A Classroom Teacher’s Thoughts About The Acer C720 Chromebook

Acer C720 Chromebook

Acer C720

Looking at the Acer C720 Chromebook, I cannot help but be reminded of a Macintosh Powerbook.

Powerbook G3

At A Glance

I don’t know if I can explain why, but from the moment I laid eyes on it, I didn’t like the Acer C720 Chromebook. Maybe I just want companies to innovate and make unique products. Maybe I just don’t like the smaller screen of the 11″ models. Whatever it is, I put off testing this device for as long was possible. Ironically, I ended up spending more time on this device than the Toshiba Chromebook or 11″ and 14″ HP Chromebooks.

Unfortunately, that time did not necessarily make the heart grow fonder. The 11.6″ screen uses the same resolution as the 11″ HP Chromebook, but it uses an LCD panel, backlit by an LED light. With the matte finish, it just does not deliver a nice, crisp picture. The aforementioned HP CHromebook opts for a more costly IPS panel, which delivers a better picture.

The screen, along with the lack of overall screen space, means that typing a paper, reading PDFs, editing a graphic, or trimming a video will not be as carefree as with a 13.3″ screen.

The case material is flimsy like the Samsung Chromebook. Unlike the 11″ and 14″ HP Chromebooks in my previous review, the case did not feel remotely industrial. I could easily flex the case, and pushing down in the palm rests produced noticeable “give.” This was the first Chromebook that evoked an irrational “Eeww!” from me when I looked at it.

Pros

  • Accurate clickpad – the clickpad is nearly flush with the surface of the case, so there was not a noticeable dip. Tyla in 4th Hour noted that she “liked the speed of the clickpad” and that it “closely followed” her movements. I also did not notice the random right-click menu issue I discussed in my Toshiba Chromebook review.
  • Sufficient ports – With one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, and one HDMI port, this Chromebook provides plenty of options for peripherals
  • Good battery life – with 8.5 hours of battery life, the Acer C720 Chromebook finds a nice balance. Acer’s device weighs only 2.8 pounds, so that means Acer found a small enough, longer lasting battery that delivers a reasonable weight-to-performance tradeoff. Like the Toshiba Chromebook, schools considering 1:1 initiatives will appreciate a device that gets students through an entire school day.

Cons

  • Case materials – Like many of these initial Chromebook iterations, the case is made of a plastic material that has too much flex. Pushing down on the palm rest resulted in noticeable give.
  • The screen does not deliver – The 1366 x 768 resolution is the same as the 11″ HP Chromebook I reviewed, but is does not deliver the same sharp picture. The Acer C720 uses an LCD monitor, while the HP uses an IPS monitor. That explains the difference in picture. Students mentioned that they liked the matte finish on the display because it cut down on glare.

My Take On The Acer C720 Chromebook

Overall, for irrational, subjective reasons, I just do not like this Chromebook. I said in an earlier review that style doesn’t matter to me. Maybe it does. Perhaps this quote from Computerworld’s October 2013 review of the Acer C720 best explains why I don’t like this device:

The Acer C720, on sale now for $249 and expected to ship later this month, is a stark contrast to the recently released and similarly priced HP Chromebook 11. Under the hood, it’s a superior product — especially in the realm of processing power, where the system’s Haswell-based architecture helps it achieve new levels of performance for an entry-level Chrome OS system. On the outside, however — the parts of the laptop you view, touch and interact with — it falls frustratingly short.

I want the Chromebook to meet our needs both inside and out. If our upcoming referendum in Oshkosh passes, in two years, students will receive a device that will be theirs for four years. If it already looks and feels like last year’s computers the day they get it, what will that mean when they are seniors?

If asked, I’d say that if the students don’t mind them, I think it is a reasonable machine. My Pros and Cons above do not point to a landslide reason to not like this Chromebook. Like my favorite television character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I’m going with my gut. Plenty of people in educational IT, at various levels, have adopted this Chromebook for their 1:1 initiatives.

Room To Improve

Here’s my suggestion for Acer. Work hard to make the outside match the work you put into the inside. The Intel Haswell chip gives this Chromebook plenty of power, so why did you put it in such an ugly wrapper? The 11.6″ screen feels small for adults. Kids may not mind so much. If you are going to leave the screen this small, opt to upgrade to an IPS panel to deliver a better picture. Don’t try to give us the device we had yesterday – try to envision the device we will need tomorrow.

Student Input

I will update this post later with input from my students.

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About jeffreyasee

High school assistant principal, hope dealer, writer of blogs, husband to Jenny, and father to Kaitlyn and Meghan

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