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Acer Chromebook 13 With Tegra K1: Hands-On

acer chromebook 13 nvidia k1  12 640x426Acer and NVIDIA have announced the Acer Chromebook 13, a Chrome OS laptop powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 mobile processor. This laptop contributes to the rising number of non-Windows laptop designs that use a low-power mobile processor. While this is still a nascent trend, it is very encouraging because it creates an opportunity to offer an awesome battery life. This is precisely what Acer has opted for, and according to NVIDIA and ACER, the Acer Chromebook 13 is capable of staying up for up to 13 hours – that’s an extraordinary value to the user.

I’ve had a chance to play with an Acer Chromebook 13, so there was ample time to look at the design, although not really enough time to vouch for the battery performance. For a $279 computer, I found the build quality to be very good, and it used quality plastic that did not look cheap. There are three things that I look at with every laptops: Display, keyboard and trackpad.

Display

acer chromebook 13 nvidia k1  01 640x426The Acer Chromebook 13 has two display options. One with a regular 1366×768 resolution and a more expensive model with a 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution, which sells for a mere $30 more. With all things being equal, I would simply opt for adding $30, but I found that the color rendering and contrast on the 1366×768 display to be better than on the 1080p display. Sharpness or color rendering: you may need to think about which you want more.

Keyboard

acer chromebook 13 nvidia k1  04 640x426I’m a big fan of Chiclet keyboards, and I was pretty happy with the Acer Chromebook 13’s full-size one. The keys felt pretty good to type with and I’d give a thumbs-up for the keyboard construction. This is no ChromePixel or MacBook Pro keyboard, but it is just as good as many keyboards found in $600-$800 laptops. If you wonder, the keyboard is not backlit, which is too bad, but not unreasonable for a $279 laptop…

Trackpad

acer chromebook 13 nvidia k1  13 640x426The trackpad is big and feels very decent. The size factor is pretty important because it relates directly to the over comfort. You don’t have to exert as much muscle control to get the cursor where you want it to be and that’s why large trackpads are so much better. I’m not sure what the surface of this particular one is made of, but it didn’t feel like a high-end trackpad that uses glass. Again, it’s all about quality for the price, and this is very decent here.

Performance

It is legitimate to be wary of performance when using a laptop which is powered by a tablet processor. I have tested a number of demos, and web applications were running pretty well in general. In my experience, PC processors tend to lead to slightly more responsive in terms of user interface, but I would need to use it for a few days to have a better idea of how it perform with my specific use case.

The graphics performance was fairly impressive for this level of power consumption and price point. The Laptop was able to run 3D graphics that can challenge integrated graphics on processors that gobble much more power than this.

I’m not sure how much 3D graphics *you* will use, but it is good to know that even web browsers now heavily use graphics hardware, so I suspect that web page composition will be 97% of the graphics power usage. The good thing about using the graphics chip (GPU) to do the composition is that it is not only higher-performance, but it also consumes less power when compared to using the general purpose processor (CPU) to do it.

Casual games, action games and educational web apps can also benefit from this, and with the rise of WebGL and the ability for C++ games to be recompiled in JavaScript, there are more opportunities to use the graphics processor, which has the exact same feature set as a high-end PC, minus the raw horsepower.

Wrap-up

acer chromebook 13 nvidia k1  05 640x426In conclusion, the Acer Chromebook 13 seems extremely promising. It is very affordable, offers unpatrolled graphics in this power envelope and offers what seems to be the longest battery life on Chromebook. Note that there are three different models. If you want to open a lot of tabs, I recommend getting 4GB of RAM. What do you think?

Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T9B0: 1920×1080 full HD display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB SSD. $299.99 at BestBuy.com.

Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T1UU: 1920×1080 full HD display, 4GB of RAM, 32GB SSD. $379.99 on Amazon.com.

Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN: 1366×768 display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB SSD on Amazon.com.

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