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Acer delivers seamless Chromebook

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is a low-cost laptop for students’ essential tasks, but limited by the Google OS, writes JASON BANNIER.

What is it?

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is a laptop powered by Google’s web-based Chrome operating system (OS). It also provides offline access to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides through a file synchronisation feature, and its most significant feature is its seamless integration with Google applications.

As a result, setting up the device for the first time is simple, since it links with one’s Google account, providing quick access to YouTube, Gmail, and other Google-integrated applications. The laptop operates smoothly, with little-to-no delays when using apps, and handling multiple browser tabs.

It features an HDMI port, a USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, and two USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C ports. Its connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1. It lacks an Ethernet cable input or micro-SD card slot, but features a Kensington lock slot and an audio jack input. The upward-facing speakers produce loud and clear audio.

The WUXGA 1920×1200 display has a 180-degree range of motion, and offers crisp and vivid visuals. A touchscreen variant of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is available. The version we tested lacked the feature, which resulted in a somewhat disappointing experience as most apps from the Google Play Store function best with a touchscreen.

However, the touchpad is excellent, offering a smooth feel. By default, touchpad acceleration is on, but can be disabled if desired. The 1080p webcam provides decent quality, althugh not the clearest, especially in low-light conditions. It offers a physical shutter for privacy, and supports various software-level features, like background blurring and filters. The keyboard is comfortable to use, and provides for a satisfying typing experience.

At full brightness, the estimated battery life indicated on the laptop is around four and a half hours. After four hours of use at maximum brightness, the battery level had dropped to 30%, and it took only 40 minutes to recharge from 30% to 90%. There is no dedicated charging port, and it is charged via either USB-C port.

This Chromebook is set apart from traditional laptops by an “Everything Button” in place of the typical Caps Lock key, which requires simultaneous pressing with the Alt key to enable Caps Lock. The touchpad doesn’t have a dedicated right-click key; instead, one can achieve a right-click by tapping with two fingers.

The Chromebook is optimised for browsing Google Chrome and running applications from the Google Play Store. One can download games from the store, and most of them will run well. However, one game, Genshin Impact, consistently crashed during testing. One can make use of Microsoft Office applications on the Google Chrome browser, or download the applications via the store. The Chrome OS places limitations on the device, and non-Chrome OS applications are incompatible with the Chromebook without time-consuming workarounds.

How much does it cost?

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 (CB514-3H/T) is available at a recommended starting retail price of R9,999 from Incredible Connection and Shopacer.

Why does it matter?

The Acer Chromebook Plus 514 features impressive functionality when completing basic tasks like browsing the web, watching videos, or accessing applications from the Google App Store. Its seamless integration with Google makes it exceptional for those that favour Google services. It is a great laptop choice for students, especially with its lightweight portability. Its robust silver design is emphasised by its verified military-grade durability, and Chromebooks are known for their resistance to viruses, especially malware, thanks to their sandboxing security feature. This device forms part of the Chromebook Plus series, which includes a total of 8 devices from Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Asus.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • No touchscreen on this variant.
  • Limited gaming experience.
  • Below-average webcam quality.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Seamless Google synchronisation.
  • Good battery life, and fast charging.
  • Vivid display.
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