Don’t expect high performance or perfection but this is a great Chromebook for the money
- Decent 1080p screen
- Sleek, lightweight 2-in-1 design
- Solid performance and battery life
- Mediocre keyboard
- Average connectivity
- Screen could be brighter
You can understand the fuss about Apple’s M1 MacBooks and the curiosity around ARM-based Windows laptops but, in the world of Chromebooks, ARM-based devices are nothing new. In fact, some of the best-loved Chromebooks – the early Samsung devices, the old Asus Chromebook Flip C101, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet – have been based on ARM silicon.
What makes the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 intriguing, however, is that it isn’t using a low-end MediaTek processor or some repurposed mobile CPU but Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c SoC or “compute platform”, designed specifically for entry-level PCs.
Built to keep power consumption and heat to a minimum, this chip incorporates eight cores running at up to 2.4GHz and an Adreno 618 GPU, which should make it competitive with other Pentium- and Celeron-based Chromebooks we’re seeing at the sub £500 price point, not to mention the AMD A-Series Chromebooks you’ll also find at this level. If the Snapdragon 7c can also deliver on connectivity and battery life, then this could be one exciting Chromebook.
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Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review: What you need to know
This is a new entry into Acer’s mid-range Chromebook Spin line; you don’t quite get the premium 2-in-1 Chromebook experience of the superb Chromebook Spin 713, but you’re getting a faster processor and a bigger, better screen than you’d find on the low-end 11in Chromebook Spin 311.
The Spin 513 is a convertible laptop with a 13.3in, 1080p screen, which can be folded back through nearly 360-degrees to cover all the usual tablet, tent and stand modes, on top of working as a standard clamshell laptop. It’s available with 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a 64GB or 128GB eMMC drive.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review: Price and competition
There aren’t many direct competitors to the Spin 513 at its list price of £400. There are some excellent convertible Chromebooks above £500, including the Chromebook Spin 713, the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 and the increasingly hard to come by Google Pixelbook Go. On the other hand, much of the budget competition is significantly cheaper and also likely to be saddled with weaker 1,366 x 768 screens and Celeron CPUs.
You can find older 14in Asus Chromebooks at around the same price – the Chromebook Flip C433TA and C434, for example – while Lenovo’s lovable IdeaPad Duet is a steal at around £250 to £300, although it’s smaller and not exactly speedy.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review: Design
The Acer Chromebook Spin 513 is both surprisingly compact and more premium in its look and feel than you might expect. Only the lid is aluminium, with the keyboard surround and base both a metallic-looking plastic but it doesn’t have the nasty, sharp-feeling edges of some budget 13in Chromebooks or any alarming flex in either the keyboard or the screen.
The smooth Gorilla Glass-topped display and slim bezels also give it the look of a more expensive laptop and the same goes for the rounded corners and the carefully shaped sides, which do a nice job of reducing the overall bulk.
Not that there is much bulk to start with. It measures a mere 310 x 210mm and is less than 16mm thick at its chunkiest. It weighs only 1.29kg. And, while this means there’s not much physical connectivity, you do get a single USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, along with two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C.
This means you’re stuck with a maximum 5Gbits/sec bandwidth but you can charge at up to 60W with USB-PD or run a DisplayPort output over one of the connections.
As for wireless connectivity, you get dual-band, 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi 5 along with Bluetooth 5.0. Wi-Fi 6 would be better, of course, but that’s a limitation of the Snapdragon 7C SoC.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review: Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard isn’t the Spin 513’s best point. The keys don’t have much travel, and there’s a little bit of wobble in the large flat key tops as you type. On the other hand, the layout is good, with no horribly tiny keys, and there’s no irritating bowing or bouncing in the centre of the keyboard, either. I’ve used a lot worse.
While the touchpad isn’t massive, measuring just 106mm by 65mm, I didn’t find this held me back at all in use. It’s smooth, it tracks movements, taps and gestures accurately and it’s fine for Web browsing and basic document editing. Meanwhile, in tent or tablet modes, the touchscreen is just as responsive. It’s great for touch-driven Android apps or swiping and scrolling through Netflix’s increasingly bizarre categories.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review: Display and sound
If I had to guess where Acer has focussed this Chromebook’s budget, I’d say it was on the screen. There’s none of your 1,366 x 768 TN panel rubbish here but, instead, a Full HD, 1080p IPS display.
