To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: Leading the charge

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £399
inc VAT

Chromebook Plus brings useful enhancements to a strong, affordable Chromebook, let down slightly by a gloomy screen


  • Good design with comfortable keyboard
  • Decent levels of performance
  • Useful Chromebook Plus software enhancements


  • Dim, dull screen
  • Harsh and tinny audio
  • Mediocre battery life

Google and its Chromebook partners seem concerned that Chromebooks are suffering from an image problem. It appears that too many of us, when we think of Chromebooks, dream of cheap and cheerful devices with basic screens and limited specs, aimed at schools or at students doing homework. We simply don’t understand that modern mid-range and high-end Chromebooks are capable of so much more.

Google’s response is a new designation – Chromebook Plus – to let buyers know that they’re not looking at your classic bargain basement Chromebook, but at a product that reaches a higher level. Chromebook Plus machines ship with 128GB or more of storage, a minimum Intel Core i3 or equivalent processor, a 1080p webcam and a minimum 1080p display. What’s more, they pack in some enhancements to the core OS, and have Chromebook Plus-exclusive software features. This goes hand-in-hand with UI improvements designed to bring the look and feel of Chrome OS more in line with Google’s Pixel phones.

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is the first of these new models through the door: a slimline 14in Chromebook in the same vein as last year’s Acer Chromebook 514 (CB514-1W) but with the upgraded specs needed to meet Google’s Chromebook Plus requirements. What’s more, it’s also the first Chromebook we’ve seen with one of AMD’s new Chromebook-specific Ryzen 3 processors.

READ NEXT: The best Chromebooks to buy today

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: What you need to know

The Chromebook Plus 514 is a 14in Chromebook with an AMD Ryzen 3 7320C CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. It differs from previous Acer Chromebook 514 models both in the choice of processor and the screen. Chromebooks have to have a minimum 1080p resolution screen in order to meet the Plus criteria, but Acer has gone one better and fitted a 16:10 aspect ratio 1,920 x 1,200 IPS panel, giving you more screen space to work with and a slightly crisper image.

The Ryzen 3 processor, meanwhile, is a variant of the existing Ryzen 3 7320U, with the same four cores running eight threads at speeds of up to 4.1GHz. The chip also has an integrated RDNA2 GPU, although as the Radeon 610M has only two graphics cores to play with, you can’t expect much in the way of graphics performance. To put it in perspective, the Radeon 660M in the higher-end Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors has eight RDNA2 graphics cores, as does the custom Aerith APU in Valve’s Steam Deck. Still, you’re getting a fast spec at what is a budget laptop price.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: Price and competition

Acer isn’t alone in launching Chromebook Plus units, with Asus, HP and Lenovo all on the same bandwagon. Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5 14 Chromebook Plus is a close competitor, with a 2-in-1 design and an Intel Core i3-1215U CPU, while Asus has its Chromebook Plus CX34 with the same Full HD screen and Core i3 spec. The Asus sells for around £430, while the Lenovo is a little more expensive at around £500.

Asus also sells a cheaper AMD variant of its excellent Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip with a slightly lower-spec screen and the Ryzen 3 7320C, the Chromebook Plus CM34 Flip, for around £400. The Chromebook Plus 514 currently sells for £399, making it one of the least expensive options.

To make things more confusing, Google and partners are also upgrading some existing Chromebooks to Chromebook Plus status, including favourites like the Acer Chromebook Spin 714, Vero 514 and Chromebook 516 GE or Lenovo’s IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook and Gaming Chromebook 16.

Check price at Very

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: Design

In terms of its basic design, the Chromebook Plus 514 is a comparatively conventional clamshell, with no 360-degree hinge or touchscreen as you might find on one of Acer’s Chromebook Spin devices. Where Acer has tended towards metallic shells for its mid-range and high-end Chromebooks, the construction here is mostly plastic, but it’s none the worse for it. There’s minimal flex in the lid and some attractive use of textures, while the base feels very solid with no uncomfortable sharp edges. These occasionally crop up on cheaper aluminium chassis.

Acer claims the Chromebook Plus 514 meets MIL-STD-810H standards, so it should be pretty tough as well. Measuring 319 x 227 x 19.9mm (WDH) closed, it’s easy to fit into a bag or backpack and at 1.45kg, won’t weigh you down.

The backlit keyboard sits sandwiched between two upward-firing speaker grills, with enough space either side of the unusually large trackpad to give your palms ample support while you type. As for connectivity, you get a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port on each side of the laptop, along with USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 and HDMI 1.4 ports on the left-hand side. There’s also a 3.5mm audio socket, Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6, so while you don’t get the Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6E connectivity we’re seeing on some premium Chromebooks, all the fundamentals are covered.

It’s worth mentioning that Chrome OS has had a significant UI upgrade over the last month, bringing in the Material You styling familiar from smartphones running Android 12 and above. There’s not a huge difference in terms of functionality, but the changes reinforce the fact that Chrome OS has become as stylish and accessible a working environment as MacOS or Windows, even if its online focus means that, say, getting your head around how files are stored and managed takes a little getting used to.

Chromebook Plus itself improves things with improved offline sync capabilities, making sure that files you use regularly stay synced between cloud-based and local versions for both online and offline use. This definitely helps when working with larger media files. All the same, it’s still not as transparent an approach as you’ll find in other operating systems, and if you like having folders full of files on your desktop, Chrome OS still isn’t set up for that kind of thing.

