Acer Chromebook C720 Review: Tons of Bang for Your Buck

Acer Chromebbok C720 1

Every student in my school has recently received an Acer Chromebook C720 to do assignments online and learn. I was extremely interested in this computer in and of itself, so after doing some research, picking up a Chromebook of my very own, and using it for a few days, the verdict is out. Although it’s intended as a low-cost netbook, the C720 actually amazed me with its rich feature set.

 Design

Well, I can’t say it’s the most beautiful computer I’ve ever seen, definitely not an aluminum unibody Macbook… but Acer’s industrial design team did alright for the materials. It’s very thin and light, just 2.8 pounds. On the top cover is the Acer and Chrome logos. The cover is smooth, cool, grey plastic, not glossy, not matte. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world.

The screen is small, but bright, and it’s got a pretty high pixel density. It’s surrounded by a glossy plastic bezel that tends to be a dust magnet and a VGA webcam. The keyboard is alright, but there’s less travel than I’d like. The trackpad is also great, with full multi-touch gestures. The same material as the cover is used here, and creates very nice palm rests. On the front right are two lights that glow if the computer is on or charging.

The sides curve around, then flatten out to accommodate the I/O ports. On the left is a barrel charging port, HDMI output, USB 2.0, and a 2.5mm headphone jack. On the right is a Kensington lock (not sure why), a USB 3.0 port, and an SD card slot. On the back is a grille for the fan. The bottom is again plastic, but this time it is matte, and textured, making it grippy, but also nice to run your finger along. There’s grilles for the fan and speakers.

Acer Chromebook C720 2

Hardware

The C720 runs on some pretty generic, albeit powerful hardware. It has a Intel Celeron CPU with HD Graphics.

Operating System – Chrome OS (Linux)

CPU – Intel 4G 1.4Ghz Celeron-2995U dual-core

GPU – Intel HD Graphics

Display – 11.6in, 1366 x 768, 135ppi

Memory – 2 GB DDR3L SDRAM

Storage – 16GB SSD

Battery – 8.5 hour 2600mAh LiPo battery

Camera – Low-rez VGA

Acer Chromebook C720 3

Software

The Chromebook runs Chrome OS, a custom version of Linux. It differs from the traditional operating system in that it is browser-based. This is a double-edged sword, making the system super-simple, but it can’t do anything without an internet connection. I’m beginning to like the simplicity and ease of use of Chrome OS, and I think with some modifications, specifically more offline capabilities, this computer could go a million miles. Chrome OS is constantly updated though, and automatically at that.

I’m also a real design freak, and I really love the transparent app bar, but I don’t like all the gradients used. The icons are alright, but gradients and shadows bug me. All the transitions between elements are very natural and playful, and text is bold and intentional. Again, the interface needs to ditch the muted colors and really go for bright and bold. That’s my suggestion.

 

Performance

I’ve performed several benchmarks on the C720, mainly the Peacekeeper and Sunspider browser speed tests. They measure a lot of things: render speed of different square blocks, render speed of different types of encoded video, 2D and 3D rendering, and JavaScript performance. Overall, the Chromebook was superb on all parts of the test: Earning over 3000 on Peacekeeper and .003 seconds on Sunspider.

  • Peacekeeper: 3008
  • Sunspider: 370.2ms +/- 5.8%

On the battery side of the spectrum, there’s a 2600mAh lithium-ion battery in it – actually the size of most cell phone batteries. It is unclear how the computer actually managed the battery life it did on such a small cell. However, it doesn’t matter, as this particular unit is expected to achieve 8.5 hours on a single charge! Under normal use, I can confirm this time. However, sometimes I’ve been able to exceed this expectation, getting around 9 hours.

The Bottom Line

Although the Acer Chromebook C720 is intended a budget computer, it’s probably best in its class. It combines the portability and battery life of a tablet with probably one of the greatest screens in a mid range. The laptop is very thin and extremely light. I must gripe about the design, because it’s not all that: the plastic isn’t very creative. But the true beauty is on the inside, namely the 4th generation Intel processors and 8.5 hour battery life. Software is easy to use, and a $199 price tag make this machine one of the best in its class. It’s no Mac, that’s for sure, but I find it superior to most Windows PCs, and for your average Joe, it’s one of the best computers for the cheapest price.

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