Acer Chromebook R11 review

360-degree flips all day long

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

The Acer Chromebook R11's minimalist design may not be the sexiest, but that exterior hides a deceptively capable machine that'll last all day. Oh, and it can flip 360-degrees into a tablet. No big deal.

For

  • Convertible
  • Attractively minimalist
  • Good battery life

Against

  • Terrible trackpad
  • HD-only screen

Chromebooks aren’t like other laptops. Historically perceived as a direct route to the Google Chrome browser, their functionality was once limited to what you could accomplish on the web. The climate is a bit different now that most Chromebooks are compatible with Android apps via the Google Play Store. In that regard, the Acer Chromebook R11 is no different.

In fact, it is way better than a lot of the competition, thanks to its 360-degree hinge. It isn’t the fastest Chromebook out there, but you can leave raw processor and RAM capacity to the Windows laptops. The Acer Chromebook R11 doesn’t need the best specs to flourish, as Chrome OS doesn’t need them to experience smooth-as-butter operation.

The Acer Chromebook R11 draws inspiration from devices like the MacBook Air, and as a result, this Chromebook is stylish without going overboard. However, the Acer Chromebook R11 is actually affordable, unlike Apple’s lineup, coming in at just $329 (£221, AU$455). Black Friday and Cyber Monday will help push the price down even further, as we’re sure Acer will be holding some Black Friday laptop deals. If we had to compare the Acer Chromebook R11 to like-minded Chromebooks, we’d have to put it on the same level as the $249 (£170, AU$320) Dell Chromebook 11 or the amazing Asus Chromebook Flip at $249 (£160, AU$337)

And, while you should be able to make do with just the Acer Chromebook R11, we have to say that you would probably be better off with a MacBook or one of the best Ultrabooks if you need raw power and flexibility rather than pure value. Beyond that, the Acer Chromebook R11 should be great for students or anyone whose laptop use is generally limited to Google Docs or casual web browsing.

Acer Chromebook R11

Design

One of the big benefits of the Chromebook R11 is its size and weight. The R11 weighs just 2.76 pounds (1.25kg), with a relatively small frame of 11.57 x 8.03 x 0.76 inches (29 x 20.3 x 1.9cm) (W x D x H). This comes in slightly smaller than the competing Dell Chromebook 11 with its 2.91 pound 11.69 x 8.57 x 0.83 inch frame. Acer's offering even compares well to the slightly smaller Asus Chromebook Flip, which weighs 1.96 pounds (0.88kg) and measures 10.6 x 7.2 x 0.6 inches.

The Acer Chromebook R11 is largely made up of a thin, white plastic chassis with a matte finish. Where that design differs, however, is on the lid of the machine, which features a textured white metal panel that looks and feels great.

In fact,that texture extends throughout the entire Chromebook R11, giving the laptop a nice grippy feeling while carrying it around. It’s a minor flourish, but the diamond weave texture gives what could be a boring white slab a bit of panache. The R11 is far from what we’d consider sexy, but it’s not boring, either.

Acer Chromebook R11

On the top of the Chromebook R11, you'll find the aforementioned metal panel adorned with both Acer and Chrome logos, and that's it. On the other side of the panel lies the 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 resolution, touch-enabled display, with a shiny Acer logo just below. On the base of the R11 sits a slightly recessed keyboard with a set of slightly-textured chiclet keys. Further below that is a relatively wide trackpad with ample palm rests.

Despite being a largely plastic affair, the R11 feels surprisingly sturdy in the hands, with little to no give whatsoever. The only complaint worth noting here is the R11's white exterior, which proved to be pretty adept at picking up various smudges seemingly at random. Truthfully, this is something you'll run into with any piece of white tech, but that textured finish may be helping to pick things up.

As for ports, the Acer Chromebook R11 features one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port, each occupying separate sides. There's also a full-size HDMI port with HDCP support, a headphone jack, and an SD card slot for transferring files and photos.

Acer Chromebook R11

Specs

In terms of specs, the Chromebook R11 falls right in line with the rest of the Chromebook market. Powering the machine is a 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Celeron N3150 processor, along with either 2 or 4GB of RAM. Inside, there's also 32GB of storage, which may seem small, but it's important to remember you're unlikely to be storing a ton of files on the machine itself. It's also worth mentioning that, for the time being, you'll score 100GB of free Google Drive storage when purchasing the R11, so you'll have plenty of space to store things in the cloud.

For comparison, the Acer Chromebook R11 does one-up some of the competition. The Dell Chromebook 11, for example, matches the R11 with 4GB of RAM, but falls short with 16GB of storage and the less-capable 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N2840 processor (clock speed isn't everything!). Similarly, the R11 outclasses the convertible Asus Chromebook Flip in terms of RAM and storage, with the latter sporting 2GB of memory and 16GB of internal storage.

Acer Chromebook R11

Here's the Acer Chromebook R11 configuration sent to techradar:

  • Processor: 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Celeron N3150 (quad-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.08GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3L
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Screen: 11.6 HD, 1,366 x 768 touchscreen, LED-backlit IPS
  • Camera: 720p webcam
  • Wireless: 802.11ac (B/G/N) dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports: 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x HDMI with HDCP, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x SD card slot
  • Weight: 2.76lbs
  • Size: 11.57 x 8.03 x 0.76 inches (W x D x H)

Performance

In our testing, including writing this review with a dozen tabs open, the Acer Chromebook R11 performed admirably, albeit with a few minor hiccups. The combination of the Intel Celeron N3150 processor and 4GB of RAM kept things surprisingly fluid even when typing in a Google Doc with a couple of YouTube videos silently streaming and pumping jams through Google Play Music.

I did notice some minor hiccups in performance with the R11, however. Occasionally, Google Docs seemed to struggle with keeping up with my typing. The lag was infrequent and typically worked itself out in a second or so, but it broke our train of thought several times in writing this review.

Similarly, while switching between the dozen or so tabs we had running was generally fine, opening a new tab and loading something like Facebook or YouTube took a little more patience than we’re used to.

Of course, we’re coming from a fully decked-out MacBook Pro as my daily driver, so my base of comparison is a little skewed. Our guess is that this simply comes down to RAM usage: we managed to stay under the 4GB cap with a large number of open tabs while streaming music and video, but only just barely. It's highly unlikely that any real world use is going to involve streaming several videos and music at the same time, so this bodes well for the 4GB R11, but it's a bit concerning for buyers who opt for 2GB of RAM.

Acer Chromebook R11

Benchmarks

Here's how the Acer Chromebook R11 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

  • Octane: 8,113
  • Mozilla Kraken: 4,789
  • Sunspider: 704

In the Octane test, which measures the JavaScript engine performance on any set of given hardware, the Acer Chromebook R11's score of 8,113 outperformed the Asus Chromebook Flip, which came in at 6,795 (higher is better).

Similarly, Mozilla's Kraken test, which also measures the speed and performance of the JavaScript engine on a given device, showed Acer's R11 ahead of the Flip, with scores of 4,789 and 5,447, respectively (lower is better).

In the final Sunspider test, Asus' Chromebook Flip does manage to come out ahead by a smidge with a score of 686 compared to the Acer's 704 (lower is better).

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review