Hands on: The first things you notice about Acer's C720 Chromebook

Acer C720 Chromebook

'Tis the season for new Chromebooks -- and in addition to the new Google-designed HP Chromebook 11, we now have Acer's new C720 Chromebook to consider.

At a glance, the HP and Acer systems may seem similar -- but when you actually have both of them in front of you, you quickly realize they couldn't be more different.

I'm using the Acer C720 Chromebook and putting it through its paces this week. I'll have a full in-depth review to share with you soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some initial impressions of the Acer model and how it compares to HP's offering:

• The Acer C720 Chromebook is pretty snappy -- and rightfully so: It runs on an Intel Celeron processor based on the new Haswell architecture. That setup is supposed to be speedier and more efficient than the ARM-based setup used on the Chromebook 11 (as well as on older models, like last year's Samsung Chromebook), and generally speaking, it is: Web pages load as much as a few seconds faster than on the HP device, and the system handles heavy-duty multitasking with significantly less effort.

• You won't see this on spec sheets, but what you gain in performance with the Acer C720 Chromebook, you lose in design and build quality. The Acer C720 Chromebook feels noticeably cheaper and less thoughtfully designed than the HP Chromebook 11 model. The HP Chromebook really raised the bar for build and design on entry-level Chromebooks, and unfortunately, the standard it established doesn't bode well for Acer's device.

Acer C720 Chromebook vs. HP Chromebook 11

• The same applies to the display: The Acer Chromebook sticks with the lower-quality TN technology used in previous entry-level Chromebooks instead of the superior IPS LCD panel the Chromebook 11 employs. The difference is apparent the second you set your eyes on the systems: While both displays share the same 1366-x-768 resolution, HP's choice of technology puts it in a different league.

• I've been a bit surprised with the quality of the keyboard on the Acer C720: The keys feel plasticky and clinky and just generally cheaper than what the Chromebook 11 provides. The keyboard is also sized-down a skosh from a standard full-sized setup, which makes it slightly awkward to use.

• The Acer C720 Chromebook does provide a nice range of connectivity options compared to its HP-made cousin: The system features a native HDMI-out port along with an SD card slot and support for USB 3.0 (in one of its two USB ports).

This is all just scratching the surface, of course; there's a lot more to say about the Acer C720 Chromebook -- both good and bad. And we'll get to all of it soon.

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Stay tuned for my full in-depth review, and in the meantime, check out my Acer vs. HP Chromebook comparison for a look at some of the other differences between the two systems.

UPDATES:

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