The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is more than just a great little Chromebook. Showcasing impressive levels of versatility as well as satisfying interaction and usability, it’s among the best Chromebooks 2021 has to offer, even if it originally came out in 2020.
Sleek and subtle in its design while sticking to unobtrusive black, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 might just be the Chromebook you’d like on you whether you’re going to a work meeting or attending a college course. The diamond-shaped pattern detailing on the back of the screen is a nice touch, too.
Embedded into the black chassis, the keyboard and touchpad are as easy as ever to use on a Chromebook. Satisfying and punchy, with pleasing clicks and actuation, even typing and other menial tasks is satisfying.
However, the keyboard, despite being the same size as on other Acer Chromebooks does feel a bit small - due to its place in a smaller design. We did get used to this more cramped design in time, but it did take us a little while.
The screen is pretty good, though a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand it is a clear, and easy-to-use touchscreen, and tough - being well protected by the Gorilla glass; but on the other it is a bit too small and also a bit too dim.
It's also surrounded by very thick bezels, which feels like a lot of wasted space. The design may have required the large bezels in order to incorporate the toughened glass touchscreen and overall robust design, but it feels like a bit too much potential screen real estate has been lost.
Overall the Acer Chromebook Spin 311's design might make it feel a bit small for some users - a laptop replacement this is not - but if you want something inexpensive that is going to survive the occasional bash and knock, then this Chromebook is definitely one to consider.
Despite having a modest component set under the hood, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 always handles whatever is thrown at it. Having far too many chrome tabs open, running and listening to YouTube - or Spotify - and messaging on apps all at the same time never reveals any stuttering or trouble that the AMD-based hardware, supported by 4GB of RAM, can't cope with. Underrated and understated in performance, it's a consistent little workhorse of a Chromebook.
As a result, all in, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is a great machine: it offers good value; it's very fun and versatile; and you can do anything on it that you can other, more powerful Chromebooks. If you like the size and want a reliable Chromebook with a touchscreen, this is it.
CPU: AMD A4-9120C processor Dual-core 1.60 GHz
Graphics: AMD Radeon R4 Graphics
RAM: 4 GB, DDR4 SDRAM
Screen: 11.6-inch (29.5cm); HD (1366 x 768); 16:9; IPS
Storage: 32GB Flash Memory
Optical drive: No
Ports: 2 x USB-A; 2 x USB-C; 1 x microSD
Connectivity: Wireless IEEE 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: HD webcam
Weight: 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg)
Size: 11.7 x 8.1 x 0.92 inches (29.6 x 20.6 x 2.35 cm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
Compared in relation to the Acer Chromebook 314, which was released around the same time, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311's price of $330 (£280; about AU$490) is a little eyebrow raising.
A smaller model with lesser battery life and level of performance, but for more money? It doesn't add up...at first. However, its differences in design, build, use and what it actually offers probably justify it.
And for a versatile 2-in-1 Chromebook at the lower-mid end of the price spectrum - a premium Google Pixelbook this is absolutely not - this is reasonable price territory. Throw in a sale and it's almost impulse-purchase worthy.
It'll be readily available from the usual retailers, however, in reality, it looks like the to-customer price in Australia is far higher than the conversion of the US or UK prices. One price on Amazon AU is safely above $700, for example. Hopefully availability in Australia will increase further, and prices will gradually decrease too.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 really is a compact little machine, and its design, build and aesthetic complements its size enormously. Firstly, it's a symphony in black; blacks on the back, on the keyboard and surrounding the screen. But this makes the whole aesthetic cohesive and attractive for a little Chromebook.
The main body of the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is the similar matte black material but the 'top' or back of the screen has a very cool diamond-print panel. This feels like it could be for added durability to protect the screen but aesthetically it really works too, adding texture and a fun quirk to the design.
Overall, though, the shell feels sturdy and solid, reassuring for those looking for a durable Chromebook. The only very slight exception to this is a bit of noticeable give to the keyboard panel, particularly if you're a powerful typer.
This contrasts that overall solidity and robustness the shell has. While the keyboard is the same size as the larger Acer Chromebook 314, the overall setting of it in a smaller chassis does make everything at least feel more cramped and so it isn't quite as comfortable as larger Chromebooks.
The keyboard and touchpad are still satisfying to use and click clack your way around. The only concern here is that there is a bit of flex in the keyboard that shows itself if you're a heavy typer.
