Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Quick Review: Acer Chromebook C720

A while ago, I wrote a post about computing devices for students. In it, I suggested that you're best off with either a proper laptop or a Chromebook, depending on your usage habits.

I've owned a tablet for well over a year now, and I can confirm that a tablet, even if combined with a keyboard dock, is nothing compared to a proper laptop. By its nature, a tablet in a dock will be very top-heavy, as the tablet contains the motherboard and battery, as well as the screen, while a proper laptop has all this in the bottom half of the device, leading to a more stable base. If you're working with a tablet on a desk, you'll either have to keep your weight on the dock all the time, or keep the tablet at an almost upright position all the time.

It probably doesn't help that my tablet has a consistently jerky UI, despite my best efforts to use highly optimised firmware. As a result of all this, I've decided to purchase a Chromebook, namely the Acer C720.

I've had the Chromebook for about a month now, and I'm delighted to report that it is, most definitely, worth getting as a secondary device. The interface is smooth, and it has regular updates (roughly every six weeks).

The build quality is solid, although it is plastic, rather than a more premium aluminium or similar material. It really is a nice bit of kit. In case you're wondering, it really does boot up as fast as it says on the box (about 8 seconds). The desktop is pretty barebones, which makes sense considering that this is primarily a Web Browser. The Files app is very simple, with only a few functions, such as a Video Player, and allowing you to browse USB drives or SD cards.

The great advantages of a Chromebook are the battery life and the sheer convenience of the thing. You can literally just pick it up and start using it. In a way, it's more like a phone than a proper laptop, in that you don't really turn it off, you just close the lid whenever you're finished with it. The battery life is also really good. I haven't actually done a full battery test to see how long it would last, but, having just taken it off charge, it has an estimated 9 hours and 30 minutes of charge left. That is a bit more than I used to get with my tablet.

Chromebooks run, essentially, a glorified version of the Google Chrome browser. It is a very specialised device, but, if you're willing to only work with tools that work online, or in a browser, such as Google Docs, etc, then it's a great device. I haven't found any sites yet where the Chromebook is much slower than my primary laptop, despite having drastically less RAM, and an inferior processor. Relatively heavy sites like Google Play Music and YouTube load quickly and work well.

tl;dr, A Chromebook is a great purchase, providing you accept and work within its limitations. You won't get Office, unless you're willing to Office.com. You can buy it in technology shops like Curry's, or online on Amazon, or directly from Google Play if you can buy devices from Google wherever you live.