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Summary:

Google surprised many with the launch of a $199 Chromebook this week. So what’s the Acer C7 like? Overall the quality and performance is better than I expected for the price and it even has a 320 GB hard drive for those who want local storage.

Acer C7 Chromebook

Google and Acer launched a new Chromebook earlier this week and there are a few differences compared to prior versions of Chrome OS laptops. For starters, the Acer C7 is the lowest price device in this class yet at just $199. And unlike all other Chromebooks, this one has a traditional, magnetic hard-drive with 320 GB of storage capacity, which could be handy as more web apps work offline. You still get a free 100 GB of Google Drive storage with this model and there’s an SD card reader for additional expansion.

So is this essentially a cut-rate Chromebook? Not really, as you can see in my video overview.

Although I’ve only used the new C7 for part of a day, it can certainly fit in my daily workflow: I’ve been using a $449 Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook full-time since I bought it in June. But you have to like glossy displays and be able to live with a 3.5 hour battery life on the C7. I’m not sure I could do that, but that’s a personal preference. Surprisingly, there are some things I like better on this $199 Chromebook: It has an HD front camera and a better keyboard layout that includes a Caps Lock key. And with the 1.1 GHz Intel Celeron 847 chip, performance is nearly that of my current device and faster than the $249 ARM-based Series 3 Chromebook.

I’ll have more thoughts as I spend more time with the C7, so stay tuned!

  1. Andrew McLoughlin Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    How come it has a caps lock key instead of a search button?

    1. There is a search button — two actually. They’re on the bottom row.

    2. It’s not a real Chromebook, it’s a rebranded windows laptop. You can find the exact same product with windows online. Looks like they had extra and decided to rebrand them and sell at a lower price point, didn’t even bother to put in a real chromebook keyboard.

      1. Mark Alan Pendergraft john Sunday, December 2, 2012

        John, this is not bad as you can replace the Hard Drive and Upgrade The Memory to 16 GB and it will Work. i would say Sweet, maybe you might disagree? http://liliputing.com/2012/11/yes-you-can-upgrade-the-memory-hdd-on-acers-199-chromebook.html

  2. The Samsung Chromebook at $249 is lighter, has double the battery life, and the 16GB of chips are just fine; that 320 HDD is not important in this category.. No contest: http://answerguy.com/2012/11/05/google-chromebook-desktops-browser-business-change/

  3. Can the 320 GB hard drive be swapped out for a solid state drive to increase the battery life?

    1. Good question. There is a removable panel on the bottom, but without opening it, I can’t be sure. Would be nice if this came in an SSD option….

  4. The battery life is a deal breaker for me. I will stick with the ARM chromebook.

  5. I wonder if chrome-books are powerful enough to run VM on it ?!

  6. Great review. I have to buy 3 of these for Christmas for my girls. Been weighing the two chrome books against each other. I’m thinking google will come out with a lot of offline apps very soon and the 320 gb storage will be very useful. Much more useful than the Samsung.

  7. The ARM Powered Chromebook is faster. And can probably run 10h on the 2x smaller battery. Google barely yet has started optimizing Chrome OS on ARM Cortex-A15 and with full hardware acceleration on the Mali-T604 GPU, while Chrome optimizations on Intel’s x86 have been underway for over 3 years. Also you can’t use basic benchmarks to compare ARM and Intel x86, those benchmarks aren’t correct to compare architectures like that. Same as you do not use those types of benchmarks and 3D benchmarks to compare high-end Android with iPhone5.

    1. Charbax, I know that you run a site dedicated to ARM devices and I respect that. But please don’t use fluff to spread bad info here.

      “The ARM Powered Chromebook is faster. And can probably run 10h on the 2x smaller battery.”

      Simply not true. I have both devices and even if I throw out the JavaScript benchmark test results, the ARM device is slower. I knew that before I tried to benchmark it. How did I know. I actually used it and it was taking me longer to do the same things I’ve been doing on a Chromebook for 5 months. And I’ve never got more than 7 hours of runtime on the ARM Chromebook. Maybe you figure it ought to run for 10 hours, but the fact is: it doesn’t.

      If you have both — or all three Chromebooks — and have a different experience in the performance, write it up on your blog and I’d be happy to read, and even share it. Otherwise, let’s stick to actual observations, ‘k? ;)

      I’m not trying to single you out here, but people rely on us — you and me both — to provide solid information on the devices we use. They make purchasing decisions based on that information. And I won’t have bad information out there just because of someone’s vested interest in a platform, product or brand. Thanks!

      1. I think the ARM Chromebook’s Mali T604 GPU is faster than the C7’s GPU which is listed as an Intel HD2000.

        Also the hard drive on the Acer C7 is about half the speed of the ARM Chromebook and this can cause jitters and slowdowns if you have a large number of tabs open and paging to disk takes place. This does have a noticeable impact on OS and app startup.

