Computers & Laptops | January 9, 2024
Every laptop is unique, so before purchasing a model, it’s essential to be clear about its intended use: gaming, studying or working, video editing, gaming, etc. In recent years, Acer has been giving considerable importance to Chromebooks, laptops with the Chrome OS operating system primarily designed for students and telecommuting. In addition to prioritizing autonomy and performance for certain tasks, they can be more affordable than conventional laptops. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been testing one of these models, and this is my experience with the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 after a month of use.
This Chromebook is available for a starting price of 400 euros, although the cost may vary depending on the desired configuration, such as RAM (8 or 16 GB), internal storage (128 or 256 GB), and whether you want a touchscreen or a backlit keyboard.
|Acer Chromebook Plus (CB514-3H)
|AMD Ryzen 5 7520C
|14-inch WUXGA IPS panel (1,920 x 1,200 pixels)
Touch screen (optional)
Aspect ratio: 16:10
Refresh rate: 60 Hz
|AMD RDNA 2
|Dimensions and weight
|Dimensions: 46.29 x 29 x 6.4 cm
Weight: 1.45 kg
|Lithium-ion battery: 53 Wh
Autonomy of up to 12 hours
|1 HDMI port
1 USB 3.2 Type-A Gen
1 port 2 USB 3.2 Type-C Gen
1 ports 1 3.5mm headphone/microphone port
|2 stereo rising speakers
DTS audio system
|FullHD (1080p) webcam with shutter
Blue Glass Lens
Temporal Noise Reduction Technology
Special AI features
|Google Photos app with AI features (Magic Eraser, HDR effect, etc.)
Access to Google Drive online and offline
Adobe features with AI
|Color: Iron Gray
MIL-STD 810 H resistance certificate
Backlit keyboard (optional)
|From 400 euros
The initial impression when taking the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 out of the box is that it is a straightforward laptop, but gradually, unique features emerge, giving it more personality. Beyond its understated silver-toned aesthetics, emphasizing productivity for Chromebooks, there are some aspects worth highlighting. The screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio, a proportion becoming the new standard for laptops, with slim bezels on the sides allowing more information to be displayed on the screen. This is appreciated for those who spend a significant amount of time reading and writing using text editors and other office apps.
Apart from the extra screen space, I was pleasantly surprised by the hinge and the opening range of this Chromebook, which, while not a 2-in-1 convertible, comes close. When opening the laptop, the further back we push the screen, the hinge acts as a wedge, lifting the keyboard slightly, making typing slightly more comfortable. Another positive point is that it can be opened at an angle of up to 178º, practically leaving it completely flat. While this may not be relevant in my day-to-day, it could be for students collaborating on a group project or office workers.
The laptop we reviewed had a touchscreen, seen in other Acer models, but it lacked a backlit keyboard. Managing information directly on the screen was quite useful, although, due to my habit of using traditional laptops, I sometimes overlooked this detail that could enhance productivity (my fault). As for the backlit keyboard, even though I don’t work in low-light conditions, it is a feature increasingly in demand, and fortunately, you can choose a model with backlighting based on personal preference. Beneath the keyboard, there is also a fairly generous trackpad for those who prefer not to connect an external mouse.
Regarding the rest of the design, it has a solid build and can withstand minor accidental bumps when moving it. However, the lower corners of the keyboard platform are quite pronounced and could become uncomfortable on the wrists after several hours of intensive Chromebook use. It weighs just under one and a half kilograms (1.45 kg), but holding it in hand inevitably gives the feeling that it’s heavy, something to consider if you also have to carry a backpack or bag with many books and folders.
Now, let’s move on to another key aspect of any Chromebook: adapting to the Chrome OS operating system. Most users are accustomed to using Windows on computers, so the initial steps with this Acer laptop will require a certain adaptation process to navigate with ease.
The Chrome OS operating system has certain peculiarities, such as its own system of keyboard shortcuts and trackpad gestures. When I started using the laptop, I noticed that the traditional ‘Caps Lock’ key for toggling uppercase letters here serves to open the application menu. This can be modified and customized in the keyboard settings menu, which helps those of us who have been accustomed to a specific way of typing for decades. The mouse trackpad also has its own functionality. For instance, to right-click, you need to touch the trackpad with two fingers, and to close a tab, you need to perform two taps, one to activate the mouse and another to close it. Faced with these new dynamics, I ended up opting to work with a physical mouse to continue working comfortably.
