Acer goes big with 15-inch Chromebook and a new Broadwell CPU
By Gordon Mah Ung
PCWorldJan 3, 2015 8:00 am PST
You know what the world needs? A Chromebook with a big screen. At least that’s the message Acer has heard and answered with its new Chromebook 15, which sports a 15.6-inch display—the largest available on any Chromebook.
That display will come in two resolutions: 1920×1080 pixels, or a more pedestrian 1366×768 pixels. The Acer Chromebook 15 will also offer two CPUs options based on Intel’s upcoming, Broadwell-based chips: a Core i3, or a Celeron variant.
Other amenities in the Chromebook 15 include 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO 2×2 antennas, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, HDMI 1.4, and an SD card reader. Acer remained vague about battery life, describing it as “all-day.”
Now let’s talk build. Given the crap-tacular quality of earlier generations of Chromebooks, there was frankly nowhere to go but up—and many newer models do seem to be better made. The Chromebook 15 also has a bigger display to protect, though. Acer claims the unit has been reinforced to reduce flexing, and the corners are capable of withstanding a drop of up to 18 inches. That may cover an accidental slip from your lap—barely—but for the consumer and education markets where Chromebooks reign, I’d expect a stronger guarantee.
Versions of the Chromebook 15, officially model CB5-571, will come with either 16GB SSD or 32GB SSD storage and 2GB or 4GB of RAM. Prices for specific models weren’t disclosed but will start at $249. I’d guess that nets you the Celeron version with 16GB SSD, 2GB RAM, and the 1366×768 screen.
Chromebooks on the war path
The 15.6-inch Chromebook is a sign of the times for Chrome OS. Although Chromebooks remain a very small part of the overall market, sales continue to skyrocket. Chromebooks were top sellers on Amazon.com for the holidays. The low cost, simplicity, and easy maintenance, plus that keyboard thing, have also helped Chromebooks recently bump iPads as the number-one piece of tech being purchased in U.S. schools. The 15.6-inch screen also puts Chromebooks more on a par with the lion’s share of the budget Windows laptops, most of which have 15.6-inch screens.
It’s little wonder the company is the first with a 15.6-inch device. Acer claims to hold 40 percent of the Chromebook market currently. This seems to jibe with data from research firm NPD, which shows the company growing from 7 percent of the market in January to May of 2013, to a whopping 31 percent for the same period in 2014. (Early Chromebook supporter Samsung was the big loser, going from 88 percent of the market in the first half of 2013, to 48 percent in the first half of 2014.)
Nvidia gets love too
The Chromebook 15 is just the biggest such news from Acer. The company also announced a new Chromebook 13 with a touchscreen. The original Chromebook 13 was one of the first out the door with Nvidia’s Tegra K1 ARM CPU, instead of a Samsung Exynos or the default Intel CPUs of late. Tegra K1’s have since also been adopted by HP in its latest Chromebook 14. The price of the new Chromebook 13 with touch will be $330.
PCWorld has tested the original Chromebook 13 and found overall performance to be decent when put against a Bay Trail-based Chromebook, plus it has great battery life. The big question for Tegra K1 and possibly all ARM-based Chromebooks is how they’ll fare now that Broadwell-based Chromebooks are here. Stay tuned.