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Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: The budget Chromebook that’s built to last

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
269
Inc VAT

It's well made and robust, but the Acer Chromebook 311 C733 is slow and has a low-contrast screen

Pros 
Rugged build
Good usability
Excellent battery life
Cons 
Slow performance
Comparatively thick and heavy
Poor, low-contrast screen
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School laptops don’t tend to be the same as other laptops, especially when they’re headed for the lion’s den of a primary school class. In this market, ruggedisation matters as much as processing power, if not more. Having a great screen and keyboard is arguably less important than having all-day battery life and the kind of build that can make it through a few school years.

The Acer Chromebook 311 C733 is a great example, but don’t a lot of us outside of schools have similar requirements? Aren’t there times when you’d like a real “take anywhere” laptop that doesn’t have to be handled with kid gloves, something cheap and cheerful you can throw into the back seat of the car or bundle in a backpack without worrying? If so, there’s a chance that the Chromebook 311 C733 might fit the bill.

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Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: What you need to know

In most respects, this is a classic budget Chromebook with an Intel Celeron processor and an 11.6in HD screen, but Acer has added some light ruggedisation to make it more appealing for school IT buyers and anyone else who wants a cheap but tough machine. Like any budget Chromebook, it’s designed to handle basic email and browsing duties along with web-based applications, but it can also run the majority of Android apps. With just 32GB of eMMC storage, however, you might not want to go too crazy in the Google Play store.

There are constraints you won’t find on a Windows laptop in terms of what applications you can run, but you may be surprised at how versatile Chromebooks are these days, and at what you can do using web applications alone.

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Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: Price and competition

The Chromebook 311 C733 is a little more expensive than your average 11.6in Chromebook – you could buy the Asus Chromebook C223 or the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook (11in) for £70 to £90 less. However, they won’t have the same rugged build quality. For that, you’d have to look to other education-focused Chromebooks, such as the HP Chromebook 11 Laptop G8 EE or the Dell Chromebook 3100, both of which come in at around the same price.

READ NEXT: The best Chromebooks 

Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: Design

Here, you get what you pay for in terms of ruggedisation. While it’s over 2cm thick and, at 1.25kg, comparatively heavy, the Chromebook 311 C733 feels solid, with a thicker lid than your average Chromebook and a chunky, rubberised bumper protecting all the edges on the base.

With a spill-proof keyboard it’s clearly aimed at the education market, but you might be glad of its tough construction if you’re carrying it around all day from class to class or job to job. Thick rubber pads on the bottom also help keep it anchored to a desk or your lap while you’re out and about, again giving you the impression that this is a machine designed for some hard use.

In fact, there’s a lot that’s very practical about this Chromebook. There’s nothing extraordinary about the connectivity, with just a single USB 3.1 Type-C and a matching Type A on each side of the unit, along with audio and microSD ports, but you have all the basics covered, along with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.

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Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard and trackpad are both no-nonsense affairs – nothing luxurious, but usable, responsive and hard-wearing. The touchpad is plastic and not incredibly glossy, but it doesn’t stick and the integral buttons at the front click down without too much force. And while the keyboard has the light and slightly spongy feel that’s endemic to cheap Chromebooks, it’s nothing that you can’t get used to, and keys actuate consistently when tapped.

Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: Display and sound

Perhaps the biggest disappointment here is the screen. While the peak brightness isn’t awful at 237cd/m², there’s precious little contrast, blacks look grey and the whole display looks fuzzy and dim. Tilt the screen either backwards or forwards from the optimal angle and the contrast fades away and colours soon start to invert. What’s more, colour reproduction is fairly poor, with the screen barely covering 50% of the sRGB gamut and the kind of colour accuracy figures – a Delta E of 8.51 – that’s typical of cheap TN screens.

It’s adequate for browsing and a little light work (or homework), but it’s not the sort of device you’d want to watch videos or play games on – although parents buying one for education duties might consider this a plus. The sound, meanwhile, goes pretty high, but with a painfully thin and treble-heavy tone. You’ll be reaching for your headphones within a minute, and pity the poor teacher with a class full of these turned up loud.

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Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: Performance and battery life

Performance is exactly what you’d expect from a Chromebook in this class. The Celeron N4000 processor dates back to 2017, and it’s something of a two-core, two-thread relic without the power to keep dozens of tabs open or run several more demanding apps at once. Stick to browsing and light productivity apps and you won’t feel the gears grinding, but you have to be realistic about what a Chromebook like this can achieve. Using the Geekbench 5 Android benchmark, we found performance was spot-on average for a budget Chromebook, but pretty poor against new Chromebooks as a whole.

Battery life, however, is fantastic; we hit 12hrs 7mins of video playback before the C733 ran out of juice, putting the 311 C733 ahead of some more expensive Chromebooks, albeit Chromebooks with faster processors and bigger high-resolution screens.

READ NEXT: The best laptops for students 2021  

Acer Chromebook 311 C733 review: Verdict

It’s only the robust build that makes the 311 C733 special. If you want a rugged budget Chromebook with all-day battery life (and then some), then this is a thoroughly decent option, provided you can live with the screen and lack of speed. All the same, you don’t have to spend a whole lot more to find a Chromebook with significantly faster performance and a better screen.

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