Chromebooks are still relatively new, and they’re relatively still trying to find their place in the market. Being Internet-only devices, Chromebooks appeal to a very niche group of people. For a Chromebook to be useful as a daily driver, all of your computer usage needs to be purely Internet-based, as you won’t be installing software that you might find on Windows or Mac.
Like I said, they’re still trying to find their place in the market. For instance, Google stopped selling its Chromebook Pixels, high-end Chromebook devices that obviously weren’t selling well because of their high price point (over $1000 for a Internet-only device). However, Acer may have perfected what a Chromebook should look like with its new R11. With a compact, premium design at a little price point, the R11 truly does Chrome OS right.
Hit the break to find out how.
In design is where Acer has excelled with the all-new Chromebook R11. It’s compact and small, but one you open the Chromebook, you’ll immediately notice just how premium the design is. The screen is glass as opposed to that plastic and matte material we so often see on cheaper products.
The hinges feel nice when opening the Chromebook. You will have to use two hands to open it: one to keep the Chromebook on the surface while your opening the device.
They keys on the keyboard feel firm, though there’s very little feedback from the keys. You get an overall premium and quality feel from the Chromebook R11, but one area where Acer has noticeably dropped the ball on is the touchpad. The touchpad feels cheap and clunky, but Acer makes up for this by turning the display into a touchscreen itself.
As I’ve mentioned already, the Chromebook R11 is equipped with a glass touchscreen, which is a nice move away from the plastic/matte material we’re used to seeing. It’s a very nice 11.6-inch high-definition display, boasting a smaller resolution of 1366 x 768.
It has a Intel Celeron quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, comes in 16GB or 32GB of storage and can be expanded by way of an SD card. These models come in at $170 and $270, respectively on Amazon.
On the left side of the Chromebook R11 is the port for power, an HDMI port, a single USB 3.0 port and an SD card reader. Around the right side is is a USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack as well as the power off/on button.
The screen looks really nice, but the most interesting part of it is no doubt the hinges it’s attached to. Thanks to those 360-degree hinges, you can fold this device all the way back to transform it into a tablet.
Equipped with the aforementioned Intel Celeron quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, this laptop should fly. And considering how lightweight Chrome OS is, there’s no excuse that this laptop shouldn’t be speedy. Unfortunately, during my time with it, the Chromebook R11 was as laggy as can be. Web pages would load fast, but while scrolling, all you can see is the page trying to catch up to where you’re scrolling to, creating a sort of stutter motion.
Battery life is very impressive, mostly because of how lightweight Chrome OS is. Depending on usage, Acer says you can get 10 hours out of this device. I’ve personally been able to get the 10 hours out of it with minimal usage, but when using it on a normal work day, it’s more like 8 hours. And really, that’s still not a bad amount to get out of it off a single charge.
If you’ve ever seen a Chromebook, Chrome OS hasn’t changed much. It’s still that same Internet-based cloud-computing system with hardly any noticeable changes. If you’re unfamiliar with Chrome OS, you’re limited to web apps and other cloud-computing software. There’s no downloading executable files that you might find on Windows or anything like that.
As of right now, you’re limited to Chrome, Gmail, Google Drive apps and a dedicated YouTube app. You can, of course, download Chrome extensions to extend functionality, but that’s about it.
As an added bonus, Android apps will be coming to the Chromebook R11 in the future, only adding to the value of this Chromebook. But for now, you’re strictly stuck with Chrome extensions. We’re not sure when Android apps will be available, but if you switch over to the Chrome OS Dev Channel, you can start trying out the Play Store on the R11 immediately.
The Chromebook R11 is one of the first few devices to support the new Android app functionality in Chrome OS. I had to hop on over to the Dev Channel for this (Chrome OS 53). Currently, in the Dev Channel, you have to download the Play Store from the Chrome Web Store and then reboot the device for it to work properly. In using them, it felt like Android apps on Chrome OS were pretty clunky, which was quite disappointing, but being a Dev Channel, this will only get better in a final release candidate.
It’s also worth noting that while the Play Store is becoming available in Chrome OS, not all Android apps are going to work until they’ve been updated for Chrome. So, as far as the actual ecosystem goes, there isn’t going to be a whole lot available for Chrome just yet.
Those last two paragraphs might sound really negative, but I want to stress this: Android apps on Chrome OS is exciting. This is a new frontier for Chrome OS. As the functionality gets better, Chrome OS will have a whole lot more value. Android apps will bring new functionality to Chrome OS, new possibilities, and more importantly, a more seamless ecosystem between Android and Chrome OS.
All in all, the Chromebook R11 is a beautiful budget Chromebook with only a few shortcomings. If you can get over some of the stuttering and frame rate drops on web pages, the Chromebook R11 might just be the perfect compact and portable laptop for you to pick up this season.
The Dev Channel is probably something you should stay away from. Android apps on Chrome OS is a great idea, but in testing, it’s obvious that it has a long way to go. Hopefully as Chrome becomes more intertwined with the Play Store, performance when using Android apps on Chrome OS will get better.
The Chromebook R11 with 32GB has an MSRP of $280, but you can grab it from Amazon for around $270.
Buy it now: Amazon