241 of 256 people found the following review helpful
Great for Some. Others Will Want to Spend £30 More,
This review is from: Acer C7 11.6-inch Chromebook (2GB RAM, 320GB HDD) (Personal Computers)
The included video only serves to show that I have physically had the C7 in my possession.
This will be a long review. For those wanting a short summary, I'll include one at the end.
I've also reviewed the Samsung Chromebook (review here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R1TDZZQO7C64R5/) and I mention that because I will be comparing this device to what the Samsung unit offers in every category, so you can make an informed decision.
This review will follow the same format as my Samsung Chromebook review. If you've not read it, you may want to, but it's not necessary.
Though I will obviously be reviewing the Acer C7 here, the obvious question many will have is whether they should buy this or the Samsung Chromebook. Both came out recently and run almost identical software, but the hardware is different.
I've had the Cr-48 (the very first Chromebook, which Google gave out to test the software, a long time ago) for a long time and bought the most recent Samsung Chromebook as it seemed like the first model that was so much better that I wanted to buy it. I was lent the Acer C7 for a limited time to review it, as it came out after the unit that I bought not long ago.
For those unclear, Chrome OS (which the Chromebook runs) is fundamentally different to a Windows, Mac or Linux-based laptop, desktop or netbook. This is because it runs the web. No native applications exist specifically for this machine. There are apps (sometimes referred to as Chrome apps) but they also work in the Chrome browser.
Where this Chromebook differs from the latest Samsung model is that the software that enables things like Netflix (called Native Client) and some of the really great games available for Chrome and the Chrome operating system to work, works right now. The reason why Samsung Chromebook users need to wait is that the Samsung Chromebook uses a different type of processor than other Chromebooks and Native Client needs to be updated to work for it. This Acer model has that available right now, so Netflix works right now.
Because this computer runs what many call 'just a browser' it has several advantages, as well as disadvantages when compared to a Windows machine. I've chosen Windows for most comparisons here as more people typically use Windows than a Mac or Linux machine.
You cannot install Windows applications (or other native software) on Chrome OS. This means that the computer can operate more securely than a Windows machine simply because the computer knows what should be installed. If something is there that shouldn't be there, the computer will erase all local data and install a version of the software that's stored in a secure area. Once you're connected to the internet, you'll be updated to the most recent version of the operating system. As your settings, bookmarks and Chrome applications are stored by Google, they are also restored after the machine is reset and you log in. Typically the operating system is updated every 6 weeks, meaning bugs get fixed pretty quickly (important bug fixes will arrive more quickly) and new features are released quickly, too.
Getting things done
This is where the big problem is for some people; you can't install Microsoft Office, Adobe's Photoshop or other software packages. You're limited to software that's delivered through a website. Most people are perfectly comfortable with using things like Facebook, Twitter and email this way. The web offers some pretty powerful tools, though. For instance, pretty sophisticated image editing software exists on-line, as do audio and video editing tools. Using the massive resources of the internet (typically referred to as 'the cloud') means that video editing and other resource-intensive tasks can be made dramatically quicker than doing it locally. Make no mistake though, if you do need something like Photoshop it's just not possible, unless you use software specifically designed to deliver 'normal' software through the web. Companies like Citrix offer products that can do that, but given the additional cost, it's usually only big businesses that use them.
If you don't need extremely-specialised software though, there's a lot available. Google, Zoho and Microsoft all offer tools that will let you create, open and export documents in popular formats, such as Microsoft Office. There are advantages to this approach, too. Google Docs (as an example) allows individuals to use their on-line document, spreadsheet and presentation software free of charge and, even better, you can collaborate with up to 50 people on the same document, practically in real-time. This sort of thing just isn't typically possible with traditional software. Where it is, it's likely to be clunkier than a web-based tool as a website just lets you login and work.
Calendars, Angry Birds, finance tools (Sage and QuickBooks are available through the browser) are all also available in this way. It's worth checking out if the things you'll want to do are available in this way before ordering a Chromebook.
