The Acer Chromebook 13 stands out from the crowd thanks to its simple but attractive design, full HD screen, quad-core Tegra processor and killer battery life. Even better, at $249 and £219 (about AU$314) it costs as much as Chromebooks that use only dual-core CPUs and HD displays. However, it proved frustratingly sluggish when multitasking, and the only model currently available in the UK features a 1366 x 768 panel for £219.
The Chromebook 13 sports a simple, stylish exterior that looks equally good in the classroom or coffee shop, and at 3.3 pounds and 0.7-inch thick it fits easily in a backpack or large purse. The keyboard and touchpad are some of the best I've used on a Chromebook, and the speakers deliver nearly pitch-perfect audio (though the bass is lacking).
In fact, it's safe to say that the Acer Chromebook 13 has the best battery life in its class.
The notebook's standout feature is its incredible battery life. I used the Chromebook 13 for nearly 9 hours before it ran out of juice, a run time that outlasts the 11-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 and the Toshiba Chromebook 2 by more than an hour. In fact, it's safe to say that the Acer Chromebook 13 has the best battery life in its class.
Although the laptop's 1920 x 1080 screen delivers crisp visuals, colors appear decidedly dull. When I streamed high-definition video, colors failed to pop off the screen, and I noticed pixelation in dark areas. The panel also suffers from shallow viewing angles, which can make it hard to enjoy the 1080p display with friends.
More frustrating is the notebook's lackluster multitasking performance. Streaming high-definition video and music is no problem, but I noticed stuttering and occasional freezing when I browsed with more than a dozen tabs open in Chrome. The laptop became particularly sluggish when I opened sites that made heavy use of Adobe Flash.
While it bumped up the cost a bit originally, Acer's decision to switch from Intel's Celeron line of processors to an Nvidia Tegra CPU – the first of its kind in a Chromebook – proved to be a sound one. Thanks to the chip's efficient architecture, the Chromebook 13 lasts almost nine hours on a charge. Furthermore, the laptop's excellent keyboard, reliable touchpad and lightweight design make it an excellent productivity tool.
That said, the Chromebook 13 isn't a perfect machine. Its 1080p screen, while sharp, suffers from dull colors and shallow viewing angles. The laptop also becomes sluggish when handling a dozen or more open tabs in Chrome due to its meager amount of memory. Acer could have dramatically increased performance at very little cost by simply doubling the amount of RAM in the system.
Still, the Acer Chromebook 13 is an excellent choice if you're looking for a lightweight laptop that will last all day (and then some) without needing a recharge.