While the screen technically is that 11-inches in size from corner to corner, this is compromised by the enormously wide bezels. Presumably this is to help with protection - particularly in 'spin mode' - allowing the tough Gorilla glass to be securely fitted.
There's also no fingerprint reader on the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 which would normally be a bit of a disappointment for a circa $300 / £300 machine, but due to the other quirks of the Acer Chromebook Spin 311's design, it's not really a fair criticism. But one to note nonetheless.
The on-board port situation is good considering its size. You get two USB-Cs (either can be used for charging), two USB-As, a microSD slot and an audio jack. Split roughly in two these are nicely spread along either side, one side sharing space with the power button, and the other side with the volume slider and the Kensington lock dock/hole. You'll be without an Ethernet port however, so it's a purely wireless Chromebook. Though, given its size, that's a fair compromise.
Here's how the Acer Chromebook 311 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
JetStream2: 41.330 (higher is better)
JetStream 1.1: 65.275 (higher is better)
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 (lower is better): 3062.2ms
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 8 hours and 15 minutes
The first thing to notice when sitting down to use the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is the very satisfying click and clack to the keyboard, and it's surprising just how pleasing typing could be on such a small machine.
It's particularly nice that the touchpad is of the same ilk; easy, responsive and satisfying to use. However, that satisfaction is not matched by what is on screen, as we had to increase the brightness a fair chunk to see pictures more clearly. This inevitably came at the cost of battery life.
The increase in brightness made the screen brighter, obviously, but only in the sense of it getting lighter and whiter; colors and contrasts doesn't follow suit, for example, so it is a bit tough on the eyes.
Utilising the spin mechanism of the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 to turn it from a laptop-like device to a tablet-like one is great fun, but also handy, particularly in combination with the touch screen.
You can go from using it like a normal laptop or notepad, to a purely browse and touch tablet-like machine on the sofa and then back again, seamlessly and with minimal effort.
One cool but important note: when the screen is flipped all the way around to use just as a touchscreen, the keyboard is disabled so you accidentally type and smudge keys into odd google searches as you go.
You can even use the spin mechanism in a variety of ways to enjoy having a device with you wherever you are like putting it into a tent position to watch Netflix.
The boot time of 12 seconds from off to log in screen is great, and means you can close the screen to go into sleep and then instantly starting up again by lifting the screen back up- it's a really smooth and speedy process.
Sometimes there is the tiniest bit of stuttering as it resyncs and loads up a Google account, docs, emails and so on, but this is negligible and certainly nowhere near a major detractor.
Meanwhile, the benchmarks we ran prove its reliable and smooth, but doesn't provide a blistering performance. Once again, compare these to the bigger and beefier Acer Chromebook 314 and the difference is clear in terms of the data and numbers. Though to its credit, it doesn't feel much slower in the context of normal use and carrying out tasks such as using dozens of Chrome tabs, playing music and chatting on Slack. It uses its modest and middling hardware to run Chrome OS and apps very efficiently.
The battery life is pretty good with the Acer Chromebook 311, but without being truly outstanding for a Chromebook.
Don't get us wrong, clocking it at more than 8 hours in our movie test is good going, and shows it'll safely last you a working day away from the office.
The charging via USB-C is very quick. and the Acer Chromebook 311 is fully charged from zero in two hours. Throwing this decent battery life in on top of everything else the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 offers, and it's a very tempting proposition.
If you want something with a bigger tank, the larger Acer Chromebook 314 might be a better choice, however.
Buy it if...
You're looking for a small, compact Chromebook
The compact nature of the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 makes it an ideal smaller device for those looking for something you can basically use one-handed.
You're after a robust Chromebook
The toughened glass and robust shell are great confidence builders; you'll be sure that the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 will survive bumps and knocks.
You need - or like - your Chromebooks to be versatile
The touch screen and spinning ability of the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 make this an incredibly flexible (literally) and versatile machine that can be deployed to a number of uses.
Don't buy it if...
You're looking for a laptop replacement
It's way too small to be a true replacement for a laptop; steer clear if you need something sizable.
You need a big, bright screen
The Acer Chromebook Spin 311's display is small and tough but sacrifices lots of room and brightness too.
You need a more than a day's worth of battery
The Acer Chromebook Spin 311's battery life is good but it won't last you a day, so if you're looking for a Chromebook that'll get you into a second working day, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 probably isn't it.
- These are the best Chromebooks of 2020