A Classroom Teacher’s Thoughts About the Acer 720P Touchscreen Chromebook

Acer 720P Chromebook

acer_c720p_front

At A Glance

Back in March, I posted my thoughts about the Acer C720 Chromebook. On Friday, I received a message from one of my district’s IT support staff, asking if I wanted to put some touchscreen Chromebooks through my normal torture tests – I gleefully answered YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I used many more exclamation points in my response, but to save space in this post, I cut back. In my review of the C720, I lamented the cheap fit and feel of that device. When Dave Last appeared at my door with two Acer 720P Chromebooks, I have to admit to initially feeling let down. Holding the Chromebooks, I again encountered the feel of a cheap, plastic device. The prospect of playing with a touchscreen version of the Chromebook did give me reason to hope.

Unfortunately, the limitations of the device quickly dashed those hopes. Other than the added feature of a touchscreen,  the 11.6″ screen still uses the same resolution as the 11″ HP Chromebook, but Acer sticks with an LCD panel, backlit by an LED light.  The same small screen 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 – but I can touch the screen.

The case material remains 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.” In other words, Acer simply added a touch interface layer to the screen.

Pros

  • Accurate clickpad – the clickpad is nearly flush with the surface of the case, so there was not a noticeable dip.
  • Sufficient ports – With one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, and one HDMI port, this Chromebook provides plenty of options for peripherals
  • Good (but smaller) battery life – adding the touchscreen adds additional pull on the battery, so the battery life drops from 8.5 hours to 7.5 hours. That’s still better than the 11″ HP Chromebook, but if a user doesn’t use the touchscreen as much as they thought, they still give up an hour just so they can touch the screen.
  • 32 GB of Internal Storage – The increased storage may provide peace-of-mind for students leery of sending all of their documents “to the cloud.”

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.
  • Small clickpad – the clickpad is small. While the trackpad accurately followed my movements, the small size caused me to repeatedly touch it in two places at once, causing random placement of my cursor.
  • The screen (still) 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. While I could touch the screen, the the results did not always meet the vision. Using Kaizena, my favorite student feedback tool, I had difficulty highlighting long segments of text in a student paper. Instead, I had to settle for highlighting the first word or two. THEN, I could grap hold of a selection bar and pull to select my text. I might as well just use the clickpad or a wireless mouse.

My Take On The Acer 720P Chromebook

I really did want to like this version of the Acer Chromebook more than I did the C720. Maybe I lied when I said in an earlier review that style doesn’t matter to me. Even if I set aside my feelings about the case, I am still left feeling that the hardware and performance felt subpar compared with an iPad and most laptops students or teachers will have used. If I was an IT director trying to squeeze as many devices as possible out of a shrinking budget, I’d have to give serious consideration to this device as the touchscreen does open up possibilities for students.

Room To Improve

This device is better than its non-touchscreen sibling in that it adds another way to interact with the device and doubles the storage capacity. I still implore Acer to work hard to make the outside match the work they put into the inside. Put the flashy Intel Haswell processor into a stylish case with excellent fit and feel. The 11.6″ screen still feels small for me, but I think students in middle school might love that size. I’d like the option to upgrade to an IPS panel to deliver a better picture. This is a better device, but I want Asus and other manufacturers to keep pushing the limits of the technology. I cannot wait for the day that someone greets me at my door with a Chromebook so right I can emphatically say, “YESSSSSS!!!”

These are not the Chromebooks (yet) you are looking for.

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About jeffreyasee

Middle school associate principal, district technology director, hope dealer, writer of blogs, husband to Jenny, and father to Kaitlyn and Meghan

One response to “A Classroom Teacher’s Thoughts About the Acer 720P Touchscreen Chromebook”

  1. Madeline Donovan says :

    My school is on the brink of going 1 to 1, and have been looking into Chromebooks. As a math teacher, I was wanting the school to lean toward iPads instead for the touchscreen purposes. My superintendent asked my opinion on if these new touchscreen Chromebooks would serve the purpose of what I am looking for in math since the school will only purchase one type of device. I honestly do now know since I have never used one, and am only able to read reviews. I was hoping you might be able to advise me on this. Would my students be able to use the touchscreen feature on math game websites, to “write” out their math work on apps, etc.? The only review I have found on the actual capabilities of the touchscreen were something about “write to text” functions. Thank you in advance for any help on this.

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