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Acer Chromebook R 11 Review and Ratings

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For starters, we like that the cover of the Chromebook R 11 is aluminum not plastic. That’s a plus for weight savings, added durability, and a richer look and feel. The R 11 is available in either black or white, and the so-called nano-imprint metallic cover looks pretty cool. The texture makes it impervious to smudges. (We tested the white version, specifically Acer’s model number CB5-132T-C1LK.) That print resistance is a good thing; because the machine is just 2.8 pounds and three-quarters of an inch thick, you ll be happy to carry the Chromebook R 11 with you all the time. The less-obvious design elements are the trick hinges, the built-in orientation sensor, and the touch screen, which collaborate to let the Chromebook R 11 function as a laptop, a tablet, or a kiosk-style freestanding device, along the lines of Lenovo’s Yoga laptops and Chromebooks, and their imitating ilk. In addition to the traditional laptop mode, you can flip and swivel the device into “tablet mode.” You rotate the screen 360 degrees until the outer lid/cover is flush with the underside of the chassis and voila! you have a tablet. Granted, the resulting tablet is thick and heavy compared to a “pure” tablet, and there is the impediment of a keyboard (disabled, at least in this mode) on the back of the whole works. Feeling the keys on the back as you hold it in your hand can be a bit disconcerting, but it s fine if you have the device propped up in your lap as a personal video-viewing or Web-surfing device. Plus, as you would expect, the screen image rotates to match the orientation of the machine (for example, portrait or landscape mode).

We can’t really ding the R 11 too hard for the uncouth feel of the keyboard on the back; that’s the norm among almost all rotating 2-in-1s. The only ones that do much to improve on this situation are Lenovo’s ThinkPad-branded Yoga 2-in-1s. In those, the keyboard keys auto-retract and withdraw into the keybed, so the back of the 2-in-1 feels a good bit smoother in tablet mode than on other rotating models. Another twist you can put the Chromebook R 11 into is “display mode,” like so

Rotate the screen only part of the way around, and place the base (keyboard side down) on a surface. (Acer calls this “Stand mode.”) This position puts the screen front and center, ideal for video chats, watching videos (especially when sharing the device with other users), following along with a recipe in the kitchen, and the like. Another gyration common to most 2-in-1s is “tent mode,” which looks like this

In this position, the machine is set up like an A-frame ladder (or a pup tent, hence the name). Functionally, it doesn t deliver any additional uses beyond what display mode does (since you still won t have access to the keyboard), but it s there and possible if you prefer the machine standing up like that (i.e., without the keyboard face down). The R 11 doesn’t have an orientation-neutral bezel (the Acer logo will be upside-down in tent mode, as you can see above), so we’re less keen on this mode than display mode.

Aside from the laptop/tablet convertibility aspect, the main feature of the Chromebook R 11 is its 11.6-inch touch screen. Unlike the LCD panels on cheaper Chromebooks, the screen here is very bright and delivers rich, saturated colors that really pop. The panel s 1,366×768-pixel resolution is ideal for a screen this size, delivering the right mix of sharpness and legibility for Web sites and text-heavy work. Granted, it s not full 1080p (1,920×1,080) for those who want to watch full-HD video on the device. But even so, HD video from a popular online streaming service looked terrific, even when viewed side-by-side with a 1,920×1,080 screen on a laptop PC. It’s also an in-plane switching (IPS) display, which brings benefits of its own and IPS was a pleasant discovery given the price. The IPS panel s viewing angles are very wide in all directions, which contributes in a big way to the possibility of sharing the screen when the device is set up in tent or display modes. The lesser, ordinary non-IPS TFT screens that prevail in budget-priced laptops have a tendency to look washed-out, patchy, or posterized when viewed from much off center. That was not the case with this screen.

We also appreciated the touch-input abilities the screen supports. The sensor layer is responsive and accurately interpreted our tap-to-click actions. That was especially important when using the Chromebook R 11 in tablet mode since, as you’d expect, touch input is key here, and Chrome OS isn’t really optimized for it in the first place. (In short, we were glad for no extra frustration.)

As you would expect, swipe (to scroll) and pinch movements are also supported. And Acer s patented dual-torque hinge design mans no screen bounce as you poke the screen in laptop mode. That’s unusual in any budget-priced touch-screen laptop. Here, the hinge accommodates for varying levels of pressure required to move the screen portion, depending on whether it is open or closed. The feature keeps you from having to think twice about whether you need to tap with less force than it would take to unfold or snap shut the lid. We were also pleasantly surprised by the Chromebook R 11 s speakers. Built into the underside of the chassis, they fire downward and make a sounding reflector of the surface the device is set on. The result assuming it’s an adequately hard surface to bounce the audio back at you is fuller sound than we had expected of a small, inexpensive machine. Another plus is the 720p HD (1,280×720) Webcam, which delivered excellent image quality for video chats and like tasks. Images showed natural color reproduction and very good detail, with none of the soft focus look we see too often from the cameras on lower-end devices. And the High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging technology it supports allowed for good image quality even in low-light conditions, where the only ambient light was the glow of the Chromebook s screen. Most of the time, that’s not nearly adequate to help camera performance. We could also tell corners were not cut with the Chromebook R 11 s keyboard. It s a full-size island-style design with comfortable spacing and no flex if you bang away on it

The key plunge (that is, the up/down travel distance) could be a little deeper. But in general, the keys have a good feel. The oversize touch pad is also comfortable to use when you want to move the cursor the old-fashioned way.

For local storage (no, millennials, not everything lives in the cloud), the Chromebook R 11 has a 32GB chunk of solid-state (technically, eMMC) memory twice what some budget Chromebook entries deliver. Wireless connectivity comes via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. We do wonder about the placement and/or strength of the Wi-Fi antenna, as the OS s signal meter would sometimes show low signal strength in an area (far from our router, admittedly) where a competing Chromebook showed four bars. The port selection is typical for a Chromebook. Down the left edge, you’ll find the AC power connector, an HDMI connector (with HDCP support), a USB 3.0 port, and an SD flash-memory-card slot

Down the right, meanwhile, is a headphone jack, a USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington-style slot for snapping on a security cable. That’s it for the physical features. Now, let’s take a look at how the R 11 performed in our formal benchmark tests.


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