The Acer C720 Chromebook is just about the cheapest laptop you'll find, but thanks to a technology upgrade, it's one of the most powerful in its class. If you are comfortable with the limitations of Chrome -- including the need for an Internet connection to get the most out of your laptop -- the C720 is the one to get.
Faster than other Chromebooks. The Acer C720 is one of the first Chromebooks to make use of a new Intel Celeron processor that's built using the Haswell platform that is also part of Intel's latest Core processors. That gives it more robust performance and longer battery life than its competitors. "Apps opened quickly, and we played casual games, such as 'Tank Riders,' while running six tabs in Google Chrome, without any noticeable lag," notes Laptop Magazine. The C720 also beats all other tested Chromebooks in synthetic benchmark testing.
The base version ships with 2 GB of memory and a 16 GB SSD, and two years of cloud storage (100 GB) is included in the price. Keep in mind, however, that this isn't a Windows or Mac machine, and that's the biggest performance shortfall. Most of what you'll be using is the Chrome browser or Chromebook apps available from the Chrome Web store. Offline usability of the Chrome OS is improved, but still limited and not always straightforward.
Light and thin. That's what TheVerge.com says, and at a weight of just 2.76 pounds and a thickness of 0.8 inches, who's to argue? "It's not as thin or light as an iPad, but then again, an iPad doesn't offer you a full keyboard, usable trackpad, and an SD card slot -- and it's not $250," says Dan Seifert. The keyboard is better than on Acer's previous Chromebooks, and good enough for casual use, reviews say, but Laptop Magazine notes that you won't be too comfortable creating long documents with it. The touchpad gets mostly positive feedback. The display is matte, which is great for working under bright lights but not so hot for movie-watching, and viewing angles are limited. A touch screen is available on higher configurations, but we didn't see any professional reviews for that.
Well, they had to cut corners somewhere, right? "The Acer C720 looks and feels like a budget notebook," says Laptop Magazine, and everyone else pretty much agrees. The gray plastic housing is called "mundane, pedestrian, and downright boring" by TheVerge.com, especially compared to HP's more colorful HP Chromebook 11 (Est. $280) . Still, as far as compromises go, Seifert thinks these are the right ones. "Fortunately, despite its cheap display and basic design, the C720 just works, and works all day."
Mixed feedback. Although defective models are not unheard of, the Acer C720 Chromebook gets good feedback from owners. Most complaints we spotted came from those who did not realize the limitations of the Chrome OS. However, Acer falls to the bottom in a reader satisfaction survey done by PCMag.com, and fares equally poorly in Laptop Magazine's rankings of the best and worst notebook brands. Its customer service rates in the middle of the pack by Laptop Magazine, which is an improvement over previous years.
It depends. If you typically have a solid Internet connection and use your laptop for browsing the Internet, reading and sending emails, casual gaming and the like, you can't find a cheaper yet capable alternative than the Acer C720 Chromebook. If you rely on serious productivity software such as PowerPoint, Word or Excel, or do serious gaming, the C720 won't be for you, at any price.
The Acer 720 earns 4 stars out of 5 here. Joel Santo Domingo says, "It's not quite perfect yet, but it's certainly an improvement over the last generation of Chromebooks."
Review: Acer C720 Chromebook (C720-2800), Joel Santo Domingo, Oct. 30, 2013
Dan Seifert says the Acer C720 Chromebook is "perfectly capable of taking the place of a Mac or Windows PC in most people's lives, and it comes at a price that's hard to beat." His big caveat deals with Chrome itself: "You still have to buy in to Google's ecosystem to get the most out of Chrome OS."
Review: Acer C720 Chromebook Review, Dan Seifert, Oct. 23, 2013
3. Laptop Magazine
The Acer C720 is compared to other Chromebooks and comes out on top. "Thanks to its Haswell-powered CPU, the $249 Acer C720 Chromebook offers better performance than its predecessor and its low-cost competition," Lisa Eadicicco says.
Review: Acer C720 Chromebook Review, Lisa Eadicicco, Oct. 29 , 2013
4. Notebook Check.net
Despite its budget look and feel, and as long as you look at the Acer C720 as a replacement for a tablet rather than a full-blown laptop, NotebookCheck.net finds a lot to like. "Spend a little time with it and you'll begin to appreciate the all-day battery life, snappy general performance and smooth video playback capabilities, and easy maintenance," Steve Schardein says.
Review: Review Acer C720-2800 Chromebook, Steve Schardein, Nov. 27, 2013
Nearly 700 owners comment on versions of the Acer C720 Chromebook with either 16 GB or 32 GB of memory, and most are pleased. It gets an overall rating of 4.4 stars out of 5 here. Negative comments can be found, of course, but most complaints seem to center around the limitations of Chrome.
Review: Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6-Inch, Haswell micro-architecture, 2GB), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2014
There are fewer user reviews here than at Amazon.com, but still well over 100 post feedback. Satisfaction is similar, and the Acer C720 earns the same 4.4 stars out of 5. About 90 percent say they would recommend it to a friend.
Review: Acer - C720 11.6" Chromebook - 2GB Memory - 16GB Solid State Drive - Granite Gray, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of January 2014