READ NEXT: These are our pick of the finest laptops to buy right now

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: Keyboard and trackpad

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514’s keyboard isn’t perfect, but it gets the basics right. The layout follows Chromebook conventions and avoids any serious disasters. The Launcher key is prominent without being too large. And the Shift, Ctrl, Alt and Return keys are all sensibly sized. The backlighting has five levels of brightness and keeps the legends visible in all kinds of lighting. I’d like a slightly crisper, clickier action, but there’s a decent amount of travel, and I never felt hamstrung when writing or editing Google Docs or composing emails. The solid-feeling deck and consistent feel definitely help.

Acer also scores some extra brownie points by fitting an unusually large touchpad for a 14in device. It measures 125 x 82mm, extending nearly to the bottom edge of the wristrest, and Acer’s OceanGlass recycled plastic surface makes for smooth and responsive tracking.

Check price at Very

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: Display and sound

If there’s one key area where the Chromebook Plus 514 falls short, it’s the display. The 14in size, 16:10 aspect ratio and 1,920 x 1,200 resolution aren’t the problem, giving you a good space for working across multiple apps and Browser windows or lightweight image-editing in Google Photos and the Web-based version of Adobe Photoshop. The issue is that the display is dim. I measured maximum brightness at just 258cd/m2, with a contrast ratio of 1,366:1.

Even this doesn’t look bad in gloomy conditions or when you’re working in the evenings, but bring some ambient light or direct sunlight into the situation and the image starts to look washed out. It doesn’t help that colour reproduction could be stronger. sRGB coverage is limited to just 64%, and I measured the average Delta E at 3.75.

Despite the DTS branding, the sound is another weak point. At all volume levels, it’s thin and lacking in substance, but turn the volume up and it grows harsher and harder to listen to, with some nasty mid-range peaks. If you want to stream video or play some background music while you work, some headphones are going to be a must.

READ NEXT: The best 2-in-1 laptops to buy

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: Performance and battery life

This isn’t the first Chromebook with an AMD CPU, but where previous models have used Athlon Gold and Silver processors, the Chromebook Plus 514 uses a more powerful but still energy-efficient Ryzen 3. In benchmarks, it’s pretty close to what we’d expect from an Intel Core i3-based Chromebook.

Its Geekbench 6 scores of 1,167 (single-core) and 3,514 (multi-core) fall below those of the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip with its 12th-gen Core i5, at 1,805 and 6,517. However, they put it comfortably ahead of the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 with its Core i3-N305 and scores of 1,025 and 2,663.  Where the latter scores 131 in the JetStream 2 benchmark, the Chromebook Plus 514 scores 185. In WebXprt 4, we’re talking 202 from the Chromebook Plus 514 to the Lenovo’s 163.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 Geekbench 6 chart

As I said, don’t get too excited by the built-in RDNA2 graphics hardware. With scores of 25fps and 26fps in the GFXBench Car Chase benchmark (at native resolution and offscreen), and 28fps and 24ps in the Aztec benchmark with normal settings, the Chromebook Plus 514 posts slower results than the IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14. The latter, with its weedy Core i3 N305, scored 33fps/30fps and 37fps/32fps in the Car Chase and Aztec tests.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 Multitasking chart (secs)

What this means is a Chromebook that feels very snappy and immediately responsive in everyday use. Even with a couple of windows and twenty tabs open, some running video, Google Sheets and Google Docs, the Chromebook Plus 514 never seemed to get bogged down. You’ll want something with a little more 3D performance if you want to play Android games, but then game streaming using NVIDIA GeForce Now or Xbox Games Pass Ultimate is a better bet on Chromebooks, anyway.

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 WebXprt 3 chart

The really interesting thing about this Chromebook’s performance, however, is the enhanced software. Some of the improvements are just nice to have, like the Chromebook Plus exclusive wallpapers and screensavers that subtly shift colour or lighting in the background, to match the time of day. Others are genuinely impressive, like the enhanced version of Google Photos with the Pixel’s signature Magic Eraser tool added in. Load a picture and brush or circle some unwanted object or person, and it’s removed, without leaving any trace – in a flash.

I also like the new AI webcam tools, which pop into the taskbar when you start up a Google Meet chat. There’s nothing fancy and no complex controls; just immediately accessible options to blur the background and improve the lighting that work visibly better than most software enhancements I’ve used. I’m not sure this stuff is enough to sell Chromebook Plus as a concept, but it demonstrates a tangible distinction.

I was hoping for big things from the Chromebook 514’s battery life, but it left me a little underwhelmed. Nine hours and 13 minutes of looping HD video isn’t bad, but it’s a long way behind the 12 hours and 29 minutes of the plucky Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 or the 13 hours and 19 minutes of the premium Acer Chromebook Spin 714.

Check price at Very

Acer Chromebook Plus 514 review: Verdict

While there’s an air of marketing nonsense around the whole Chromebook Plus concept, this doesn’t change the fact that the Chromebook Plus 514 is a fine mid-range Chromebook, marred only by its mediocre battery life and gloomy screen.

Performance is just where it needs to be and there’s very little wrong with the design, the touchpad or the keyboard, and we’d be falling over ourselves to recommend it if it only had a brighter and punchier display. As is, it’s still a strong option at this price point, but one of a group of exciting new Chromebooks rather than the leader of the pack.

Read more