Let’s not get too excited, though. Maximum brightness is a middling 256cd/m2, while the contrast ratio is a smidge under 800:1. Yet it covers a reasonable 83.9% of the sRGB colour standard and colour accuracy, with an average delta E colour variance score of 2.8, isn’t bad at all.
Sure, I’d want a little better for colour-critical image editing and something with more punch and richer colours for entertainment but for quick photo edits, browsing and casual streaming, this screen is more than up to the job.
Audio is more of a mixed bag. There’s no shortage of volume and the sound stage is relatively wide, with some decent stereo effects when you’re watching movies or playing games. However, there’s also a tinny edge to the output and a fair bit of congestion in the mid-range. It’s perfectly adequate for work, video calls and casual entertainment, but anything more and you might want to hook up some headphones.
On the subject of video calls, the Spin 513 isn’t a bad option. The video from the built-in HD webcam loses clarity in gloomy lighting but colours are natural and the built-in microphone does a reasonable job of capturing clear sound.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review: Performance and battery life
Qualcomm isn’t claiming the Snapdragon 7c is a high-performance chip; it’s aimed squarely at cost-conscious, energy-efficient devices. And, yes, compared with the Intel Core i3-based Chromebooks you can find for £100 to £200 more, the Chromebook Spin 513 is a little underwhelming.
For example, the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5, with a Core i3-1115G4 and 8GB of RAM scored 1,163 in the Geekbench 5 64-bit single-core benchmark and 2,578 in the multi-core test. It scored 143 in the CRXprt 3 benchmark and 1153.4 in Basemark 3.
The best the Spin 513 can do in Geekbench 5 is 534 (single-core) and 1581 (multi-core), and you’re looking at 49 in CRXprt and 257.36 in Basemark 3. Note that we tested the version with just 4GB of RAM.
The Intel Pentium-based competition throws the Snapdragon 7c in a more positive light. For instance, Acer’s own Pentium N4200-based Chromebook 514 scored only 342 in Geekbench single-core and 1,237 in Geekbench multi-core and came in slightly slower than the Spin 513 on CRXprt 3, with 48. Weirdly, it’s a little faster in Basemark 3, with 267.12.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet, which uses a MediaTek ARM SoC lagged a similar amount behind the Spin 513, scoring 302 and 1,434 in Geekbench 5 and 40 in CRXprt.
It’s far from a speed demon, then, but the Chromebook Spin 513 is faster than Chromebooks at a similar or lower price point, and on another level compared with Celeron-based Chromebooks at the bargain basement end.
In more graphics-heavy tests, the Spin 513, is neck-and-neck with the Chromebook 514 in GFXBench, with an average 26fps in the Manhattan Offscreen benchmark to the Chromebook 514’s 25fps, and 15fps in the Car Chase offscreen benchmark to the Chromebook 514’s 12fps. This isn’t a games machine by any means, but it is a solid Google Stadia vehicle, and you can get away with some of the more lightweight Android titles, too.
In practice, I’ve no complaints about performance. The Spin 513 doesn’t quite have the instant snap of the Spin 713 but it never feels tardy and you have to open a lot of browser tabs before its gears start grinding. For document editing and image editing, it’s absolutely fine. We’d still recommend the 8GB variant over the 4GB version if you can find one, as the Chrome browser and some Web apps are getting greedier when it comes to RAM. However, if your budget only stretches so far, 4GB won’t cause you any problems right now.
As for battery life, our standard looping video test saw the Spin 513 lasting 10hrs 46mins; not an outstanding result but better than the 8hrs 42mins from the Pentium N4200-based Acer Chromebook 514, not to mention the 9hrs 11mins of the Chromebook Spin 713. It’s definitely enough to get you through the average day without a recharge.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review: Verdict
There’s some temptation to damn the Spin 513 with faint praise. It’s not particularly fast and nearly everything about it is solid rather than spectacular. Yet, when you look at what you’re getting for the money – a slick, slimline design, a decent screen, respectable performance and battery life – it’s an attractive proposition.
And, arguably, it’s more usable and versatile than most other sub-£500 devices, Chrome OS, Windows or otherwise.
With a bit more speed, a little more RAM and more storage, the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 would be a truly great Chromebook but, as it is, just good is good enough to be getting on with.