Have you ever read a Chromebook review that complains about the lack of touchscreen capability?
Up until now, if you wanted a touchscreen notebook PC, one running Microsoft (MSFT) Windows 8 was about the only game in town. Apple’s (AAPL) MacBooks have never sported a touchscreen. The new kids on the block, those inexpensive and wildly popular Chromebooks that run on Google’s (GOOG) Chrome operating system haven’t been touch-enabled either.
Well, Google’s own Pixel Chromebooks have a touchscreen, but those $1299 showcase machines aren’t in the same class as the cheap Chromebooks that have been selling in mass numbers.
Acer, the Taiwanese computer maker, decided Chromebooks needed touchscreen functionality, and the result is the Acer C720P. After spending a week trying out this new model, I’ve put together an Acer Chromebook review. Read on to find out if multi-touch capability is worth a small premium over other Chromebooks.
Acer C720P Chromebook Review: A Standout Among Inexpensive Chromebooks
Chromebooks’ cheap price point is a large part of their appeal. Chrome OS has very modest hardware requirements and Chromebooks rely heavily on Google’s cloud apps, which means manufacturers can use inexpensive mobile CPUs, skip on storage and RAM and eliminate extras like ethernet ports.
The problem is that cheap Chromebooks sometimes cut too many corners. Manufacturers will try to dress them up to look more expensive — the Samsung (SSNLF) Chromebook Series 3 I reviewed last year was a dead ringer (visually) for a MacBook Air — but performance can fall short.
The Acer C720P Chromebook review unit I received was clad in white plastic (also available in gray). It looked good despite several months of use — it still has a sticker on the bottom identifying it as a CES 2014 display model, so it has certainly been handled a lot.
The display is HD (720p) and bright, not a bargain basement unit. The CPU is not a repurposed mobile unit, but an Intel (INTC) Celeron and Acer is selling these with 32GB SSDs instead of the usual 16GB, meaning much more storage available for working offline. Thanks to that Haswell technology CPU and a more capable battery than many cheaper Chromebooks, the Acer C720P can run 7.5 hours on a charge. And yes, my hands-on experience fit right in that range.
In its Acer C720P Chromebook review, PCMag says the new Acer model “dominates among Chromebooks” and I have to agree.
This is a pretty decent piece of hardware for the price.
Acer C720P Chromebook Review: Touch on Chrome? Meh…
So far as the touch capability goes, the Acer C720P display was responsive. So if you were holding off for affordable Chromebooks with touchscreen capability, your wait is over.
That being said, I’m not a huge fan of touchscreens on laptops in general, so I really don’t see the value. (The fingerprints, the act of reaching over the keyboard to hold your finger up against a vertical surface and the risk of poking too hard and tipping the computer over don’t really appeal to me.) However, the capability is there if you want to avoid using the built-in trackpad.
In its Acer Chromebook review, Computerworld criticized the keyboard. However, I actually found the Acer C720P keyboard better than most. The chiclet keys had enough play (without feeling mushy) and the right spacing to be quite useful. If you’re not accustomed to typing using an 11.6-inch device like this Acer Chromebooks — and I am, thanks to my 11.6-inch MacBook Air — you may have an adjustment period.
Acer C720P Chromebook Review: Specifications
- Dual-core Intel Celeron CPU at 1.4GHz with integrated Intel HD Graphics
- 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 (720p HD) LED backlit touchscreen display
- 2GB DDR3 RAM (note: the Chromebook review unit had 4GB or RAM installed, which allowed it to have more tabs open simultaneously)
- VGA camera
- Chiclet-style keyboard with touchpad
- HDMI out
- 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Stereo speakers
- Audio in/out
- 32GB SSD (note: the Acer C720P Chromebook review unit had a 16GB SSD instead of the 32GB Acer is promoting as standard equipment)
- 3950mAh battery rated at 7.5 hours of use
- 2.97 lbs
- MSRP $299
Acer C720P Chromebook Review: Conclusion
I’ve already mentioned my thoughts on touchscreen capabilities in laptops. During the course of my Acer C720P Chromebook review, I tried out the multi-touch capability and it works as advertised. So if you feel Chromebooks need a touchscreen and don’t feel like handing over $1299 for a Google Pixel Chromebook, then the $299 Acer C720P is currently your only choice.
For everyone else looking at inexpensive laptop options, based on my Chromebook review results, the Acer C720P is well worth considering, despite the $50 or so premium. Even if you never touch the screen, the sharp display, snappy performance of the Celeron CPU, larger SSD and excellent battery life are worth fifty bucks.
While you can’t have it all for under $300, the Acer C720P proves that cheap Chromebooks can offer advantages like near instant boot times, automatic updates and low cost without leaving users feeling like they’ve made one compromise too many in the search for an affordable laptop.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.