum alloy, boasts a spacious display, and has a battery capable of running for what seems like an eternity. Somehow it all remains slim and portable, priced at $299 in its single configuration.
Hit the break for our review of the Acer Chromebook 14.
Back in 2014, the Acer Chromebook 13 became my go-to laptop for just about everything. The traditional laptop from Dell that I had for years, which was powered by Windows, failed me. So I decided to give Google’s simple computing platform a try since the hardware was more than affordable. But I ultimately left my Chromebook 13 for a Surface Book in late 2015 because I wanted something strong and practically future-proof.
Now I’m returning to Chrome OS for this review of the Acer Chromebook 14.
The Chromebook 14 is one the most attractive Chrome OS devices we’ve ever seen, and that’s considering the entire package inside and out. It’s gold, metal build is smooth to touch and sleek in appearance.
Acer and Google want you and everyone around you to know this is a Chromebook. Fortunately, their efforts are not carried out in an overbearing way. The only branding is, as usual with these devices, the company logo and the Chrome logo on the outside. Both are stamped on the lid, neither of which is flashy or obnoxious. These logos blend right in with the gold lid, leaving the outside appearance of the Chromebook 14 simple. All eyes will focus on is the luxurious gold color, an impressive accomplishment for a $299 device.
Although it reads 3.42lb on a scale, Acer’s Chromebook 14 stays extremely portable because the weight isn’t concentrated in any particular area. Furthermore, it’s very thin when closed. So you can slide this Chromebook into a small bag without it bulging out or weighing you down.
The inside of the Chromebook 14 matches the outside’s elegance. Around the display is a gold bezel, and around that is a black trim. It gives Acer’s Chromebook a layered appearance while not actually adding any serious thickness. If you love the outside of this Chromebook, you’re going to love the inside. Acer keeps the exact same material covering every inch.
A laptop is nothing if its keyboard falls short of expectations. The keyboard on the Chromebook 14, which is slightly lower than the surface itself, feels a little cheap in terms of individual keys. People accustomed to metal keys are going to notice something, but those of you who are familiar with plastic keys or just don’t care that much won’t mind this keyboard’s design. Every key is sizable and locked tightly in place. The same can be said for the touchpad — roomy and responsive.
Need ports? The Acer Chromebook 14 has them. Along the left side is a Kensington Security Slot, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI port. The right side, meanwhile, offers ports for audio equipment and charging. As a whole, this Chromebook’s number and variety of ports are robust.
Acer did a fine job fitting a lot into a beautiful, slim body.
The Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C0AK) features a 14-inch Full HD (1920×1080) IPS LCD display, Intel Celeron N3160 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a front-facing camera with high dynamic range, a 3920mAh battery, an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, and WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac.
By now we all know that Chromebooks aren’t expected to have the best displays. It’s simply a result of the manufacturers cutting costs and settling for a lesser component. Back in 2013, I had a big problem with the Chromebook 13 only for the display’s terribleness. While I appreciated the matte finish to lessen glare, text just wasn’t sharp. Most of us need decent sharpness from a display, and for $299 you would think Acer could give you that. Well, no. They aren’t.
Once again, we’re dealing with a not-so-hot display from Acer. The anti-glare display underwhelms. Nothing is sharp and you notice it. Color accuracy, too, is way off. And, to my frustration, there’s a blemish in the panel of my unit that’s always visible. I see it from the moment I turn on the Chromebook. My Chromebook 13 also had a similar blemish. This tells you Acer is just pumping out Chromebooks without checking for problems which can be easily caught and solved.
Intel’s Celeron N3160 didn’t make me think the Chromebook 14 would be particularly fast or slow. It made me think I’d be getting average performance. Bingo! The low-end processor inside this Chromebook isn’t cutting through web pages like lightning nor is it dragging along with lengthy wait times. It’s happily average. Since everything on a Chromebook is built for all Chrome OS devices, all apps move at around the same pace.
Unfortunately those of you looking to use Android apps on a Chromebook will have to buy a different device. Acer didn’t make a variant with a touch-enabled screen.
My favorite thing about any Chromebook is the battery life. These devices charge quick and they go long. The battery within the Chromebook 14 is 3920mAh, and it’s enough to get you through an entire day and half of the next. Acer mastered longevity. You’re able to charge for about an hour and get a number of hours out of its Chromebook.
Keep in mind that Acer’s Chromebook 14 uses a proprietary charging port and thus you’ll always need to use the included charger. Future Chromebooks, though, are shipping with USB-C ports as a standard.
Software on one Chromebook is the same as software on another Chromebook. This one, like the others, carries a ton of Google-made apps right out of the box. From there you head into the Chrome Web Store to grab additional apps. Most apps are just glorified web pages, but it’s nice to have quick access.
What’s important to remember is that, while Chrome OS has definitely matured over the years, it’s still not as stacked as Apple’s OS X or Microsoft’s Windows. Serious photo and video editing, file management, and gaming remains difficult on a Chromebook.
Acer mostly succeeded with the Chromebook 14. It’s slim, light, and affordable. What’s not to love? Even the design makes you question if there’s some type of catch. The aluminum allow body is stunning and luxurious. You’re getting a surprising deal at $299 as that price generally gets you to a plastic body with a recycled design. But, for as much as we can applaud Acer’s Chromebook 14 for its design, we have to point out the display’s shortcomings. If the screen you look at for hours at a time is very important to you, you’ll need to continue shopping. However, it’s not an awful display. You just expect something better for the price.