        I have tried all three Chromebook devices in the demo shop, and quite frankly I couldn’t tell the difference in speed for normal use – they are all very snappy and all display video flawlessly, so I think too much is being made of the speed and benchmarking issues. If you are running HTML5 or Flash games or running CPU benchmarks then you may possibly notice the effect of the 30% increase in CPU benchmark speed on the Acer C7 but unless the javascript code on a webpage spends a significant amount of the time running javascript, the javascript benchmarks won’t have an impact on performance. On the other hand, if you are running WebGL games, or large numbers of tabs or starting apps, the ARM Chromebook will probably be faster and smoother due to slower GPU and hard drive on the Acer C7.

        The Acer C7 battery life isn’t as bad as it looks (compared to Windows laptops) because it is a Chromebook – meaning you can just shut the lid and open it when you pause your work or switch it on and off, which has an enormous effect on real life battery life compared to Windows where you are reluctant to do that because of the shut down and start up time. The Acer’s sleep and resume time is slower than the ARM’s because of the slow HDD, but it is still only about two seconds.

        Overall, for me, the ARM Chromebook is the winner because I think the extra $50 is worth it for the extra 3 hours battery life.plus the silent (solid state) and cool operation, and while you may notice a marginal speed improvement with the Acer C7 running intensive Flash or HTML5 apps, you will notice the speed advantage of the ARM Chromebook’s SSD every time you boot, pause or resume or run apps that page to or access disk – although this happens only for short periods of time.

        The Acer C7 will definitely be a better choice for the traditional netbook computer hobbyist user who is sitting on the fence and is considering flipping the developer switch and installing Windows or Linux on it if ChromeOS isn’t to their liking, and who imagine that they will actually use all of the 360GB HD provided. At $200 it will make sense for a lot of tinkerers.

      2. Kevin C. Tofel,

        I’ve just added you as a bookmark because you seem to be someone I can trust with Tech Stuff.

        Mark

        P.S First time to this site.

        1. Thanks much Mark!

    2. Totally incorrect information, in terms of pure performance the Celeron 847 is faster. Also incorrect on the statement that basic benchmarks, like javascript, are invalid because the chips are using a different architecture. Something as low level as architecture is irrelevant when we run sunspider, v8, etc.

      The only reason you wouldn’t use those benchmarks when comparing an android device to an iPhone is that they use different browers, and different browsers have different javascript engines so it’s not a 1:1 comparison–that is to say the software is different so the tests are not equivalent. Here, regardless of architecture, we have the chrome browser with the same v8 engine. It’s apples to apples. Even if you want to argue that the arm variant of chrome os is holding back the arm chromebook, and that maybe some day after months or years of further optimization it will reign supreme, the fact is that here and now today the Intel is faster.

      The battery statements are wrong as well, it’s rated at 6.5 hours and that really is about what it gets.

      1. The javascript performance on browsers has gone up orders of magnitude recently and relies very heavily on the software optimisation, and this is a continuing process. Therefore even though the same V8 engine is used on both architectures, it is not correct to say that they will directly reflect CPU performance because different versions of the V8 engine running running on the same processor give different performance. It is quite likely that given that the ARM version is very recent, it is less optimised than the Intel version.

        For direct performance comparisons between ARM and Intel hardware, it would be appropriate to use more basic benchmarks – ones that are less susceptible to software optimisation. Since the performance difference between the Acer C7’s 1.1 GHz CPU and the Exynos 5 CPU are marginal (60% faster for the Samsung 500, and 30% faster for the Acer C7), these could well disappear with software optimisation at least for the Acer C7.

  8. Well……When I see the spec of the Acer C7 Chromebook, I think it’s good enough to replace the Samsung Chromebox .

    1. That is what the Acer C7 should have been – a Chromebox. Take out the screen, battery, keyboard and trackpad, put it into a small box, price it at $135 and sell it as a Chromebox.

  9. There is no “Series 3″ Samsung Chromebook, the ARM Chromebook is simply called the samsung chromebook. I don’t understand how every review gets this wrong. -.-

    1. True, but confusing. ;) The official model number is Chromebook XE303C12 and the Series 3 Chromebox’s have a similar product number, i.e. XE300…. so the intent here is to clarify, not confuse. Thanks!

  10. I’m just a layperson that wants to know which one to purchase. I don’t care if one us $50 more than the other. Which one makes the most sense to buy? Or is there simply not enough user reviews on the acer yet to make that determination?

    1. My humble opinion is that I am going to buy the C7, add an 8gb stick of ram for 35 bucks, and a 64gb ssd for 75 and have a machine with 10 GB of ram that boots in 9 seconds for just over 300 bucks. Also the battery will be a non issue since its removable and replacements will be available to buy a backup.

      None of these things are an option with the Samsung / ARM based Chromebook.

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