Although the C720P can only browse the web, its Intel Celeron processor proved more than capable of handling heavy browsing. I experienced almost no stuttering or hang ups even with almost two dozen tabs open across multiple windows, while streaming music on Amazon. I did notice a few problems, like images loading slowly on YouTube, but I expected much worse performance given the laptop's components.
However, like all Chromebooks, the C720P is limited in utility. Anything that you can't do in Chrome on your PC, you won't be able to to do on the C720P. That includes actions as mundane as connecting to a printer that doesn't support Google Cloud Print, or installing applications like iTunes or Microsoft Office.
Touchscreen: not worth the price
The major difference between the C720 and the C720P – and the main reason the C720P costs $100 more – is the 11.6-inch touchscreen. The display's 1366 x 768 resolution, limited viewing angles and slightly washed-out colors all remain. Unfortunately, the inclusion of touch sensitivity doesn't justify the bump in price.
Using touch to navigate Chrome OS felt like a gimmick. Google's OS lacks large, finger-friendly elements in its user interface like Windows 8's Live Tiles. Like desktop mode in Microsoft's split-personality OS, icons and other clickable elements of the UI have clearly been designed with the mouse in mind. In other words, they're small and hard to touch accurately. I didn't discover a single element of Chrome that was easier to use with my fingers than with the touchpad.
Decent speakers for the dollars
The C720P's downward-facing speakers delivered surprisingly good audio, given the price of the machine. High notes don't suffer from excessive tinniness, although the bass seemed nonexistent at the low end. When I turned up the volume to the maximum, the speakers easily filled my apartment with sound.
Because of the speakers' placement, however, audio was muffled when I used the C720P on my lap. Placing the laptop on a flat surface fixed the issue, but I imagine that most users will be using this notebook on the go due to its thin and light form factor.
Excellent keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard and touchpad on the C720P feel significantly improved over those on the C720. The chiclet-style keys enjoy plenty of vertical travel and spacing, and I didn't notice any flex in the keyboard. I especially like that Acer included discrete keys for volume and brightness, as well as Chrome-specific keys like Backward, Forward and Refresh.
The spacious touchpad still lacks a right-mouse button, but this won't feel too awkward for anyone who has used a Mac before. Tapping with two fingers causes the right-click menu to appear. Unlike many cheap touchpads we've used in the past, this performed reliably.
Seven hours of battery life
Despite using a touchscreen, the C720P boasts impressively long battery life. With the brightness at 50 percent, more than a dozen tabs open and streaming music to headphones, the laptop lasted 7 hours and 3 minutes – just shy of the 7-and-a-half-hours promised by Acer. Under similar conditions, the HP Chromebook 11 lasted 5 hours, while the Asus X102BA ran out of juice in just 3 hours and 14 minutes.