For the next seven days Iíll be using the Acer C720 Chromebook and the Sony Xperia Z1.
The two devices are at opposite ends of their respective price spectrums. The test laptop is almost one third the price of the test phone.
Acer C720 Chromebook
You can buy an Acer C720 for under $400 if you shop around. Itís one of the cheapest computers on sale in New Zealand Ė if not the cheapest. It costs much less than youíd pay for even the cheapest Windows 8 laptop and about 25 percent of Appleís most basic MacBook.
That low price means a few limitations. On the outside the C720 looks a little plain vanilla. Itís grey and made of plastic, not that thereís anything wrong with any of that. This is clearly a straightforward workhorse computer, not a fashion accessory.
Despite the utilitarianism, or maybe because if it, I rather like the C720. Itís well built Ė like a Russian tank. And it comes with all the right modern ports including HDMI and USB 3.0. Heck it almost cost me the price of the C720 to add USB 3.0 ports to my old desktop warhorse.
Play it loud
The speakers are loud and not especially high fidelity. I found this out the hardware when accidentally navigating to a site with an autoplay ad and deafening my household at 7am.
While the chiclet-style keyboard is no match for my MacBook Air, itís usable. I have some trouble with my touch typing and Iím not as fast as normal, but itís a step-up from the Touch Cover 2 you can add to a Surface tablet.
I have a minor niggle about the control key being in the wrong spot Ė I keep hitting alt by mistake Ė but thatís not a major problem.
Although the Trackpad works, itís a little erratic, but you can do two finger scrolling. Iím spoilt by the MacBook Airís trackpad, but frankly the Acer C720 does a better job than most Windows laptops.
For me the Acer C720′s weakest spot is the display. You canít reasonably expect much when youíre paying under $400 for laptop. And you donít get that much. The screen measures 11.6 inches and resolution is 1388 by 768. Itís perfectly readable Ė within certain limits that Iíll mention in a later post when I cover the Google software stack.
Surprisingly good overall
Thereís a Celeron processor, 4GB of Ram and a 16GB SSD Ė all more than enough to keep everything ticking over nicely. Itís not fast, but the lightweight software overhead and Googleís cloud doing the heavy lifting means it doesnít need to be. Iíve been using the C720 solidly for nearly two hours and the battery is a 84 percent. I suspect the measure is non-linear, but it looks like I can get a dayís work out of this baby on a single charge.
On the whole Iím staggered by how much computer Acer has shovelled into the $400 C720. Itís plain and utilitarian yet functional. If the Soviet Union was still in business and made personal computers, this is what it could have come up with on a good day. It makes you wonder how much of the value and cost of other computers goes into supporting heavy duty operating systems.