Chromebook Reviews

Review: Acer Chromebook 14 for Work aims at corporate IT

Acer's new enterprise-focused Chromebook gives a strong first impression and doesn’t disappoint.

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The Acer Chromebook 14 for Work is part of a new generation of Chromebooks. This isn't a low-end laptop aimed at budget shoppers, nor is it Google's Chromebook Pixel, which originally sold for $1,299 and was designed for people who work in the cloud and want hardware as good as anything Apple produces.

This Chromebook is designed for business. It's proof that Chromebooks have survived and are ready for the adult world. After five years of playing at the margins of corporate IT, hardware vendors like Acer are betting that IT managers are ready to buy Chromebooks in bulk.

The model sent for review by Acer is its best version, equipped with an Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM, 32GB of SSD storage and a Full HD (1920 x 1080) display. It sells for $729 to $750 via a variety of commercial and retail sources. There are several other models, starting with a Celeron-based system with HD (1366 x 768), 4GB of RAM and 16GB of SSD storage for $362 (Amazon price).

Strong and fast

What do these specs mean for performance? We couldn’t run our usual Windows-based laptop benchmarks on this Chrome OS system, but the review unit felt very zippy when I used it. It booted in about six seconds, and shut down in just under three seconds by my stopwatch. The system still snapped even with 25 browser windows open. Pages resolved swiftly.

But what really makes the Chromebook 14 for Work a strong contender for workplace adoption is its construction. Acer has highlighted the fact that the laptop meets the U.S. military standard (MIL-STD 810) for durability, which means it can survive drops of 48 in., 132 lbs. of downward force, high and low temperatures, rain, sand and dust. But the military specs really don't mean much until you pull this machine out of the box.

First impression: It feels very sturdy. There's no give, unless you grab the two edges of the screen and pull in opposite directions, and then it moves only grudgingly. The exterior top almost seems bulletproof. The cover of the review unit was jet black (it is made of Vibrant Corning Gorilla Glass, which is fashioned to allow manufacturers to add images to the exterior cover) and fingerprint resistant; it quickly polished up to a sharp, deep gloss with a microfiber cloth.

The Acer screen is a non-touch anti-reflective matte that is very subtle, smooth and easy to clean with a cloth. Out of the box, the factory brightness setting on my unit registered at 220 nits, which put it in the average range for laptops. However, turning the brightness level all the way up was more than enough for eye comfort, and the colors were deep, vibrant and accurate, particularly on video.

I also hooked this system up, via the HDMI port, to a 27-in. Asus monitor with great results. Configuration took me two clicks once I opened the Chromebook's display settings.

The keyboard (backlit on some models, including the review unit) and trackpad are firm and comfortable. The screen is 14 in. but the overall size of the machine is roughly on par with a 13.3-in. system thanks to a compact bezel. It even fit into my 13-in. STM Aero Backpack (although it was a little tight -- a bag for a 14-in. device would probably be best).

The system includes one USB-C and two micro-USB (Type A) ports, an HDMI port, an SD-card slot and a headphone jack. The battery is a three-cell Li-Polymer (3,950mAh). Acer says the unit is good for 10 hours; I got about that for routine work: some browsing, word processing, a little video and some spreadsheets.

Bottom line

Any company considering Chromebooks for its employees is probably already convinced that a purely cloud-based environment is the future. But how much hardware do you need?

Acer built the Chromebook 14 for Work to last. A five-year life expectancy is probably very realistic. It was built to take punishment in a busy office -- and it looks sharp, particularly because of the Gorilla Glass cover. It has enough processing power, especially if you use the Intel Core i5 or Core i3 chip, to adapt to future demands. It will serve road warriors well.

Acer has built a top-notch, high-quality system with crisp performance and a sharp screen, and has housed it in a ruggedly-built exterior. It should get serious consideration.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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