Jan 31, 2017
Chrome is my preferred browser, and had been for quite some time. As one who cut his teeth exploring the interwebs via Netscape Navigator, I enjoy the success of the little guy. Chrome isn’t the little guy anymore, and its adoption is part of the reason that Chromebooks are decent options today.
And yes, Chromebooks aren’t exactly new. I remember the minor cottage industry that formed around tracking services during Google’s CR-48 giveaway way back when. Since then, the platform has matured, and is even seeing significant deployments in education and enterprise.
So, having been in and out of Chromebooks, we were somewhat intrigued when it came to taking a formal look at the latest iteration of Acer’s R11 Chromebook. This isn’t just any Chromebook, see; we are talking about a Chrome OS device with serious tablet sensibilities.
Specs-wise, it is decent hardware: 11.6″ screen with 1366 x 768 IPS touch-enabled display, a quad-core 1.65GHz processor. it also packs 4GB RAm and has 32 GB of onboard storage. It’s white frame fits in a full HDMI port, two (2) USB ports, an audio port, an SD card slot and a webcam.
The biggest asset for folks looking for raw productivity is its recent access to the Play Store. With the vaunted app environment, users have access to a slew of applications that otherwise might need workarounds to get to on Chrome OS… apps like Microsoft Word and Skype, plus all the games one can shake a stick at.
The hinge assembly is built in such away that it can be “opened” all the way till the screen is resting flush against the back of the keyboard, making it quite akin to a tablet. This hybrid design allows the device to be used in a few more ways than, say a regular netbook can.
Now that touchscreen becomes even more valuable, no?
Battery life is impressive. I was able to squeeze out 6 hours of browsing writing on it.
Chromebooks have elbowed their way onto the scene and mostly established a collective reputation of slimmed down reusability. The R11 embodies that, and the increased software ecosystem that Google Play brings is just another feather in the cap.
It isn’t all roses.
Since I started using the R11, one big name, Microsoft, all but killed Chromebook compatibility with the MS Word apps on Google Play (word is they’ll be back at some point for Chrome OS devices 10 inches and smaller). Beyond that, not every app feels natural, though most I tried worked fine; I was able to play several games via touchscreen or game pad.
For device accessory hogs like me, the landscape can be sparse depending on the device chosen. Folks used to servicing/upgrading their own equipment might not be able to do the same on specific Chromebook models. Of course, if one isn’t vested in the cloud (or, at least willing to try to), then Chrome OS might not be a viable option
Thankfully, there are quite a few budding enthusiast communities, like on Reddit, so help shouldn’t be too far away.
Frankly, this evaluation periods has turned into a difficult one; we don’t always fall in love with the products we review. This one though, because of its portability, battery life and fast startup, as morphed into my main work machine.