Video look at Acer’s $199 C7 Chromebook: Not bad!

79 Comments

Google(s goog) 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(s intc) 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!

79 Comments

Billiam

Can you expound on your thoughts about the webcams in the c7 versus the series 3?

Rob Sprosty

I’m considering getting the C7 because I also want to install Ubuntu – and since it has 320GB HD I won’t be worried about storage issues that the other Chromebooks have with their 16GB SSD’s. I’ve read and watched a lot of reviews on the C7 – Kevin, your review is by far the most detailed! Very thorough and helpful. Thanks.

Patrick McCoy

The Google team has included a guide on their website to make Ubuntu installing on the C7 as painless as possible. :)

Jadon

Looks like it also has a VGA port. The Samsung version requires a dongle, which costs about $30 more.

Jeff Strailey

Just got mine yesterday. It works as advertised but the Netflix bug that affected other Chromebooks is there. It plays Netflix with audio only. Youtube videos look great all the way to 1080i. No stuttering or other issues with those. Since this uses an Intel processor I really want to know if it will be possible to install other os, upgrade the hard drive, and add more memory. Since I’m not going to guinea pig my new box I’ll wait for those answers from elsewhere. I think it was a good purchase and the machine is very useful as is.

Zach

I know that I want to get either the Samsung arm chromebook or the c7. I would like to know which one is better, and if the Samsung is indeed better, if it is worth the extra $50.

Patrick McCoy

Depends on what you want to do. There is a trade off for each.
Acer – has vga and Ethernet ports, also can run netflix, runs faster but boots slower, shorter battery by half

Samsung – only wifi, can not run netflix, boots faster but runs slower than Intel, longer battery no upgrades.

I personally feel a little safer knowing I can change out the battery, ram, and hard drive of a machine. But that’s a personal preference.

Patrick McCoy

Hey Kevin great review.

Any confirmation on the ability to upgrade this thing to SSD or add more ram to it? Will this chromebook end up handling netflix better (since Samsung is still being worked on) because of the Intel chip?

Mike G.

So, if they don’t support iTunes, can I at least import my songs and movies onto the computer?

Kevin C. Tofel

Absolutely; there’s local storage if you want to keep your music on the device. Or you could stream it if you upload to a cloud music service, i.e.: Google, Amazon, etc…

jack

I’d like someone to try to dualboot with linux or windows. It seems like it should be fairly easy since the hardware looks exactly the same as their $329 laptop with windows.
It’d be really attractive to be able to jump into another OS when you need to use other apps.

Carsen Cooper

If you could only choose this computer or the $249 Samsung Chromebook, which would you purchase?

Kevin C. Tofel

I thought for a bit about this question and now that I’ve used the C7 full time for two days, I think I’d opt for the $249 model. I’m seeing blank tabs on the C7 and audio stuttering while streaming as I work which I think is attributed to the hard drive.

The $249 is generally a little slower, but I don’t see any graphics issues nor do I have audio stuttering, likely due to the flash drive. And you get 6-7 hours of battery life.

Of course, I still use the $449 model I bought in June because it’s giving me the best performance overall.

Carsen Cooper

Thanks for the straight forward answer and your great reviews on these products!

gabe

Hey Kevin do you get checkerboarding on heavier sites like the”the verge” or “engadget”, I was getting this with the ARM CB and didnt like that at all. Thanks.

Kevin C. Tofel

Not getting checkerboarding on the C7 but after a few hours of work, I’m starting to see open tabs go blank and then rendered, almost like the GPU is “catching up”.

Linnie

I want to buy this as a gift. It sounds to me like the Acer edges out Samsung just a bit. More storage onboard the Acer. Processor faster for multi-tasking. Youndont need an ethernet adapter for the Acer. The Acer battery power doesn’t bug me at all. The cord is long, and for me having it plugged in would not be a hassle at all. I was reading user reviews at Best Buy for the $250 Samsung and they were positive. Since both products are so similar, based on the pro reviews, i can’t imagine the reviews by consumers will be much different for the Acer. Online, the Samsung is sold out at BB. They’ll start selling the Acer soon.
EXTENDED WARRANTIES: any opinions on Safeware? Worth Ave Group? Securranty? Significantly cheaper than Best Buy. My research so far seems to point to Safeware: BBB A+

Anthony

I’m deciding between this and the samsung chromebook as a gift for someone. I like the fact that the samsung is thinner and lighter. What would be the pros and cons between the two? Are the chromebooks still unable to stream videos on Netflix? Thanks,

gabe

This one seems a bit faster then the samsung, bigger harddrive (but physical), Im also wondering if this one play netflix since its intel, the ARM samsung doesn’t yet but Google is working on that, I also prefer the look of the samsung one except the hinge, hate that, I had the ARM samsung and didnt like that it “checkerboarded” on the some sites, I dont ever want to see that in anything.

Anthony

Thanks for the input, it’s a tough call. I’m kinda leaning towards the samsung right now. Gota imagine they’ll get the Netflix issue worked out pretty soon. I like the idea of these chromebooks in general though and I think the integrated security is a big plus.

gabe

Think ill be getting this one, will save $50 and the battery life is not a big deal for me, just want to use it around the house and at relatives, this is great, I also prefer the glossy screen, I must be the only one.

Thom As

I would like to see a benchmark comparison of the 3 different chromebooks Samsung Intel, Samsung Arm, Acer Intel. Is that planned?

Thom As

Thanks. Good Review. Looking forward to buy my first chromebook soon.
Untill now the perfect one would be the acer +2 gig ram more + 64 gig SSD + extra battery :-)

madhsv

Question- can it play flash videos on various websites(unlike chrome on android!)? Can I install Skype on this? Is this generating lot of heat(friend of mine has a similar aspire s7 with windows and it gets hot easily)

Kevin C. Tofel

Flash playback works fine; you can’t install Skype (or any other native app, for that matter). This model is warmer than the other Chromebooks, but it’s not burning hot. Using it on my lap right now.

John

I just want to know which one is better. The c7 or $250 Samsung one. Is it worth the extra money? Is he c7 truly faster? (Don’t start another argument)

Zech

How’s the thickness of the Acer? A big advantage the Samsung one seems to have is (besides battery life) the 0.5″ thickness and 2.5 lb weight.

Kevin C. Tofel

It’s certainly thicker than the $249 Chromebook model as shown in the video. About an inch thick at the widest point when the screen is down.

James

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?

Jeremy Pate

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.

john

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. -.-

Kevin C. Tofel

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!

JJ

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

SPM

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.

Charbax

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.

Kevin C. Tofel

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!

SMP

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.

Mark Alan Pendergraft

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.

steve

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.

SMP

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.

James

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.

Nuruddin

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

parkour86

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

Kevin C. Tofel

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….

john

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.

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