There are also many off-line capable applications. That is, things that will work without an internet connection. These include Google Documents (editing and viewing) Google Docs spreadsheets (viewing) and things like Google Calendar. Keep in mind though that this is primarily a device for accessing the internet. Without a connection, this device is extremely-limited. Applications delivered through a browser will get more and more capable over time, though.
In this area, the machine has an advantage over the Samsung Chromebook due to its much larger local storage. It has a 320GB hard drive versus a 16GB drive in the most recent Samsung model. More on that later.
As I've said, not everything is available through a browser. Critical things that people take for granted either aren't available or are very different on a Chromebook.
It's not possible to watch MKV video files (at the time this was written) for example, without converting them. That's a big pain for some. Printing is different too, as you can't just plugin a printer on Chrome OS and have it work. For those that are curious, Google has a service called Cloud Print, which involves hooking up your printer to the internet. This approach does have an advantage in that you're able to print to your printer from anywhere with an internet connection, either from a mobile device or any installation of Chrome. For those without a printer that can connect to the internet independently of a regular computer, you can enable a normal printer by installing Chrome on a Windows, Mac or Linux machine and running it that way. That does however mean that the host of that printer (the Windows, Mac or Linux computer) would have to be on in order for the printer to print.
Typically, Chromebooks come with a 16GB hard drive. As noted earlier this is not the case with this machine. It comes with 320GB of local storage (before the operating system is installed - which doesn't take up much) which makes it closer to a typical laptop in that regard. A typical Windows machine will come with a minimum of 500GB and often far more. Acer likely chose to do this with their Chromebook in order to not force users to rely on on-line storage for anything but the absolute essentials, file-wise.
Google Drive is Google's on-line storage service. It stores files from Google Docs and will store pretty much any type of file, too. A key thing is that it integrates with the file system, meaning you can save files directly to your account (Drive can be used on Windows and other computers, as well as Android and iOS devices) and access them from whichever device you're using.
By default, Drive comes with 5GB of storage. This isn't a huge amount, but for free on-line storage it's pretty typical. Many other services actually offer much less. However, if you buy a recent Chrome device (including this model, the latest Samsung and a couple of other units from earlier this year) you get 100GB free for two years, which is very useful given that it can be used across many devices. If after two years you're using more than whatever the normal free allowance is at that point (things do change) and you've not qualified for some other promotion, you'll no longer be able to add new files. Your existing data will be accessible, meaning files will not be deleted.
Another great thing about Drive is that files can be shared with others. Google Docs files are not counted towards your storage.
Again, it's worth noting that other great on-line storage solutions exist, such as Dropbox and Box. The difference of course is that they're not tightly-integrated with the Chromebook.
This new Chromebook is running a dual-core Intel Celeron chip, clocked at 1.1GHz. That may sound slow given the demands of a typical Windows machine, but it's very quick because of the low resource use of Chrome OS. This Chromebook boots in around 20 seconds (much faster than a typical Windows laptop) and you can be on-line with your normal tabs open in under a minute with ease.
There a couple of points worth noting here. While the processor in this Chromebook is more powerful than the recent Samsung model, the larger capacity hard drive in this Acer unit is slower. The much smaller capacity hard drives typically found in a Chromebook (called an SSD, or solid state drive - what have no moving parts) are much faster. This means that although the Samsung unit has a slower processor, it boots up faster (around 7 seconds versus 20) and never has one of those 'the computer is thinking' moments, when the drive has to spin and you experience a brief slowdown.
It's important to decide whether more local storage or a machine that boots up more quickly and often feels snappier is more important to you. I'll cover that more later, though.
The keyboard on this unit is not typical of a Chromebook. If you've never experienced another Chromebook keyboard you may be very happy with it, but for me it felt cramped and like Acer was just trying to squeeze too much in. This is because Chromebooks typically have less keys. Several keys are missing (things like page up and down, insert, home and one of the delete keys) and the caps lock key is replaced by a search key.
