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Acer Chromebook 15 review – hands on

We put the first 15in Chromebook through its paces here at CES 2015

Well that was fast – no sooner had we posted news of Acer becoming the first manufacturer to release a 15in Chromebook, we got the chance to actually put one through its paces ahead of CES 2015 kicking off in earnest. It might have been in a more mainstream black colour than the fetching white finish seen in the official press images, but there’s no mistaking the Chromebook 15 for a regular laptop once you boot into Google’s cut-down operating system.

With a minimal design, textured finish on the lid and underside of the machine, prominent Chrome logo and lack of a Windows key on a keyboard, it’s also fair to say the Chromebook 15 stands out even before you press the power key. It’s neither thin nor light for a 15in machine, weighing 2.2kg and bulging to 24mm at its thickest point, but it’s still reasonably portableso you could take it with you on the move if you had to. More mobile users should still opt for a 13in Chromebook though, however convenient the larger screen may be for productivity.

You only get two USB ports, one on either side of the laptop, and only one of those has the faster USB3 standard. You do at least get an SD card reader, full-size HDMI video output and a 3.5mm audio jack, plus 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity. As with almost all Chromebooks, you’ll need to rely on cloud storage and streaming services rather than storing multimedia files locally, as (depending on the model) you only have 16 or 32GB of inbuilt flash storage at your disposal.

The 15.6in, Full HD display is clearly the Chromebook 15’s highlight, whether you plan on browsing the web, working on multiple documents side-by-side or watching multimedia content. We didn’t think colour accuracy was particularly impressive, even at the maximum brightness setting, although we could comfortably read the screen in a brightly lit room with light seeping in from outside. Reflections weren’t a major issue, as the screen has a matt finish, but the increased resolution certainly made a difference when reading and writing documents with small fonts. Although Chrome OS isn’t exactly a powerhouse when it comes to image editing, what limited tools are available will also be able to take advantage of the extra pixels, saving you the need to zoom quite so frequently.

We couldn’t really give the large stereo speakers, which sit either side of the keyboard, a proper workout at the reveal event, but they should be sufficient for watching YouTube videos without having to reach for a pair of headphones first.

The keyboard was another plus point, feeling comfortable to type on with full-size keys placed sensibly apart. Each key has a reasonable amount of travel and springs back into place quickly. There’s ample space for resting your wrists either side of the expansive touchpad, too, so you should be able to work for hours without getting uncomfortable. As we’ve come to expect from Chromebooks, the function keys at the top of the keyboard have been replaced with Chrome OS-specific keys. It isn’t backlit, but this shouldn’t be a surprise at this price.

As well as the first 15in Chromebook, the Chromebook 15 also looks set to be one of the first Chromebook laptops to use Intel’s latest Broadwell CPUs. Acer is giving customers the choice of a 5th Generation Core i3 or a Broadwell Pentium processor, along with either 2 or 4GB of RAM, although whichever model you opt for it should be more than powerful enough to browse the web or run Chrome OS apps. We had no trouble opening multiple tabs and switching between windows. We couldn’t best the processor’s raw performance without any benchmarks to hand, and battery life is still an unknown, although Acer has suggested it will last 8 hours on a full charge.

If you’re looking to pick up a 15in Chromebook, expect Acer to launch the Chromebook 15 in the coming months for around €279, which is roughly £218 before tax or VAT. It’s great to see Google’s operating system being put to use in larger machines, as the extra screen space makes it much easier to multitask. Hopefully we’ll be giving the Chromebook 15 a more thorough review a little closer to launch.

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