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Acer Chromebook 315 review: Big, but bad

Alan Martin
8 Aug 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
280
inc. VAT

The Acer Chromebook 315 may look like a steal for a 15.6in laptop, but it has serious drawbacks

Pros 
Decent performance
Tempting price
Cons 
Awful keyboard
Weak, washed-out screen
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Some time ago, I remember telling a colleague that I was quite keen on the idea of a big-screened Chromebook. My thinking was something cheap with plenty of screen for multiple windows on the go. 
 
The 15.6in Acer Chromebook 315 has well and truly beaten that ambition out of me. Maybe you can have a sub-£300 big laptop that ticks all my basic requirements, but sadly the 315 ain’t it.

Acer Chromebook 315 review: What you need to know 

As a rule of thumb, the bigger the screen on a laptop, the more you’ll pay but if anything can beat that ‘death and taxes’ inevitability, it’s a Chromebook where the watchwords have always been “cheap and cheerful”. 

So, you’re looking at a 15.6in, 1,366x768 screen and a big chunky footprint to allow it. Within that base is a dual-core, 1.6GHz AMD A4-9120C processor backed by 4GB RAM. Pretty wimpy for a Windows laptop, but fine for ChromeOS. If you want a little more, Acer also has a version with a 1.8GHz AMD A6 processor and a 1080p display. 

Acer Chromebook 315 review: Price and competition

And the magic number for that is £280. Or £300 for the version with the sharper screen and slightly snappier A6 processor.

Our list of the best cheap laptops doesn’t include anything that’s 15.6in, and there’s a reason for that: bluntly, if you’re getting something for £300 with a screen that big, it likely isn’t very good.
 
But from a quick dig around, there are some Windows 10 options that match the brief. There’s the Lenovo IdeaPad 330S, with its 2.5GHz Ryzen R3 processor, currently selling for £300 at John Lewis. Or the Asus VivoBook F407MA with a Pentium N5000 processor for £300 at Currys PC World. So there are options, but you’ll likely be making some kind of sacrifices for that screen size – probably in the display quality or the performance. 
 
Plus-sized laptops with ChromeOS are equally scarce, and there’s nothing above 13in in our guide to the best Chromebooks. So a clear run for the Acer Chromebook 315 then...

Acer Chromebook 315 review: Design

When closed, the Acer Chromebook 315 looks pretty smart. It’s made of plastic, but could pass for metal at a glance, until you pick it up to find that your sense of touch isn’t so easily fooled. 

Open it up, and it feels like a throwback to laptops of a decade ago, with 1.5cm bezels either side of the screen and 2cm ones top and tailing it. Despite all this extra space, the keyboard, weirdly, is actually smaller than that on my 13.3in Surface Laptop 2, with no numpad to speak of. This means that the speakers can live on top of the laptop, but quite frankly I’d rather have more space for keys, as I can’t see this ever becoming anyone’s go-to Netflix player.
 
The (relatively) tiny keyboard means that most of the base of the laptop is a sea of plain silver, with only the 5in trackpad drawing the eye at all.
 
Given the huge expanse of space, you’d hope that Acer would go nuts on the connectivity, and it’s actually pretty good, even if there is space for more. There are two USB-C ports (one for charging, but it also works with a dongle I plugged in), two USB-A ports, a microSD card slot, a Kensington lock and a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Acer Chromebook 315 review: Keyboard and touchpad

I’m writing this review on the Chromebook 315’s dinky keyboard, and it’s not a happy experience. As well as being more cramped than you’d imagine a 15.6in laptop should be, it’s just not hugely good. 

The keys feel quite cheap to the touch, and I would say that for every ten or so presses of the spacebar, one simply doesn’t register. There’s no rhyme or reason to this: it just means I’m doing a lot of jumping back and forth correcting typos. That last sentence was especially bad, with four presses not registered. And there’s another one, now. 
 
This could just be a faulty unit, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and even if it weren’t for the missing spaces, this wouldn’t be a keyboard I’d be gushing about. I keep pressing the ChromeOS ‘search’ button by mistake, for one thing, which really disrupts the flow. 
 
The touchpad fares a bit better, with nice smooth scrolling, and plenty of space for your fingers to roam. It requires a little force to click in, so you’ll still likely be wanting to get your hands on a good external mouse, but it does the job well enough when required.

Acer Chromebook 315 review: Display

The screen isn’t as bad as the keyboard, but it’s a long way from being good. While it’s nice to have a 15.6in display, the colours are weak, it’s not very bright and, thanks to a very low contrast ratio, everything looks extremely washed out.

This is all confirmed with a little help from our trusty colourimeter. Peak brightness was measured at 230cd/m2, and the contrast reached a very low 341:1. The display only manages to cover 59.1% of the sRGB spectrum, too.
 
To be clear, these figures are poor, but I don’t want to overdo my criticism here. It is, after all, a budget laptop, and if you’re dead set on getting a big screen at this price, then it’s unlikely you’re going to get a world-beater. Just be prepared for the reality and if you have the opportunity, do try and use one in-store before handing over any money.

Acer Chromebook 315 review: Performance and battery life

One thing you can say about the Chromebook 315 – and indeed, all Chromebooks – is that it punches above its weight in terms of performance. ChromeOS is suitably lightweight that the machine’s budget-level dual-core 1.6GHz AMD A4 processor and 4GB RAM aren’t too much of a drag. It boots up quickly, and is quite happy jumping between tabs in Chrome.

But, to be clear, that’s likely all you’ll be doing with it. The trade-off anyone has to contend with when they buy a Chromebook is that they’re becoming part of a web-first ecosystem. You’d best be happy with Google Docs and Gmail, in other words.

  

This also applies to games, which makes actually benchmarking the thing tricky. We have a handy tool that work around ChromeOS’s limitations, so can reveal it managed 23fps in the WebGL Aquarium benchmark. That puts it in a better position than Acer’s 2018 14in Chromebook, the CB3-431, which managed just 9fps in the same challenge. The larger 2019 model also bests it on Mozilla’s Kraken 1.1 benchmark with 4,092ms – a big improvement on last year’s 5,235ms. But to be clear, a seventh-generation Intel Core i7 does the same task in 622ms, so we’re kind of splitting hairs. 
 
Acer says the 4,670mAh battery life will last ten hours, but in our battery test – a looped locally-stored video at 170cd/m2 brightness – it only managed five hours and 33 minutes. That’s far from the weakest battery we’ve ever seen, and you’ll do a lot better just by noodling around the web, but it’s still a touch dispiriting for those that need their machine to last a long day, especially given its weak maximum screen brightness.     

Acer Chromebook 315 review: Verdict 

A 15.6in laptop for under £300 was always going to have strings attached, and for my money, the ones that figuratively hang off the Acer Chromebook 315 do not make up for its cheap price.
 
The biggest problem is the keyboard, which feels too cramped and unreliable for a productivity-focused machine. But even if it were fine, the washed-out, ropey screen is really not something that benefits from being stretched to 15.6in.
 
My recommendation would be to save a little longer and spend a bit more on something far better, or bite the bullet and settle for something smaller but more perfectly formed.