- Review Date:8/15/2013
- Bottom line: The third variation on the Chromebook theme, the Acer C7 Chromebook (C710-2457) drops the price but loses a couple choice features to do so. But even with the changes it's still a bargain.
- Pros: One of the least expensive Chromebooks. Larger RAM means zippy performance. Full selection of ports, including HDMI and Ethernet. Keyboard blends traditional and Chrome layouts.
- Cons: Smaller battery means shorter battery life. Smaller local storage. Chrome OS offers limited offline use. No 3G option.
The laptop PC, as a product category, may be shrinking, but the ultra-budget category has actually seen sales grow, dominated by one name in particular: Chromebook. The ultra-low pricing and Web-centric Chrome operating system have undeniable appeal for shoppers that want a laptop purely for getting online, and the prices are hard to beat. The new Acer C7 Chromebook (C710-2457) is the third Chromebook variation from Acer, starting with the Acer C7 Chromebook (C710-2847) and followed up with the Editors' Choice Acer C7 Chromebook (C710-2055), which boosted performance and battery life with a larger battery and double the installed RAM.
Design and Features
This latest iteration of the C7 Chromebook utilizes a design identical to previous models, with a plastic chassis. It has an 11.6-inch display with 1,366-by-768 resolution, just like an old netbook. It's a little clunky looking, especially when compared with the sleeker lines of the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 (XE303C12), but it's sturdy and compact. Measuring 1.1 by 11.2 by 8.0 inches (HWD) and weighing only 3.04 pounds, this little Chromebook is also pretty portable.
As with the other members of the Acer Chromebook family, the C710-2457 is based on the Acer Aspire V5-171 netbook. To streamline manufacturing, Acer uses the existing keyboard, but with minor tweaks that make it a bit more like the Chrome-specific keyboard seen on the Samsung Series 3 or the Google Chromebook Pixel (64GB, LTE). There's also a small clickpad, with support for one- and two-finger tapping instead of the usual right- and left-click buttons. Google has also tweaked it for faster navigation in Chrome, with simple two-finger scrolling, and an easy click-and-drag function.
So how does the new C7 Chromebook C710-2457 compare to the other C7 Chromebook models? It retains the smaller 4-cell battery of the Acer C710-2847, adds the larger allotment of RAM (4GB instead of 2GB) from the Acer C710-2055, and replaces the 320GB spinning hard drive with 16GB of flash memory, as seen on both the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook and the HP Pavilion Chromebook 14.
The loss of local storage space is a bit of a step back. While Google pushes folks to embrace the cloud completely and commit everything to Google Drive—and even throws in a free 100GB of Google Drive storage to get you started—having local storage space available is a much easier sell than all-cloud-all-the-time. This is especially true when dealing with bandwidth limitations and non-ubiquitous Wi-Fi; while Chrome has significantly increased the number and scope of its apps with offline functionality, local storage may be even more important, making data available when connectivity is not.
Despite the small size, the C7 Chromebook C710-2457 also has a healthy set of features, given the price, with three USB 2.0 ports, a combination headphone and microphone jack, a case lock slot, an integrated card reader (SD/MMC), and an HDMI-out port for connect to a TV or monitor. You'll also find both VGA output and an Ethernet port, two options that required accessory dongles on the Samsung Series 3. In addition to the Ethernet port, the C7 Chromebook (C710-2457) is equipped with 802.11 a/b/g/n WLAN. You won't find Bluetooth, however, or the faster USB 3.0 ports. There's no 3G or 4G LTE equipped configuration available yet. In contrast, the relatively expensive ($329) 3G version of the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 comes with a 3G radio and 100MB per month free service.
Acer covers the C7 Chromebook with a one year warranty on parts and labor, while Google provides searchable tech support guides online for both Chrome OS and the C7 Chromebook.
With the change to RAM, storage type, and battery size, the Acer C7 has its own little niche in the Chromebook family. The C710-2457, with its 4GB of RAM, offers faster performance than the Samsung Series 3 and the HP Pavilion Chromebook 14, and is on par with the Editors' Choice Acer C7 (C710-2055).
With the smaller 4-cell battery, however, it won't last quite as long away from the outlet. In video rundown tests, with a 10-hour streaming YouTube video, the new C710-2457 lasted 3 hours 8 minutes. This isn't terrible, but it's on the short end of the spectrum—the Editors' Choice Acer C7 C710-2055 lasted more than an hour longer thanks to a larger battery, and the Samsung Series 3 lasted 5:25 with a slimmer, non-swappable battery.
While the new Acer C7 Chromebook (C710-2457) gets dinged for the loss of the larger hard drive and the shorter life of the smaller battery, it does have one of the lowest prices of any of the available Chromebooks. For a product that's all about affordability and making the Internet available to all, even that $20 to $50 price difference is worth a lot, but the previous Acer C7 model remains the Editors' Choice due to its longer battery life and larger hard drive.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.