I've found the changes to the typical Chromebook keyboard well-suited and more comfortable than a Windows keyboard. The reduced number of keys make the keyboard feel spacious and comfortable. The reason the Acer C7 keyboard feels bad to me is that as well as having all those keys that I mentioned being removed, it has the Chrome search key. This means all the keys are smaller than necessary. Again, though, you might be perfectly happy with this. If you have big or average sized hands, you may well prefer the typical Chromebook layout, though.
Aside from my issues with the layout, the C7 keyboard is fairly responsive and I can type on it well enough. I just prefer the keyboard of my Samsung Chromebook. You may prefer this model's keyboard, though. The trackpad is pretty responsive and generally very good. Again, I did prefer the Samsung model's trackpad. However, the difference was very small in this case.
The C7 is extremely responsive due to it needing very few resources to operate. The recent Samsung model will often have problems if you try to have a lot of tabs open. However, the more powerful processor in this machine makes it more able to handle having many tabs open. I feel that the slower hard drive is a shame, but as I've noted, there are benefits to that.
The major problem with this machine is the advertised (depending on source) 3.5 to 4 hours of battery life. I don't use many regular Windows laptops so this may well be the norm, but the Samsung model has around 6.5 to 7 hours of battery life.
Again, I'm comparing every feature that I feel is relevant in order to give you the information you need to decide which is right for you. I have a personal preference, but this is an honest review and if you're in the market for a Chromebook, I feel that you should choose which is right for you. During my usage about 3 to 4 hours seemed right, depending on what the machine was doing. Watching a HD YouTube video at maximum brightness is obviously going to drain the battery far more quickly than editing a document off-line with Wi-Fi turned off and the brightness set to low.
Another comparison I feel relevant is the screen. In this case it really is a personal preference, as there isn't one that I feel is better.
Both this and the Samsung Chromebook have a relatively cheap laptop screen, as you'd expect for the price of the two units. The difference is that this screen is glossy and the model to which I frequently compare it has a matte screen. The difference is that a glossy screen will produce richer, more vibrant colours, but cannot be used in direct sunlight. A matte screen, however doesn't look so nice (and in this comparison, isn't as bright as the C7's screen) but can be used with direct light on the screen. As this is a laptop and laptops are designed to be portable, using it outside is a possibility. On a sunny day, the matte screen would obviously be better. If however you don't plan on using your Chromebook outside and want a brighter screen with better colour reproduction, the C7 is better in this regard.
On this particular unit you'll find three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, an ethernet (wired internet connection) port, HDMI out (for outputting the contents of the screen to a television or computer monitor) as well as a Kingstong hardware lock for securing the Chromebook. It also has an SD card reader.
The Samsung model has less options than the C7. It features the following: one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI out and an SD card reader.
External USB hard drives work fine in my experience and many phones are treated properly as mass storage too. However certain devices such as external optical (CD/DVD) drives will not work at all.
Another comparison that might matter to you is weight. Though not much heavier on paper, the Samsung model is noticeably lighter than the C7. Neither are particularly heavy, but I could definitely tell the difference.
It should be noted that since Chromebooks are essentially stateless (that is, they have little personal data stored on them) they can be wiped at any time without a problem and you can start over. This also means that they can easily be shared and Chrome devices (a desktop version, called a Chromebox also exists) have something called Guest Mode, which allows a friend to browse the web without accessing your settings or bookmarks and when they're done, their browsing history is automatically deleted. For those with whom you share your Chrome device regularly, you can add them to the list of permanent users.
Which should you buy?
If what you've read about Chromebooks appeals to you and the price difference (around £30 or thereabouts) doesn't seem like a lot, which one is right for you? I would suggest that if you absolutely need as much battery life and portability as possible, the Samsung model would serve you better.
If however, local storage matters to you and the battery life and keyboard aren't really issues to you, this model could serve you well. Netflix being available right now may be important to you too and if that is the case, the C7 is the one to get.
Both are very good devices, as long as you're aware of the limitations of the Chromebook concept and the benefits (security and speed, primarily) and confident that that will work for you.
