A small look at the very big Acer Chromebook 15

Prior to this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, we noted on our Chrome Show podcast that we didn’t expect many Chrome OS devices to debut. So far, we’re right. But that doesn’t mean Chromebooks are a complete no-show at CES 2015: on Tuesday I tracked down the new Acer Chromebook 15 hiding in the nearly 2 million square feet of floor space and spent some time with it.

Acer Chromebook 15 CES

Announced over the weekend, the Acer Chromebook 15 is not just Acer’s first 15.6-inch laptop running [company]Google[/company] Chrome OS, but it’s also the first to use the newest, fifth-generation Intel processors, which officially debuted yesterday.

Indeed, the Acer model I found uses a Broadwell-based Core i3 chip. Essentially, there should be a slight overall performance boost over [company]Intel[/company]’s older Haswell chips found in the Acer C720 Chromebooks — mostly in the graphics department — but longer battery life. Intel said a laptop with its new Core i7, for example, should last 1.5 hours longer than the prior model.

[pullquote person=”” attribution=”” id=”904729″]This is not a computer I’d want to carry around for any length of time.[/pullquote]

Acer still hasn’t said what kind of battery life to expect with the new Chromebook 15; you’ll surely see more with the less expensive Intel Celeron processor over the Core i3 that I used briefly. My guess would be in the 11 to 12 hour range for the Celeron model and 8 to 9 for the Core i3. Once I get a review unit, I’ll be able to confirm that, of course.

But I can’t emphasize enough how big this new Chromebook is. Not only does it have a large 15.6-inch display, but there’s a rather thick bezel around it, making for a huge, nearly 5-pound laptop.

Acer Chromebook 15 size
That gives more room for a keyboard, mousepad and speakers; these sounded OK in my brief time with the computer but on the loud CES show floor, it’s really hard to make a good, early judgement. Regardless, this is not a computer I’d want to carry around for any length of time: This seems more suited to sitting on a desk with occasional mobility.

If you’ve used an Acer Chromebook before, the overall build quality and materials will be familiar: Lots of plastic, a solid but not superb trackpad, and decent keyboard. The 1920 x 1080 display here is improved though: No, this isn’t a high-end IPS panel but it’s quite nice to look at, even from wide angles.

Browsing the web and using a few Chrome apps showed good performance, which I expected since this is the more powerful Core i3 model. As a general test, I ran the Google Octane benchmark and the computer returned a strong, high score over 18,000. (Note: I’d only consider this a first pass test as it’s on a heavily used demo unit.)

Acer Chromebook 15 Octane

That’s easily more than double the score of an ARM-based Chromebook and a nice improvement over last year’s Intel-powered devices as well. It’s not quite Chromebook Pixel performance, however, it’s reasonably close and can be had for about one-fourth the price.

I’m not in the market for big Chromebook but if I were, I’d take a long look at this laptop in either chip configuration. Yes you’ll take a performance hit by stepping down to the Celeron model but you’ll gain in battery life. Hopefully, I can get a closer look at that version because I’m interested in how well Intel’s new Celeron performs in the Acer Chromebook 15.

The new Acer Chromebook 15 starts at $249.99 but that’s with a 1366 x 768 display. Even though I haven’t seen that model, I’d recommend upgrading to the full HD model if your budget allows, mainly because of that large screen: It’s going to look better with more pixels.

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