Google’s new partnership with Acer, and other Chromebook, delivers a new premium type of budget laptop
The news that Acer has unveiled two Chromebooks would not usually cause much fuss, but its new Chromebook Plus 515 and Chromebook Plus 514 machines are different.
They’re among the first wave of a new generation of Chromebooks Google is launching, in partnership with manufacturers today. The main aim of the new designation – Chromebook Plus – is to raise the profile of the devices among certain customers, in particular young professionals and students.
What is Chromebook Plus?
So what’s different about a Chromebook Plus laptop then? Chiefly, it appears to mean a Chromebook with premium components. Both Acer and Asus, a manufacturer that’s also releasing a Chromebook Plus today (the Chromebook Plus CX34), use a similar line to describe them: “Chromebook Plus laptops offer up to double the speed, double the memory, and double the storage.”
This means Chromebook Plus devices will have Intel Core processors, AMD Ryzen and “premium” ARM processors, at least 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. These laptops will likely have 1080p webcams as well.
But there’s more to them than just hardware. It appears there will be new software capabilities over regular Chromebooks as well, among which will be the ability to use AI capabilities such as Magic Eraser and Portrait Blur in Google Photos plus video HDR in.
Above all, though, Google appears to be positioning Chromebook Plus devices as “premium” devices, in an attempt to separate them from the ultra-cheap education focused laptops.
Acer Chromebook Plus 515 and 514: First impressions
If these two new Acer devices are anything to go by, though, it won’t entirely rid Chromebooks of the “budget laptop” stereotype.
For the Acer Chromebook Plus 515, prices start at £400. This is a laptop with 15.6in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) screen, a 12th gen Intel Core i3 CPU, between 8GB and 16GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of SSD storage. Up that to a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU and the price rises to £500.
The 14in Acer Chromebook Plus 514, meanwhile, costs £499 and comes with a 16:10 1,920 x 1,200 screen and an AMD Ryzen 5 7520 C-Series CPU with 8GB to 16GB of RAM and 1256GB SSD. Acer says both laptops are compliant with the military standard MIL-STD-810H testing so they should be reasonably tough.
When I had the chance to try both machines out at a preview event, they both felt reasonably well made with crisp IPS displays, if a little on the dim side, although the largely plastic chassis failed to inspire.
That’s understandable at this price, though, and the important part is that the ergonomics are decent. The keyboards and touchpads on both machines felt pleasant to use from the short time I had with them. The former delivered plenty of travel, spring and positive feedback and the latter’s “ocean glass” recycled plastic surface felt silky smooth to the touch and responsive to swipes, taps and multitouch gestures.
Both Chromebooks will be available from October 2023 in the UK. Look out for our reviews.