Essentially, if you use the web most of the time (this is what most computer users do) or want a second machine that can be used without any technical knowledge for that purpose by others in your household, this is an ideal device. If, however, you like to play a lot of 'real' video games or access specialised software, chances are that a Chromebook isn't for you. That said, this device is cheap enough that you can buy one for the living room or to use while you watch television. Due to the price of this machine, it's most likely to be compared to a low-end Windows machine (which are typically very slow) or a tablet, such as a Nexus 7.
If you want easy web access and don't care at all about typing, I'd suggest a tablet. A good quality tablet can (at the time of this review) be had for £159, including a high definition screen. But if typing and web access matters to you, I'd seriously consider this device or the Samsung model.
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Dec 2012 21:45:25 GMT
So... if internet access is not easily available (where this machine would be used, in West Africa), a Windows machine would be more suitable?
In reply to an earlier post on 19 Dec 2012 15:11:26 GMT
For the most part, yes. However, it depends on what you want to do and how often you can access the internet. If you're wanting a cheap machine to do word processing and save files and can access the internet when you need to print or search etc, one of these would be great. If the need of internet access to print is a big deal-breaker, then yes, a Windows or Linux machine (which I'm suggesting for cost, primarily) would be better in your case.
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Dec 2012 10:49:11 GMT
Mr. L. L. Prosser says:
are the speakers as bad on yours as on mine ? no bass and full volume is not loud enough, really tinny sound
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Dec 2012 23:18:09 GMT
They're not great. I think the Samsung model wins that round. Neither are stellar, though.
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2012 11:04:11 GMT
Mr. L. L. Prosser says:
ive resorted to headphones.
the only bad point on a great bit of tech
In reply to an earlier post on 24 Dec 2012 12:36:29 GMT
Indeed. I expected to hate it, but side-by-side (when compared to the Samsung model) it's pretty good.
Posted on 31 Dec 2012 10:19:37 GMT
LINDA Allen says:
Is a Chrome book suitable for internet shopping? Also, I assume I can print to my home printer, which is connected via my home hub?
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jan 2013 20:36:42 GMT
It's a browser, basically, so it's of course fine for shopping. However, you can't just use a regular printer. If you don't have a printer that works with cloud print (you can check this out by Googling cloud print or heading to google.com/cloudprint), you'll need to have it plugged in to a machine that's already running Chrome when you print. It's an annoyance, but it offers more flexibility and means you can share access to your printer and print from many devices.
Posted on 2 Jan 2013 21:40:01 GMT
Thanks for taking the time to do such a thorough review of both of these machines. I am quite interested in the Chromebook and have some Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket. However, I have an iPad, my wife has a Kindle Fire, I have a laptop of my own, which is starting to slow and we each have a laptop for work. Is there anything a Chromebook can offer us? What can I do on one that I cannot already do? The cheap price is attractive but I just don't know if it is something I need.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2013 14:01:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jan 2013 14:02:00 GMT
Each of the things you've described are good for different things. That said, I'm no fan of the Kindle Fire but that's personal preference. I don't think it's fair to compare a Chromebook to a tablet (whether iPad/Mini, Nexus 7/10 or Kindle Fire/HD) or e-reader as they're better at different things. I certainly prefer watching Netflix on a tablet, for instance, as the screen is closer and it's a nicer experience. Part of that is personal preference, but I hope you get my point.
I'd compare a laptop (or even a desktop computer) to the Chromebook.
What a Chromebook will get you that an ageing laptop won't give you is improvements over time. As a Chromebook is essentially a fast, secure tool for browsing and typing, it will get faster over time, just as an installation of Google's Chrome browser does. It will also require no maintenance of any kind and boot and shut down extremely-quickly. For me, the big sell is the speed and great keyboard. Obviously, if you need native applications, this will be no good.
If however, you want to type a lot or just be able to pick something up when you want a real keyboard (whether it be to fire off a lengthy status update on your social network of choice, or write an email without worrying about typos or autocorrect annoying you) or browse the web on a bigger screen with a keyboard, I'd suggest the Chromebook.