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Acer Chromebook 15 (2016) review

Chrome OS comes to the big screen

Acer Chromebook 15 review

The Acer Chromebook 15 is certainly a laptop that falls into the 15-inch category, weighing in at 4.85 pounds (2,199 g), while measuring 15.08 x 9.65 x 0.95 inches (383 x 245 x 24 mm). The Chrome OS machine is still lighter compared to some of Acer's other 15.6-inch Windows laptop offerings, such as the 5.5-pound (2,494 g) Acer Aspire E5, which also has a larger 15 x 10.1 x 1.2-inch (381 mm x 257 mm x 30 mm) footprint.

However, as a 15-inch notebook, it's easily bigger and heavier than any 13-inch machine we've reviewed. For instance, this Acer machine's smaller sibling, the 13-inch Chromebook 13, weighs in at 3.31 pounds (1,501 g) with dimensions measuring 12.9 x 9 x 0.71 inches (327 x 228 x 18 mm). Meanwhile, the 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inch (320 x 213 x 19 mm) Toshiba Chromebook 2 tips the scales at 2.95 pounds (1,338 g). 

Acer Chromebook 15 review

Here is the Acer Chromebook 15 configuration given to TechRadar for review:

Spec Sheet

  • CPU: 1.5GHz Intel Celeron 3205U (dual core, 2MB cache)
  • Graphics: Intel HD graphics
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, LED-backlit display
  • Storage: 32GB SSD
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card reader, headphone/mic jack
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 720p HD webcam
  • Weight: 4.85 pounds
  • Size: 15.08 x 9.65 x 0.95 inches (W x D x H)

Priced at $349 (about AU$458) for the configuration listed above, this 15-inch laptop definitely comes at a higher premium than we typically expect from Chromebooks. However, this high price is actually worth it when you consider the larger screen and the new 5th generation Celeron processor. (And the AC wireless will help future proof this machine for the next Wi-Fi standard.)

Consumers who want to get an extra bargain can find a lower-end version of this laptop for around $249 (about £168, AU$326) with some major compromises. The lower-end model features a measly 2GB of RAM and a lower-resolution 1,366 x 768 display. Even if it means forking over an extra hundred bucks, we would seriously recommend steering clear of these downgrades.

Fortunately, it seems that Acer is no longer shortchanging customers in the UK, and are now offering the full 4GB version (although with a 1,366 x 768 display) for £299.

Acer Chromebook 15 review

Either way, new Acer Chromebook 15 owners will get a few extra perks with their machine: including 100GB of Google Drive storage for a year, a 60-day pass to Google Music All Access and 12 in-air passes for GoGo Flight available until the end of the year.

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 comes at premium of its own with a $329 (about £223, AU$431) price tag. Like the Chromebook 15, this Toshiba laptop comes sporting a 1,920 x 1,080 screen in a more compact and sleeker 13.3-inch frame. It's also not quite as well outfitted, with an older 2.16GHz Intel Celeron processor and only 16GB of storage.

The Acer Chromebook 15's smaller 13-inch sibling is also quite alluring, coming in at only $249 or £219 (about AU$326) with a full HD display plus a 2.1GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 twist for the CPU.

Acer Chromebook 15 review

Performance

Intel's last generation of Haswell Celeron processors were able to smoothly power Chromebooks, and you get even more milage out of the new Broadwell parts. Despite loading several tabs full of cat GIFs, the Chromebook 15 never hit a performance snag and it was a an almost perfect multitasking machine.

That is until I started running into errant computer crashes. On more than one occasion, the Acer Chromebook 15 came to a hanging stop. Worse yet, a seemingly more serious crash happened in the course of writing this review: the laptop fell into a screen-flashing and audio-looping cycle until I performed a hard reset on my machine.

The crashes were random and have yet to cause a real problem, but it was still an annoyance to have to stop for a few seconds to force restart the computer. As of late, a few of Intel's latest processors have been buggy, including an underperforming Intel Core M chip inside Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, so Broadwell might just be going through some early teething pains.

Acer Chromebook 15 review

Absolutely radiant

With such a large screen, the Acer Chromebook 15 is the perfect media streaming machine to share with some couchmates. Aside from when sharing your screen, you rarely get to appreciate how useful more screen real estate is until you have it.

There's simply more room to move around windows, view web pages and generally feel less cramped. Plus, with a 15-inch screen you can just sit back and watch Netflix rather than getting right up to your screen as you have to do with a 13-inch or 11-inch machine.

Acer Chromebook 15 review

The full HD resolution also makes the viewing experience much sharper from the app icons to text on websites. The best part of the display, though, is thanks to Acer picking out a vibrant IPS panel with some of the widest viewing angles we've ever seen – almost stretching to the very edges of the laptop screen.

The speakers on this laptop don't deliver the most full bodied sound, and they're surprisingly tinny considering the size of the underlying drivers, but they're serviceable. Unlike other laptops that have tweeters hidden under the keyboard deck, or worse pointing downward, the Acer laptop does a much better job of directing sound to your ears. Unless you have a particularly trained ear for the best sound setups, the on-board audio is more than serviceable and their positioning only adds to the laptop's overall cinematic experience.

Acer Chromebook 15 review

An all day use machine

Intel promised better battery life with its latest crop of Broadwell processors, and the Acer Chromebook is one of the first machines to fully reap its benefits. Whereas anything over 5 hours is excellent for any 15.6-inch laptop, this machine was able to run for 7 hours and 49 minutes without stopping for a quick charge (or even a nap).

During my battery test, I ran down the machine with a combination of web browsing on Chrome, reliving my favorite Metal Gear Solid 4 moments on YouTube for an hour, streaming Google Music and typing up a long word document in Google Docs. At the time, I was also using the machine at 75% brightness and playing music with the volume set to 10%. If you were to dim the laptop's screen some more, turn off Bluetooth and run fewer tasks at once, you could likely draw out another 45 minutes to an hour of battery life.

Comparatively, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 ran for a much shorter 6 hours and 26 minutes. If you're looking for the machine with the absolutely longest battery life, the Acer Chromebook 13 will blow your socks off with a run time of 8 hours and 56 minutes.