As for applications, some worked seamlessly, but with others, I had to resort to their web version in Chrome, such as Prime Video or Spotify. I found it interesting to note that, amid YouTube’s battle against ad blockers, the AdBlock Plus browser extension still worked flawlessly on this Chromebook, something that did not happen on my desktop PC.
Chromebooks are optimized for studying and working, and in this regard, the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 excels with its AMD Ryzen 7250 C processor. Over the last month, I used it to draft and edit articles, keeping many tabs (and when I say many, I mean many) open in the Chrome browser, which usually overwhelms the RAM of more than one laptop or desktop. At no point did I detect signs of struggling, slowness, or overheating from the Chromebook, which maintained impressively silent operation.
The most-used apps (aside from Chrome) for my daily tasks were instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Discord, as well as Spotify for background music and Google Drive for my writing and editing tasks. The behavior of the Chromebook Plus 514 was impeccable at all times.
As for autonomy, Acer promises 12 hours of battery life, which often falls short. Again, I was pleasantly surprised here, as I could complete full workdays and intensive reading sessions without needing to connect the Chromebook to power to get a bit more battery: efficiency at its best. The laptop includes a fast-charging charger that can charge half of the battery in about 30 minutes, which can save the day if you are working remotely.
You might wonder if this Chromebook is also suitable for gaming in addition to studying or working. Obviously, it is not its primary purpose (and again, it doesn’t have the Windows operating system), so beyond installing some casual games to pass the time or accessing games through Chrome, it’s more recommended to consider other options from Acer’s catalog if you have a gaming inclination. When testing some games like ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s,’ we noticed that the touchscreen response during gaming was not as efficient as when navigating web pages or text editors.
In terms of image and sound, the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 is not designed to be the primary option for watching movies or series. The screen features IPS technology and has an anti-reflective coating to prevent annoying reflections, although if you work with light directly above the laptop, you’ll need to find an appropriate angle to carry out your tasks without issues. This doesn’t mean that you can’t watch YouTube videos or content from platforms on the Chromebook; it just means you won’t get the same image quality as if you had a model with OLED technology, like the Acer Swift Edge 16.
If you’re an intensive reader, you’ll be interested to know that you can set daytime and nighttime schedules for the screen to automatically acquire a less aggressive yellowish tone during low-light hours. The screen’s brightness level is not excessively high, so its optimal use will have to be indoors if you don’t want to strain your eyes too much.
Regarding sound, this laptop has two upward-facing stereo speakers on the sides of the keyboard. Despite having the DTS surround sound system, I had high expectations for the audio. However, upon using Spotify, I quickly noticed that audio was not going to be its strong suit. I had to set a low volume level for it to be heard decently without distortions, especially in rock songs or those with heavy bass. I didn’t experience any problems hearing the other person during video calls, and they could hear me clearly thanks to the integrated microphones. Once again, this Chromebook is clearly focused on productivity in work and study and does not deviate from that path.
The wireless connectivity of the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 includes Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1, and in this regard, there is nothing to complain about. I was able to work at all times without experiencing any stability or speed issues and easily connect my phone to transfer files between devices. On the sides of the laptop, you’ll find an HDMI port and three USB ports, two of which are Type-C and one is Type-A, in addition to a headphone or microphone jack. At first glance, it may seem like limited connectivity, and some may miss a microSD card slot, but it is sufficient for the most common uses of a laptop of this type.
It’s time to recap the general feelings that the Acer Chromebook Plus 514 has left us over the past few weeks. These laptops involve a certain learning curve to become fully familiar with the Chrome OS operating system, and this is a reason that makes me think its target audience is more among students than professionals since students tend to be more adaptable. Regarding performance and efficiency, it is clear that it does not suffer in day-to-day tasks, and with a price that falls around 400/500 euros, it is a very interesting alternative to traditional laptops, which usually cost much more unless you are looking for high specifications. It may not be the most suitable Chromebook for leisure activities like gaming or streaming platforms, but it is if you prioritize productivity, with a very remarkable level of autonomy.