$150 cheaper than 11 years ago
For the most part, the tech media ignores Chromebooks, given their obsession primarily for products whose names start with i or Mac. In contrast, I've been continually amazed by the high-end Chromebook I've been using for three years now, the Acer Spin 13 with its metal body and fast CPU.
The icing on the cake for ChromeOS is its ability to run Android apps, which is a significant advantage Microsoft is trying to copy but makes less sense in the Windows environment.
(I had bought the very first Chromebook by Samsung a decade ago, and found it super lame, so much so that the only thing I found myself doing with it was updating ChromeOS every so often -- lame because it worked only when connected to the Internet and it was badly made. Since then, the off-line capability, touch screens, Android app support, and overall maturity have made the difference.)
I saw that Acer was selling last year's low-end $430 Chromebook Spin 11 for $209 -- about $150 less than my original Chromebook from 11 years ago -- and so I wondered what a lesser machine might be like.
So I bought it and here's what I found:
Features that I did not expect it to have:
- It runs fast enough given its low-end CPU, such as conducting a Zoom session smoothly; the Celeron CPU runs as fast as 2.6GHz
- Two USB-C ports, either of which can be used with the power supply. (Also, two USB-A ports and a mic/headphone jack.)
- 360-degree hinge, so the unit can sit at any angle
- Backlit touch screen (even $4,000-MacBooks don't got touchscreens)
- Bluetooth and modern highest-speed WiFi
- Lightweight (2 pounds) and compact (11.5" wide), so I am thinking whether I could use this as a primary travel companion
- Low power CPU and small amount of RAM assist the battery in lasting longer. As I write this, it's saying 12 hours left, after unplugging the power supply two hours ago
- Good typing on its keyboard (except for the problem noted below)
What I Would Have Expected
Here's what I figured it would do, and it does:
- Plastic body
- Wide bezels on the screen
- Low-end CPU (Celeron N4020) and small amount of memory -- 4GB RAM and 64GB disk space
I shouldn't have been disappointed but I was surprised at how much these drawbacks irritated me:
- Low 1366 x 768 resolution, so I can't see as much on the screen at a time
- No HDMI and SD card ports, although these can be added with a external dongle connected to a USB-C port. In particular, the SD card slot would be useful for expanding internal disk space.
- No backlit keyboard; I have become spoiled by backlit ones
- A full-size keyboard that manages to be full-size at the cost of scrunching important keys like Enter and Shift. Also disappointing that it came with the bilingual Canadian keyboard, which means I keep hitting \ when I reach for Shift.
So, I will keep examining how to use this compact device and how well it can replace larger, more capable laptops, whether Chromebook or Windows. In fact, I could say that this is the modern netbook, a form factor I greatly liked.